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NSF awards $2 million to NCSA to support global collaboration

The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant of $2 million over five years to the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) to bring together members of the international research community, including graduate students, post-docs, and early-career faculty members, for collaborative research and development of new computing and analysis tools.

The project, called the Global Initiative to Enhance @scale and Distributed Computing and Analysis Technologies (GECAT), is part of NSF’s Science Across Virtual Institutes (SAVI) program and is an extension of the NSF-funded Blue Waters project, which provides access to one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers and enables investigators to conduct breakthrough computational and big data research. GECAT is led by William Kramer, Blue Waters project director, head of NCSA’s @scale efforts, and a research professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. John Towns, NCSA’s executive director for science and technology, is a co-principal investigator and will help connect GECAT to the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) project.

GECAT will allow NCSA to deepen and extend its currently international collaborations, which include:

  • The Joint Laboratory for Extreme-Scale Computing with Argonne National Laboratory, France’s INRIA, the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, and the Jülich Supercomputing Centre
  • the CHANGES workshops, with Germany’s Jülich Supercomputing Centre and the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Computer Network Information Center
  • the Joint Laboratory for Supercomputing Technology Development, with the Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information (KISTI)

Potential areas for joint research and development efforts include:

  • Performance issues with regard to extreme scaling of systems and applications
  • System resilience/fault tolerance
  • Storage, management, and transfer of big data
  • Production of high-end visualizations
  • Awareness of interconnect network topology
  • Efficient at-scale I/O
  • Storage metadata performance, management and optimization
  • Training and support for users of extreme-scale systems
  • Distributed data management capabilities
  • Cyber-protection and authentication
  • Advanced workflow systems supporting distributed resources
  • Data sharing policies and legal issues (enabling collaborations in a constrained data-sharing environment)

“There’s more and more of a need every day for these projects to happen, because we all face the same challenges, and we need to work together if we’re going to solve these problems,” said NCSA’s Danny Powell, one of the senior personnel for GECAT.

As part of GECAT, Illinois professor of Communication Marshall Scott Poole, in collaboration with researchers from the University of North Texas led by Iftekhar Ahmed, will evaluate and help improve the effectiveness of the project’s international virtual organizations and will provide recommendations on techniques and tools to make these and future global collaborations more effective.

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