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Foreword from the Directors

Ralph Roskies (L) and
				Michael Levine, PSC scientific directors

Ralph Roskies (left) and Michael Levine, PSC scientific directors

Cyberinfrastructure is a relatively recent word, one that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but that denotes the opportunities and challenges that face us in harnessing for coordinated, distributed, productive work the full range of information and information technologies. Much as physical infrastructure — roads, bridges, power grids, telephone lines, water systems — enables modern society, cyberinfrastructure is the totality of inter-related technologies - computing, networking, storage, visualization, collaborative tools, instruments, data repositories and other components — that enables much of modern scientific research.

With a generation of amazing progress behind us, we are entering an age in which it is possible to envision a comprehensive cyberinfrastructure that will empower and revolutionize the conduct of research for decades to come. The recent National Science Foundation blue-ribbon study, the Atkins report, urges the federal government to seize the moment and invest generously now to push forward from the foundation of current resources — such as the TeraGrid, NSF’s multi-year grid project, and LeMieux, NSF’s terascale system at PSC.

This volume presents a collection of recent scientific and technical advances at the PSC and indicates the direction of future advances. LeMieux - in production less than two years — has already brought forth important gains in scientific understanding. The Quake Group at Carnegie Mellon (Big City Shakedown), for example, has achieved ten-fold improvement in simulations of earthquake ground motion. John Joannopoulos’ team at MIT (Guiding Light) has led the way in a rapidly emerging field, photonics, that holds immense promise for next-generation materials science and also high-performance computing and communications technology. Access to LeMieux has been crucial to their progress. LeMieux has also made possible important new findings in planet formation (How to Cook a Giant Planet) and solar physics (Seeing Spots), and there’s important work in DNA-enzyme interactions (When DNA Flips Out) and new understanding of ventricular fibrillation (Hearts Gone Wild), a condition that’s often fatal.

We’re pleased that some of the earliest work on LeMieux, last year’s simulations by Klaus Schulten and colleagues at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (Protein Border Guards), contributed to the pioneering research on membrane channels by Peter Agre and Roderick MacKinnon that received the 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Complementing the computation, visualization and information manipulation capabilities of LeMieux, is a new, enormously more powerful, multi-petabyte, shared data storage and access facility replacing PSC’s venerable but outdated data system.

As a prototype of large-scale cyberinfrastructure, the TeraGrid (see Creating National Cyberinfrastructure) represents a vision of the future and a laboratory in which to explore realistically the possibilities of geographically distributed computing, storage and visualization linked through high-speed networks of unprecedented bandwidth — soon to interconnect over a half-dozen of the nation’s most advanced research centers. Interoperability — the ability to accommodate heterogeneous hardware, operating systems and network protocols seamlessly — is one of the TeraGrid’s great challenges. PSC is proud to coordinate the TeraGrid effort to meet this and other challenges.

The Japanese Earth Simulator has helped to bring the continued importance of high-performance computing within cyberinfrastructure into focus, and to spur a national re-assessment of the future of supercomputing. In many fields, a 100-fold boost in computing power would allow scientists to achieve new milestones in their work. At PSC, we devote our energies toward progress on all these fronts — supercomputing, networking, storage, interoperability and others — that contribute to the creation of a national cyberinfrastructure.

We gratefully acknowledge our support from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and many others.

Signed: Ralph Roskies
				     and Michael Levine


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Download the PDF version of this article as it appeared in Projects in Scientific Computing, 2003.