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September 2, 2005

NSF anticipates releasing one or more solicitations for the acquisition of high-performance computing (HPC) systems and support of subsequent HPC services.  Prior to the release of the solicitation(s), NSF invites interested parties to provide input on possible models for the acquisition and service support process.  Providing such input will not affect an organization's eligibility to respond to any subsequent solicitation(s).

NSF intends that its acquisition and support of HPC systems and services will be driven by the requirements of the science and engineering communities, including their most computationally challenging needs.  Thus, the science and engineering communities will be involved in defining the requirements that guide NSF’s HPC investments.  Acquisition metrics will include levels of performance on benchmark codes that represent the types of problems for which the system will be used.  The research and education community must have access to a stable and robust HPC environment so hardware reliability and the dependability of system software will also be factors in the selection process.

The following scenario is envisioned.  One or more HPC systems will be acquired from one or more hardware vendors with funds supplied by NSF.  One or more resource providers (RPs) will manage and operate the system(s), including providing basic user support and services.

Input sought

Several different models for acquiring HPC systems and provisioning HPC services are possible.  Some examples include:

  • NSF conducts an open competition to identify an RP or RPs.  Proposals from prospective RPs include a description of a competitive process that the RP will use to acquire a system with funds provided by NSF.  Once one or more RPs have been identified, each executes the process it proposed to select the system and the vendor from whom the system will be acquired.  The final award to an RP will include funds for the acquisition, through a sub-contract to the vendor, of the system identified.

  • NSF conducts an open competition inviting proposals from RP-vendor partnerships for the acquisition, management and operation of an HPC system.

  • NSF acquires a system directly from a vendor through an open competition and initiates a second competition for an RP site.

NSF invites input on the strengths and weaknesses of these different approaches together with ideas for alternative models that might be used for acquisition and service support.

NSF also invites comments on: (1) the metrics that might be used to define performance and reliability requirements in an acquisition process; (2) the strengths and weaknesses of acquiring an HPC system as a one-time purchase and/or of acquiring an HPC system in phases that meet a specified performance curve; (3) the strengths and weaknesses of alternatives such as leasing HPC systems.

How to respond

If you wish to provide written input, please do so via email by 5:00pm EDT on August 30, 2005.  Input should be provided in a Word or PDF document of no more than 3 pages, attached to an email message sent to:  Please do not include any proprietary information in your input.  Comments received may be shared with other interested parties.

Information Exchange Meeting

Interested potential RPs and HPC system vendors are invited to meet with each other and with NSF staff to discuss ideas about providing access to HPC resources for science and engineering research on September 9, 2005 at NSF, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22230, from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.  DUE TO SPACE LIMITATIONS, REGISTRATION IS CLOSED AS OF 9/2/05.  If you wish to attend this meeting, please register on-line at the following URL:  Please register early as space is limited.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards. NSF also awards about $626 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

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