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NSF Press Release


NSF PR 00-53 (NSB 00-161) - August 3, 2000

Media contact:

 Tom Garritano

 (703) 292-8070

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 Bob Borchers

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This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Science Board Approves $45 Million NSF Award to Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Terascale Computing System will come on-line in February 2001

The next U.S. supercomputing system operating at speeds well beyond a trillion calculations per second will reside at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC) through an expected $45-million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Today the National Science Board (NSB), NSF's governing body, authorized the three-year award following a national competition. Pending negotiations between NSF and PSC, the Terascale Computing System (TCS) would begin operation in February 2001, reaching peak performance by the end of that year.

"I am pleased that the National Science Foundation is expanding its investment in supercomputing systems capable of making trillions of calculations per second," said President Bill Clinton. "This investment will accelerate the pace of discovery in science and engineering -- allowing us to better predict tornadoes, speed up the discovery of life-saving drugs and design more fuel-efficient engines. I urge the Congress to provide full funding for the National Science Foundation so that they can continue to make these kinds of investments in America's future."

Plans for the facility directly respond to a recommendation of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee. Computational scientists and engineers across the U.S. will access the TCS through a nationwide grid of research networks.

"This award will give U.S. computer scientists and other researchers in all science and engineering disciplines access to a vital new high-end computing facility," said NSB chair Eamon Kelly.

"PSC has -- with its partners at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and Westinghouse -- an excellent record of installing innovative, high-performance systems and operating them to maximize research productivity," said NSF director Rita Colwell.

With the aid of the computer science community, the TCS should lead to significant social and economic benefits such as more-accurate storm, climate and earthquake predictions; more-efficient combustion engines; better understanding of chemical and molecular factors in biology; and progress in understanding physical, chemical and electrical properties of materials.

"We received a group of strong proposals," said Ruzena Bajcsy, NSF assistant director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. "The TCS will be incorporated into our Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure program (PACI) as a third leading-edge site, joining the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at Urbana, Illinois and the San Diego Supercomputer Center in California."

PSC will partner with Compaq Computer Corporation to build the system, whose peak performance is expected to reach 6 trillion operations per second. The facility will be up and running by February 2001, when its initial speed should be 426 billion operations per second.

"We're pleased that NSF's terascale initiative gives us this opportunity to use PSC's proven capability in high-performance computing, communications and informatics," said PSC scientific directors Michael Levine and Ralph Roskies in a joint statement. "Together with Compaq, we'll create a system that enables U.S. researchers to attack the most computationally challenging problems in engineering and science."

The proposed system will feature 2,728 Alpha processors from Compaq. The chips will be organized into 682 four-processor "nodes," each with a gigabyte of random-access memory (RAM), for 2.7 terabytes of total RAM. The system's hard-disk array will feature 50 terabytes of primary storage, with a further 300 terabytes of disk or tape storage available as needed.

In addition to this hardware's raw power, the system will feature high-performance software for system administration and job scheduling, along with compilers and other tools for programmers. The operating system will be Tru64, Compaq's version of UNIX.

PSC is a joint effort of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, with the Westinghouse Electric Company. It was established in 1986 and is supported by several federal agencies, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and private industry.

NSF's proposed budget for fiscal 2001 includes requested funds for a second terascale facility. Pending approval by Congress, that competition would begin in late 2000, with an award decision by fall 2001.


For more information, see:
TCS website:
TCS research highlights:
PSC website:



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