WASHINGTON A Ford Motor Co. executive warned Congress on Wednesday (July 16) that U.S. leadership in supercomputing is "at risk."
Vincent Scarafino, Ford's manager of numerically intensive computing, told a hearing before the House Science Committee that "the Federal government should help with the advancement of high-end processor design and other fundamental components necessary to develop well-balanced, highly capable machines."
Automakers are one of the heaviest commercial users of supercomputers needed to design new models. Weather forecasters also rely on the machines to model weather and climate changes. Supercomputers are also being used more widely in drug development.
Congress has in the past responded to Japanese challenges to U.S. supercomputer supremacy with funding to create a National Center for Supercomputing Applications and other initiatives. There have also been several high-profile anti-dumping disputes between U.S. and Japanese manufacturers of supercomputers.
Lawmakers pointed to reports that Japan now produces the fastest supercomputers as further evidence that U.S. capabilities are slipping. "The U.S. lead in supercomputers is waning, precisely when our scientific, technical and manufacturing sectors need more supercomputing capacity to achieve major new breakthroughs," said Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI), a research physicist before being elected to Congress.
Committee member also urged government agencies like the National Science Foundation that oversee government computing initiatives to coordinate their efforts.
IBM Corp. last week received a $53.3 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for the second phase of a high-end computer project.
The contract is part of the agency's High Productivity Computing Systems initiative. IBM's proposed technology, dubbed PERCS (Productive, Easy-to-use, Reliable Computing System), includes research over the next 36 months on new chip technology, computer architectures and operating systems.