This article's tone or style may not reflect the encyclopedic tone used on Wikipedia.(June 2022)
Field of research
|cyberinfrastructure, supercomputing, cyber-resources, cyberenvironments, visualization|
|Location||Urbana, Illinois, US|
|Affiliations||University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign|
The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) is a state-federal partnership to develop and deploy national-scale computer infrastructure that advances research, science and engineering based in the United States.NCSA operates as a unit of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and provides high-performance computing resources to researchers across the country. Support for NCSA comes from the National Science Foundation, the state of Illinois, the University of Illinois, business and industry partners, and other federal agencies.
NCSA provides leading-edge computing, data storage, and visualization resources. NCSA computational and data environment implements a multi-architecture hardware strategy, deploying both clusters and shared memory systems to support high-end users and communities on the architectures best-suited to their requirements. Nearly 1,360 scientists, engineers and students used the computing and data systems at NCSA to support research in more than 830 projects.
NCSA is led by Bill Gropp.
NCSA is one of the five original centers in the National Science Foundation's Supercomputer Centers Program.The idea for NCSA and the four other supercomputer centers arose from the frustration of its founder, Larry Smarr, who wrote an influential paper, "The Supercomputer Famine in American Universities", in 1982, after having to travel to Europe in summertime to access supercomputers and conduct his research.
Smarr wrote a proposal to address the future needs of scientific research. Seven other University of Illinois professors joined as co-principal investigators, and many others provided descriptions of what could be accomplished if the proposal were accepted. Known as the Black Proposal (after the color of its cover), it was submitted to the NSF in 1983. It met the NSF's mandate and its contents immediately generated excitement. However, the NSF had no organization in place to support it, and the proposal itself did not contain a clearly defined home for its implementation.
The NSF established an Office of Scientific Computing in 1984 and, with strong congressional support, it announced a national competition that would fund a set of supercomputer centers like the one described in the Black Proposal.The result was that four supercomputer centers would be chartered (Cornell, Illinois, Princeton, and San Diego), with a fifth (Pittsburgh) added later.
The Black Proposal was approved in 1985 and marked the foundation of NCSA, with $42,751,000 in funding from 1 January 1985 through 31 December 1989. This was also noteworthy in that the NSF's action of approving an unsolicited proposal was unprecedented. NCSA opened its doors in January 1986.
In 2007, NCSA was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to build "Blue Waters",a supercomputer capable of performing quadrillions of calculations per second, a level of performance known as petascale.
The 'Black Proposal'was a short, ten-page proposal for the creation of a supercomputing center that eventually led to funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to create supercomputing centers, including the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois. In this sense, the significant role played by the U.S. Government in funding the center, and the first widely popular web browser (NCSA's Mosaic), cannot be denied.
The Black Proposal described the limitations on any scientific research that required computer capabilities, and it described a future world of productive scientific collaboration, centered on universal computer access, in which technical limitations on scientific research would not exist. Significantly, it expressed a clear vision of how to get from the present to the future. The proposal was titled "A Center for Scientific and Engineering Supercomputing", and was ten pages long.
The proposal's vision of the computing future were then unusual or non-existent, but elements of it are now commonplace, such as visualization, workstations, high-speed I/O, data storage, software engineering, and close collaboration with the multi-disciplinary user community.
Modern readers of the Black Proposal may gain insight into a world that no longer exists. Today's computers are easy to use, and the web is omnipresent. Employees in high-tech endeavors are given supercomputer accounts simply because they are employees. Computers are universally available and can be used by almost anyone of any age, applicable to almost anything.
At the time the proposal was written, computers were available to almost no one. For scientists who needed computers in their research, access was difficult if available at all. The effect on research was crippling. Reading publications from that time gives no hint that scientists were required to learn the arcane technical details of whatever computer facilities were available to them, a time-consuming limitation on their research, and an exceedingly tedious distraction from their professional interests.
The implementation of the Black Proposal had a primary role in shaping the computer technology of today, and its impact on research (both scientific and otherwise) has been profound. The proposal's description of the leading edge of scientific research may be sobering, and the limitations on computer usage at major universities may be surprising. A comprehensive list of the world's supercomputers shows the best resources that were then available. The thrust of the proposal may seem obvious now, but was then novel.
The National Science Foundation announced funding for the supercomputer centers in 1985;The first supercomputer at NCSA came online in January 1986.
NCSA quickly came to the attention of the worldwide scientific community with the release of NCSA Telnet in 1986. A number of other tools followed, and like NCSA Telnet, all were made available to everyone at no cost. In 1993, NCSA released the Mosaic web browser, the first popular graphical Web browser, which played an important part in expanding the growth of the World Wide Web. NCSA Mosaic was written by Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina, who went on to develop the Netscape Web browser. Mosaic was later licensed to Spyglass, Inc. which provided the foundation for Internet Explorer. The server-complement was called NCSA HTTPd, which later became known as Apache HTTP Server.
Other notable contributions by NCSA were the black hole simulations supporting the development of LIGO in 1992, the tracking of Comet Hale–Bopp in 1997, the creation of a PlayStation 2 Cluster in 2003, and the monitoring of the COVID-19 pandemic and creation of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Initially, NCSA's administrative offices were in the Water Resources Building and employees were scattered across the campus. NCSA is now headquartered within its own building directly north of the Siebel Center for Computer Science, on the site of a former baseball field, Illini Field. NCSA's supercomputers are at the National Petascale Computing Facility.
NCSA's visualization department is internationally well-known. Donna Cox, leader of the Advanced Visualization Laboratory at NCSA and a professor in the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and her team created visualizations for the Oscar-nominated IMAX film "Cosmic Voyage", the PBS NOVA episodes "Hunt for the Supertwister" and "Runaway Universe", as well as Discovery Channel documentaries and pieces for CNN and NBC Nightly News. Cox and NCSA worked with the American Museum of Natural History to produce high-resolution visualizations for the Hayden Planetarium's 2000 Millennium show, "Passport to the Universe", and for "The Search for Life: Are We Alone?" She produced visualizations for the Hayden's "Big Bang Theatre" and worked with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to produce high-resolution data-driven visualizations of terabytes of scientific data for "Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity", a digital dome program on black holes.
Referred to as the Industrial Partners program when it began in 1986, NCSA's collaboration with major corporations ensured that its expertise and emerging technologies would be relevant to major challenges outside of the academic world, as those challenges arose. Business partners had no control over research or the disposition of its results, but they were well-situated to be early adopters of any benefits of the research. This program is now called NCSA Industry.
Past and current business partners include:
NCSA Mosaic is a discontinued web browser, one of the first to be widely available. It was instrumental in popularizing the World Wide Web and the general Internet by integrating multimedia such as text and graphics. It was named for its support of multiple Internet protocols, such as Hypertext Transfer Protocol, File Transfer Protocol, Network News Transfer Protocol, and Gopher. Its intuitive interface, reliability, personal computer support, and simple installation all contributed to its popularity within the web. Mosaic is the first browser to display images inline with text instead of in a separate window. It is often described as the first graphical web browser, though it was preceded by WorldWideWeb, the lesser-known Erwise, and ViolaWWW.
The Cornell University Center for Advanced Computing (CAC), housed at Frank H. T. Rhodes Hall on the campus of Cornell University, is one of five original centers in the National Science Foundation's Supercomputer Centers Program. It was formerly called the Cornell Theory Center.
The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) is an organized research unit of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). SDSC is located at the UCSD campus' Eleanor Roosevelt College east end, immediately north the Hopkins Parking Structure.
Donna J. Cox is an American artist and scientist, Michael Aiken Endowed Chair; Professor of Art + Design; Director, Advanced Visualization Lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC); Director, Visualization and Experimental Technologies at National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA); and Director, edream. She is a recognized pioneer in computer art and scientific visualization.
David A. Bader is a Distinguished Professor and Director of the Institute for Data Science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Previously, he served as the Chair of the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Computational Science & Engineering, where he was also a founding professor, and the executive director of High-Performance Computing at the Georgia Tech College of Computing. In 2007, he was named the first director of the Sony Toshiba IBM Center of Competence for the Cell Processor at Georgia Tech. Bader has served on the Computing Research Association's Board of Directors, the National Science Foundation's Advisory Committee on Cyberinfrastructure, and on the IEEE Computer Society's Board of Governors. He is an expert in the design and analysis of parallel and multicore algorithms for real-world applications such as those in cybersecurity and computational biology. His main areas of research are at the intersection of high-performance computing and real-world applications, including cybersecurity, massive-scale analytics, and computational genomics. Bader built the first Linux supercomputer using commodity processors and a high-speed interconnection network.
United States federal research funders use the term cyberinfrastructure to describe research environments that support advanced data acquisition, data storage, data management, data integration, data mining, data visualization and other computing and information processing services distributed over the Internet beyond the scope of a single institution. In scientific usage, cyberinfrastructure is a technological and sociological solution to the problem of efficiently connecting laboratories, data, computers, and people with the goal of enabling derivation of novel scientific theories and knowledge.
TeraGrid was an e-Science grid computing infrastructure combining resources at eleven partner sites. The project started in 2001 and operated from 2004 through 2011.
Charlie Catlett is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Illinois Discovery Partners Institute and a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Mansueto Institute for Urban Dynamics at the University of Chicago. He was previously a Senior Computer Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory and a Senior Fellow in the Computation Institute, a joint institute of Argonne National Laboratory and The University of Chicago, and a Senior Fellow at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy.
Larry Lee Smarr is a physicist and leader in scientific computing, supercomputer applications, and Internet infrastructure from Missouri. He currently works at the University of California, San Diego. Smarr has been among the most important synthesizers and conductors of innovation, discovery, and commercialization of new technologies – including areas as disparate as the Web browser and personalized medicine. In his career, Smarr has made pioneering breakthroughs in research on black holes, spearheaded the use of supercomputers for academic research, and presided over some of the major innovations that created the modern Internet. For nearly 20 years, he has been building a new model for academic research based on interdisciplinary collaboration.
The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas at Austin, United States, is an advanced computing research center that provides comprehensive advanced computing resources and support services to researchers in Texas and across the USA. The mission of TACC is to enable discoveries that advance science and society through the application of advanced computing technologies. Specializing in high performance computing, scientific visualization, data analysis & storage systems, software, research & development and portal interfaces, TACC deploys and operates advanced computational infrastructure to enable computational research activities of faculty, staff, and students of UT Austin. TACC also provides consulting, technical documentation, and training to support researchers who use these resources. TACC staff members conduct research and development in applications and algorithms, computing systems design/architecture, and programming tools and environments.
Edward Seidel is an American academic administrator and scientist serving as the president of the University of Wyoming since July 1, 2020. He previously served as the Vice President for Economic Development and Innovation for the University of Illinois System, as well as a Founder Professor in the Department of Physics and a professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was the director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at Illinois from 2014 to 2017.
Blue Waters was a petascale supercomputer operated by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On August 8, 2007, the National Science Board approved a resolution which authorized the National Science Foundation to fund "the acquisition and deployment of the world's most powerful leadership-class supercomputer." The NSF awarded $208 million for the Blue Waters project.
Kevin Franklin, EdD was born in Virginia, where he received degrees in Psychology and Education from Old Dominion University. He holds a Doctorate of Education in Organization and Leadership from the University of San Francisco. Formerly Executive Director of the University of California system-wide Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) and a Deputy Director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), Franklin was appointed as Executive Director of the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts, and Social Science, (I-CHASS), Research Professor, Education Policy, Organization and Leadership, Adjunct Associate Professor, African American Studies, and Senior Research Scientist for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois in July 2007. In addition Franklin was appointed Associate Director for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) in 2014.
The Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts, and Social Science (I-CHASS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign was established in 2005 to conduct leading-edge research at the intersection of high performance computing and humanities, arts, and social science scholarship. I-CHASS is hosted by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) and maintains strategic partnerships with NCSA, the Great Lakes Consortium for Petascale Computation (GLCPC), and the Illinois Informatics Institute (I3). Through its work on identifying, creating, and adapting computational tools that accelerate research and education, it engages scholars from the University of Illinois and from across the globe to demonstrate approaches to next-generation interdisciplinary research with high performance computing.
Maxine D. Brown is an American computer scientist and retired director of the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Along with Tom DeFanti and Bruce McCormick, she co-edited the 1987 NSF report, Visualization in Scientific Computing, which defined the field of scientific visualization.
Marc Snir is an Israeli American computer scientist. He holds a Michael Faiman and Saburo Muroga Professorship in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has a courtesy appointment in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science. He currently pursues research in parallel computing. He is principal investigator (PI) for the software of the petascale Blue Waters system and co-director of the Intel and Microsoft funded Universal Parallel Computing Research Center (UPCRC).
Yellowstone was the inaugural supercomputer at the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC) in Cheyenne, Wyoming. It was installed, tested, and readied for production in the summer of 2012. The Yellowstone supercomputing cluster was decommissioned on December 31, 2017, being replaced by its successor Cheyenne.
The NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center (NWSC) is a high-performance computing (HPC) and data archival facility located in Cheyenne, Wyoming that provides advanced computing services to researchers in the Earth system sciences.
CyberGIS, or cyber geographic information science and systems, is an interdisciplinary field combining cyberinfrastructure, e-science, and geographic information science and systems (GIS). CyberGIS has a particular focus on computational and data-intensive geospatial problem-solving within various research and education domains. The need for GIS has extended beyond traditional forms of geographic analysis and study, which includes adapting to new sources and kinds of data, high-performance computing resources, and online platforms based on existing and emerging information networks. The name cyberGIS first appeared in Geographic Information Science literature in 2010. CyberGIS is characterized as digital geospatial ecosystems. These systems are developed and have evolved through heterogeneous computing environments, as well as human communication and information environments. CyberGIS can be considered a new generation of geographic information systems (GIS). These systems are based on advanced computing and information infrastructure, which analyze and model geospatial data, providing computationally intensive spatial analysis, modeling, and collaborative geospatial problem-solving at previously unprecedented scales.