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The Bumpy Road to Exascale: A Q&a With Thomas Sterling

By HPC Wire

November 18, 2011

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Indiana University professor Thomas Sterling says in an interview that an effort is under way to cultivate an international community committed to the goal of developing a shared software stack for exascale computing.

Sterling cites several issues that could be problematic, one of which is a lack of clarity on the execution model needed to steer the stack's development. Sterling prefers a revolutionary approach for meeting exascale challenges, and notes that "without a paradigm shift in the manner in which computation is organized and conducted ... there will not be adequate efficiency or scalability to fully employ systems capable of exaflops performance by 2020."

The second issue Sterling raises concerns how the work and credit for bringing exascale computing about will be shared among international stakeholders. He says at least three initiatives in Europe, China, and Japan are focused on exascale development, and points to meaningful international engagement as a critical factor in making a future exascale approach workable.

Sterling says that "international discussions can begin to converge on a global strategy of cooperation. But this will not work unless there is an overriding execution model to which all parties can agree and to which all component layers, wherever developed will be compliant."

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