Science & Tech

Supercomputer Researcher Wins Turing Award for Boosting Ultrapowerful Machines

IBM Summit supercomputer

Oak Ridge Nationwide Laboratory’s Summit supercomputer, constructed by IBM and at present the world’s second quickest machine


Oak Ridge Nationwide Laboratory

Jack Dongarra, a researcher at Oak Ridge Nationwide Laboratory in Tennessee, gained the 2021 Turing Award for software program that is unlocked the ability of the world’s largest computer systems. Many earlier recipients boosted supercomputers not directly, however Dongarra has specialised in code that accelerates scientific calculations and will get it to run on machines with hundreds of processors.

“These contributions laid a framework from which scientists and engineers made important discoveries and game changing innovations in areas including big data analytics, health care, renewable energy, weather prediction, genomics and economics,” the Affiliation for Computing Equipment mentioned Wednesday of its alternative to call Dongarra the winner. The distinguished award, which comes with $1 million from Google since 2014, is commonly referred to as computing’s equal of the Nobel Prize.

The award comes as supercomputing takes on rising significance in understanding the world and coping with its challenges. Supercomputers are sometimes used to forecast each subsequent week’s climate and the course of local weather change over the subsequent many years. They’re deployed to simulate the high-energy physics of getting old nuclear weapons and fusion reactors scientists hope will imply ample electrical energy sooner or later. Business makes use of the enormously highly effective machines to design plane which are extra environment friendly. 

Supercomputer researcher Jack Dongarra

Supercomputer Researcher Jack Dongarra


Tara Kneiser/Affiliation for Computing Equipment

Good software program is vital to utilize sprawling supercomputing {hardware} that lately consists of hundreds of machines with hundreds of thousands of processing cores. Dongarra wrote algorithms that sped up the algebraic calculations on the coronary heart of most scientific computing. He additionally helped develop a message passing interface, identified merely as MPI, that is required to unfold a single computing job throughout hundreds of processors.

Dongarra at present works at Oak Ridge, dwelling of the IBM-built Summit machine that was the world’s quickest supercomputer for two years till Japan’s Fugaku claimed the crown. The Vitality Division lab additionally hosts the Frontier machine, which may carry that crown again when it begins full operations in 2023.

“I’m still in shock over getting the news about the award, to be honest,” Dongarra, who has authored papers with earlier Turing winners, mentioned in an interview. “It’s a great honor and I’m humbled.”

Since 1966, the ACM has given the Turing Award to pc science’s largest luminaries. Recipients’ analysis paved the best way for each industrial success within the trade, from IBM PCs and Apple iPhones to Google search and the Name of Obligation online game.

Earlier Turing Awards went to inventors of the encryption know-how that protects communications and e-commerce, the chip design utilized in each cell phone, the World Broad Net, the graphical consumer interface on private computer systems, at present’s synthetic intelligence know-how, and the Unix working system.

Today, Dongarra is intrigued by new developments in supercomputing. One is cloud computing providers that permit anybody hire entry to monumental programs. One other is synthetic intelligence know-how, which he thinks will be helpful for quickly discovering approximate options that later will be verified with conventional means.

Within the Nineteen Seventies, Dongarra started one vital software program mission, Linpack, to assist researchers remedy linear equations extra simply on quite a lot of computer systems. He saved an inventory of how properly varied machines carried out, together with famed machines just like the Cray-1 supercomputer and workaday minicomputers like Digital Gear Company’s PDP-8.

That record, when mixed with a associated one from Hans Mayer of the College of Mannheim, grew to become the Top500 supercomputer rankings which were launched twice annually since 1993.

Linpack has proven exceptional longevity, partially as a result of it has been up to date many occasions as supercomputers developed to embody — for instance clusters of cheaper Linux machines beginning within the Nineteen Nineties, graphics processing models from firms like Nvidia over the past decade and now AI accelerators to hurry machine studying duties.

However for measuring pace, it is time for Linpack’s reign to finish, Dongarra mentioned.

“We need new benchmarks,” he mentioned. Fashionable machines are extra constrained lately by their potential to shuttle knowledge internally. Dongarra prefers the newer HPCG pace check, which the Top500 additionally experiences.

Today, Dongarra is intrigued by new developments in supercomputing like cloud computing providers that permit anybody hire entry to monumental programs.

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