The U.S. Is Busy Building Supercomputers, but Needs Someone to Run Them

Daily Beast (12/28/11) Dan Lyons

The United States is rapidly adding to its collection of supercomputers, with new high-performance computing (HPC) systems under development at various labs. However, there are not enough people who know how to make use of all the new supercomputing power, say HPC industry experts. This talent shortage is the “missing middle,” meaning there are enough specialists to run the handful of world-beating supercomputers that cost a few hundred million dollars, and plenty of people who can manage ordinary personal computers and servers, but there are not nearly enough people who know how to use the small and midsized HPC machines that cost between $1 million to $10 million. “We need people who can build the applications and algorithms needed to effectively use the equipment,” says the University of Tennessee’s Jack Dongarra. The Virtual School for Computational Science and Engineering is a program that offers online courses for graduate students who want to learn how to use HPCs. This year, 1,000 students participated, up from 40 in 2008 when the program began, according to National Center for Supercomputing Applications director Thom Dunning.

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