New modeling abilities can lead to new methods: Can the ability to do simulations -- massively complex, multivariate simulations -- at unheard of speeds change how science is performed? According to scientists at the recent SC08 conference, absolutely.
- "The scientific method has changed for the first time since Galileo invented the telescope. It's getting to the point where simulation is actually the third branch of science. We say that nature is always the arbiter of truth, but it turns out our ability to observe nature is fundamentally limited," said computer scientist Mark Seager of LLNL.
- "The new capability allows you to do fundamentally new physics and tackle new problems and it will accelerate the transition from basic research to applied technology," said Thomas Zacharia of ORNL.
Briefer Top500 tests may be called for: Even some of the organizers of the Top500 list think the benchmarks used to test supercomputer performance is getting too top heavy to handle -- and they are looking for input to see how they might modify the test. At the recent SC08, Jack Dongarra, one of the Top500 officials, noted: "It's clear this is a problem. It is getting out of control at this point, so we have to do something. We'll make some changes to the benchmarks. We don't know what those changes are, yet. We're looking for feedback from the community to determine what those changes should be." Changes like maybe only running a portion of the full Linpack test.
SW blurs the lines between super- and regular computing: One visitor to the recent SC08 conference, Stacey Higginbotham, made the connection that "since supercomputers can be built with commodity chips and networking gear, high-performance computing isn't really about the hardware like it was back in the days of Cray ... today it's all about the software." She goes on to postulate that it is the software that will enable the supercomputer to jump from the science-only realm to the workstation arena (and probably even further, into the device market). One other area in which software will be of extreme importance to supercomputing is in bolstering labor -- for many current supercomputer installations, there are hired programmers (science/government installations) and volunteer programmers (universities) to tune and keep the systems running. Many businesses cannot afford this cost -- that's where the appropriate software comes in.