Obama turns attention to supercomputing

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Speech was so technology-focused that it buoyed expectations that U.S. investment in IT, particularly supercomputing, will survive his other plan to freeze domestic spending for five years.

In his speech Tuesday, Obama made clear that the government’s role is to provide “cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support they need.” He cited a string of U.S. advances developed with government support, including the Internet and GPS, as well as some current research projects, particularly in alternative energy, to make his case for federal investment.

Obama also cited international competition in technology, particularly from China, which recently “became home to the world’s largest private solar research facility, and the world’s fastest computer.”

Obama specifically mentioned supercomputing twice in his speech.

Peter Beckman, who is director of the Exascale Technology and Computing Institute and the Leadership Computing Facility at Argonne National Laboratory, said he was “were very excited about innovation, technology, science and energy being messages” in the State of the Union.

The president’s characterization of the U.S. as “a nation of inventors and innovators,” Beckman said, is “fantastic — and that’s how I see our work in computing.”

How Obama’s message will translate into dollars will be detailed in the federal budget, due early next month.

Earl Joseph, an analyst at IDC, said there is a critical need for U.S. funding of high-end, high-performance computing.

“Other nations are investing heavily in building very large supercomputers because they know that they can help their economic competitiveness a lot and that they can help advance basic science and engineering,” Joseph said.

Joseph said that supercomputing is becoming a base requirement for many industries, which are using new materials and processes “that will redefine the products we use.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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