UT-Austin awarded $60 million National Science Foundation grant for new supercomputer

Katie Balevic

The Texas Advanced Computing Center announced Wednesday afternoon they received $60 million from the National Science Foundation for a new supercomputer, known as Frontera.

The new system, which will begin operations in 2019, will be the fastest at any U.S. university and one of the most powerful in the world, UT President Gregory Fenves said during the announcement on the J.J. Pickle Research Campus.

“Frontera will become part of the iconic lineage of supercomputers here at TACC,” Fenves said at the announcement. “It represents the spirit and culture at the University of Texas where we’re always exploring, discovering, pushing new boundaries and raising the bar higher and higher.”

Fenves said Frontera will help researchers address some of the world’s most pressing challenges today, such as disease treatment, natural disasters and climate change, while also creating the opportunity to analyze some of the greatest mysteries in the universe, such as black holes.

“Researchers will be able to run computational experiments that have never before been possible to gain a deeper understanding of science,” Fenves said at the announcement.

Manish Parashar, director of the NSF’s Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure, said they are excited to be partnering with TACC and are looking forward to Frontera’s deployment
and operations. 

“We seek to foster a leadership-class computing system that can support a full range of science and engineering research,” Parashar said. “(Frontera) will provide access to new and innovative capabilities
and technologies.” 

TACC Executive Director Dan Stanzione said supercomputers are essential research instruments which help answer questions that cannot be explored in the lab or in the field. 

“We do this not just to build bigger and faster (supercomputers),” Stanzione said. “It’s about what we can do with them … If we have bigger and better computers, we can tackle bigger and better challenges.”

Since 2006, TACC has operated six supercomputers that have been among the top 25 most powerful systems in the world, three of which were among the top 10, according to a TACC press release.

Stanzione said the $60 million grant will cover deploying Frontera, operating it over the next five years and designing a new system with even more capabilities to supersede it.

“We’ll be back here in a year to cut the ribbon on the new system and then a few years later to think about what the next system might look like as well,” Stanzione said.