What exactly is the National Center for Supercomputing Applications?
When the center opened to the research community in 1986, the researchers using the supercomputers were from the traditional disciplines of physics, chemistry, materials, and astrophysics. But researchers in other disciplines quickly realized they, too, could also transform their fields by using supercomputing. Today the growth areas include commercial and financial data mining and networked World Wide Web multimedia asset management.
NCSA is also dedicated to improving the competitive position of American industry by selecting leading corporations in a variety of industry categories to partner with NCSA in a non- competitve Industrial Program. These Fortune 500 companies are at NCSA to learn about all aspects of cutting-edge hardware and software, virtual prototyping, visualization, networking, and data mining. Current partners include: Allstate Insurance Co., American Airlines, AT&T, Caterpillar Inc., Dow Chemical, Eastman Kodak Co., Eli Lilly & Co., FMC, J. P. Morgan, Motorola Inc., Phillips Petroleum Co., Schlumberger Ltd., Sears, Roebuck and Co., Tribune Company, and United Technologies.
NCSA works closely with vendors and a strong computer science faculty team to bring users the most advanced methods in high-performance scalable computing. The center currently maintains these supercomputers: Silicon Graphics POWER CHALLENGEarray, HP/Convex Exemplar, and Thinking Machines CM-5.
Scientists and researchers associated with NCSA provide never ending challenges in all areas of computational research. Their need to solve complex problems, to comprehend billions of numbers, to collaborate, and to access information have led to advances in cyberspace technologies and virtual reality.
Since its beginning NCSA has developed desktop software to help users navigate cyberspace. In 1992 the release of the network browser Mosaic provided the basis of a technology that is generating the "gold rush" on the Internet. NCSA is now creating a powerful desktop-based collaborative software environment that will help eliminate distance barriers for virtual teams.
NCSA's Virtual Environment Laboratory is one of the world's most advanced virtual reality (VR) research laboratories available to academic and industrial researchers. The lab consists primarily of three projection-based modes of VR --- the CAVE(tm) and the ImmersaDesk(tm) (developed by the Electronic Visualization Laboratory [EVL] at the University of Illinois at Chicago), and the Infinity Wall (developed by EVL in collaboration with NCSA and the University of Minnesota.
Having a computer is quite different from using one to its fullest capabilities. NCSA understands that transferring necessary technical skills and information is vital for prolonged growth and success of any activity. This transfer is accomplished by providing computational science, networking technologies, and information technology training to fellow researchers, students, other educators, lifelong learners, government and community organizations, and members of the business community.
NCSA addresses science and curriculum issues through programs designed not only to give a technical jump start to a school but also to provide continuing support to educators and their administrators. Current major programs include: the Education Affiliates (EA) program, the Resource for Science Education (RSE) program, the Networking Infrastructure for Education (NIE) project, EduLinK-12 (Illinois Education Link), Tech Corps Illinois, and Illinois Learning Mosaic (ILM,) a World Wide Web-based educational information resource.
NCSA's community networking and technology transfer program works with various communities to deploy HPCC technology and applications at the local, state, regional, and national levels. The center's CCNet (Champaign County Network) collaboration with its host community has received national recognition as an innovative application of the National Information Infrastructure and as a model for other communities. Chicago Mosaic, a collaborative project with the City of Chicago, is investigating the use of World Wide Web technologies to communicate between large city government and the citizens of that community as well as the rest of the world.
NCSA is a unit of the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign and was established in 1985 with a grant from the National Science Foundation. In addition to NSF grant funds, NCSA receives major funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, NASA, corporate partners, the State of Illinois, and the University of Illinois.