Texas Advanced Computing Center, courtesy photo.

The National Science Foundation has awarded $60 million to the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin to create one of the country’s fastest supercomputers.

“Computation is critical to our nation’s progress in science and engineering,” according to the NSF grant. “Whether through simulation of phenomena where experiments are costly or impossible, large-scale data analysis to sift the enormous quantities of digital data scientific instruments can produce, or machine learning to find patterns and suggest hypothesis from this vast array of data, computation is the universal tool upon which nearly every field of science and engineering relies upon to hasten their advance.”

With the grant, UT will create a new system, known as Frontera (Spanish for “frontier”), a hybrid system of conventional Central Processing Units, and Graphics Processing Units. TACC is building the computer in partnerships with Dell EMC and Intel. It will begin operations in 2019.

“Supercomputers — like telescopes for astronomy or particle accelerators for physics — are essential research instruments that are needed to answer questions that can’t be explored in the lab or in the field,” Dan Stanzione, TACC executive director said in a news statement. “Our previous systems have enabled major discoveries, from the confirmation of gravitational wave detections by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory to the development of artificial-intelligence-enabled tumor detection systems. Frontera will help science and engineering advance even further.”

Once the computer is up and running, UT will work in partnership with 10 academic partners and leading computational scientists and technologist from all over the country.