National Center for Supercomputing Applications

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File:New NCSA Building UIUC by Ragib.jpg
NCSA Building, 1205 W. Clark St., Urbana, IL 61801.

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) is a state-federal partnership to develop and deploy national-scale cyberinfrastructure that advances science and engineering. NCSA operates as a unit of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign but it provides high-performance computing resources to researchers across the country. Support for NCSA comes from the National Science Foundation, the state of Illinois, the University of Illinois, business and industry partners, and other federal agencies.

NCSA provides leading-edge computing, data storage, and visualization resources. NCSA computational and data environment implements a multi-architecture hardware strategy, deploying both clusters and shared memory systems to support high-end users and communities on the architectures best-suited to their requirements. Nearly 1,360 scientists, engineers and students used the computing and data systems at NCSA to support research in more than 830 projects. A list of NCSA hardware is available at NCSA Capabilities

Today NCSA is collaborating with IBM, under a grant from the National Science Foundation, to build [1] "Blue Waters," a supercomputer capable of performing 1 quadrillion calculations per second, a measure known as a petaflop. Blue Waters is due to come online in 2011.

NCSA is led by Thom Dunning, a computational chemist who previously worked at the University of Tennessee, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the United States Department of Energy and the Argonne National Laboratory.



File:Mosaic browser plaque ncsa.jpg
A plaque commemorating the creation of Mosaic web browser, in front of the new NCSA building

NCSA is one of the five original centers in the National Science Foundation's Supercomputer Centers Program. These centers were founded when a group of University of Illinois faculty, led by Larry Smarr, sent an unsolicited proposal to the National Science Foundation in 1983. The foundation announced funding for the supercomputer centers in 1985; the first supercomputer at NCSA came online in January 1986.

NCSA quickly came to the attention of the worldwide scientific community with the release of NCSA Telnet in 1986. A number of other tools followed, and like NCSA Telnet, all were made available to everyone at no cost. In 1993, NCSA released the Mosaic web browser, the first popular graphical Web browser, which played an important part in expanding the growth of the World Wide Web. NCSA Mosaic was written by Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina, who went on to develop the Netscape Web browser. Mosaic was later licensed to Spyglass, Inc. which provided the foundation for Internet Explorer.

Other notable contributions by NCSA were the Black Hole simulations supporting the development of LIGO in 1992, the tracking of the Hale-Bopp Comet in 1997, and the creation of a PlayStation 2 Cluster in 2003. NCSA's history of itself can be found here.


Initially, NCSA's administrative offices were in the Water Resources Building and employees were scattered across the campus. NCSA is now headquartered within its own building directly north of the Siebel Center for Computer Science, on the site of a former baseball field, Illini Field. NCSA's supercomputers remain at the Advanced Computation Building, but construction is now under way on a Petascale Computing Facility to house Blue Waters.


NCSA's visualization department is maybe the most well-known sector around the country and world. Donna Cox, leader of the Advanced Visualization Laboratory at NCSA and a professor in the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her team have thrilled millions of people with visualizations for the Oscar-nominated IMAX film "Cosmic Voyage," the PBS NOVA episodes "Hunt for the Supertwister" and "Runaway Universe," as well as Discovery Channel documentaries and pieces for CNN and NBC Nightly News. Cox and NCSA worked with the American Museum of Natural History to produce high-resolution visualizations for the Hayden Planetarium's 2000 Millennium show, "Passport to the Universe," and for "The Search for Life: Are We Alone?" She produced visualizations for the Hayden's "Big Bang Theatre" and worked with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to produce high-resolution data-driven visualizations of terabytes of scientific data for a digital dome program on black holes.

Private Business Partners

Referred to as the Industrial Partners program when it began in 1986, NCSA's collaboration with major corporations ensured that its expertise and emerging technologies would be relevant to major challenges outside of the academic world, as those challenges arose. Business partners had no control over research or the disposition of its results, but they were well-situated to be early adopters of any benefits of the research. The program is now called the Private Sector Program.

Past and current business partners include:

See also

External links

Template:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus


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