Advanced Computing

Interdisciplinary research,
education and capacity building

The International Collaboratory for Advanced Computing builds on the successes of the current CoLab program between Portuguese academic institutions and The University of Texas at Austin. This program, which has been ongoing for five years, was funded by the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (FCT), and it has been very successful in (1) initiating dual-degree Ph.D. programs, (2) starting joint research projects between Portuguese researchers and UT-Austin researchers, (3) teaching advanced courses in Portugal staffed by leading researchers from academia and industry, (4) hosting post-graduate students for summer internships at UT Austin, and (5) providing advanced HPC facilities at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) to Portuguese computational scientists. These accomplishments are described in more detail below.
In the proposed five-year program, the focus will be on new research areas in Advanced Computing, including GPU and many core computing, cloud computing, and big-data enabled computational science and engineering.  Major computer companies like Microsoft, IBM, Intel, AMD, and Sungard are investing heavily in these areas.  UT-Austin has close ties with many of these companies, and the proposed Co-laboratory will leverage these ties to provide industrial connections for many of the proposed efforts.
Participating Institutions
·      Portuguese institutions:
o   Universidade de Coimbra, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia (FCTUC)
o   Universidade do Minho
o   Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Ciências (FCUP)
o   Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Engenharia (FEUP)
o   Universidade de Lisboa, Instituto Superior Técnico (IST)
·      International institutions:
o   The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Computer Science (CS)
o   The University of Texas at Austin, Institute for Computational Engineering and Science (ICES)
Main activities to be developed
1.     CoLab Ph.D. program
2.     Research program in many core, GPU and cloud computing, big-data enabled science and engineering
3.     Short advanced courses for post-graduate students
4.     Summer internships for post-graduate students at UT-Austin
5.     Faculty and Ph.D. student exchange program
1. CoLab Ph.D. Dual Degree Program
The CoLab program in Advanced Computing has established a dual-degree Ph.D. program between the participating Portuguese institutions and The University of Texas at Austin.
The dual-degree program is set up as follows. Typically, students apply for admission to the Ph.D. program at one of the Portuguese partner institutions, as well as to the Ph.D. program at The University of Texas in Austin. To obtain the dual degree, they must satisfy the requirements of both the Portuguese home institution and The University of Texas at Austin. The typical time-line for a Ph.D. student in this program looks like the following:
·      The first year is spent in Portugal taking courses to prepare the student for doing cutting edge research in Advanced Computing. Qualifying examinations are completed at the end of this period.
·      The second year is spent in Austin, performing research with a faculty member participating in the CoLab program and attending courses when required. Candidacy examinations are usually completed at the end of this period.
·      In the third and fourth years, the student divides his time between the Portuguese home institution and The University of Texas at Austin as needed to complete the research work for the dissertation and to write up the thesis.
·      Students are encouraged to do internships with high-technology companies during their stay in Austin.
João Barbosa from the University of Minho is completing a dual Ph.D. degree in High Performance Computer Graphics under this program.  In addition, faculty members from The University of Texas at Austin serve on the dissertation committees of more than a dozen Ph.D. students in Portuguese institutions.
A) About the program
The CoLab Ph.D. Program is a dual degree program between the participating Portuguese institutions and the University of Texas at Austin. Students work at both at the University of Texas at Austin and at one of the partner Portuguese institutions. To qualify for the dual degree, students must fulfill the academic requirements of both the Portuguese University and UT- Austin.
B) Admission to the program
Students apply separately to a Portuguese institution and to the University of Texas at Austin. Each institution conducts its own admissions process. To be eligible for the dual degree, the student must be admitted to both programs.
C) Selection for Ph.D. fellowships
Candidates for Ph.D. fellowships from the FCT are selected by a committee nominated by the president of the Portuguese Science Foundation (FCT).
D) Academic requirements
Students will take qualifying exams in the Portuguese institution. Upon successful completion of these exams, the UT-Austin requirement of preliminary examinations will be waived. The candidacy exam will be taken at UT-Austin. Requirements for passing the UT-Austin candidacy exam will be identical to those for UT-Austin students, as will be the standards for eventual completion of a UT Ph.D.
Students will have one advisor at one of the Portuguese institutions and at UT-Austin. During their first program year in Portugal, Portuguese mentors will help students choose potential mentors from the UT-Austin faculty.
Students in this program will have to fulfill the coursework requirements of both institutions awarding the degrees.  Prospective advisors may require students to demonstrate proficiency in topics relevant to their proposed research areas (e.g., by additional exams or coursework in addition to the minimal requirements of both institutions) before accepting the students.
E) Typical timeline
The typical Ph.D. student will spend his/her first year in Portugal, by the end of which s/he will complete the qualifying exams. In the second year the student will be in Austin, at the end of which s/he will take the candidacy examination. The last two years will be dedicated to research.  Typically the student will spend the third year in Austin and the last year in Portugal.
2. Research in many core/GPU/cloud computing, and big-data enabled science and engineering
In the first five-year period, the Advanced Computing part of CoLab focused mainly on high-performance and parallel computing. More than 150 refereed research papers have been produced under the aegis of this program.
In the next five years, the scope of the program will be enlarged to encompass new directions such as many core and GPU computing, cloud computing and big-data enabled science and engineering.
·      Parallel computing has become ubiquitous since all processors are now multicore processors with 4-8 cores that can compute in parallel. In addition, Graphics Processing Units (GPU’s) have become highly programmable and are now being used to accelerate general-purpose computing; for example, current and future processors like AMD’s Fusion architecture and Intel’s MIC architecture have one or more GPU’s incorporated into the processor. Existing software was written for sequential processors, so current applications cannot take advantage of the performance potential of parallel processing.
Writing applications to take advantage of parallel processing is a major growth area with a lot of commercial potential. The University of Texas at Austin is one of the major world centers for high-performance computing. The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has some of the largest parallel machines available anywhere in the world (Ranger, for example, can compute at 579 Teraflops). The Departments of Computer Science (CS) and Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) have world leaders in Computer Architecture, Parallel Programming, and Operating Systems.  NVIDIA has selected UT-Austin as a major teaching center for education in GPU programming.
The program will continue conducting state-of-the-art research in these important research areas.
·      Cloud computing is another major development that is likely to change the face of computing. The idea behind cloud computing is to store most of the data and applications used by people on big servers on the Internet, and to provide seamless access to the data and applications regardless of where the client is.
Cloud computing has become very big in the commercial space in the past few years, with major offerings from Microsoft, Oracle, Sungard and other companies. Sungard has recently chosen The University of Texas at Austin as a major partner for its R&D efforts, and has funded the UT-Sungard Cloud Computing Research Center in the amount of $500,000/yr.  This collaboration has already borne fruit in the form of an Exabyte storage system designed jointly by UT-Austin researchers and Sungard; patents for this system have been submitted.
In addition, by the end of 2012, Sungard will have a research laboratory in Austin with 40-50 researchers who will work closely with researchers at the University. About ten Sungard employees will be given space in the new Gates Center for Computer Science, where they will work with UT-Austin researchers to commercialize inventions by UT researchers. Faculty and students from Portuguese institutions will have the opportunity to work closely with the Sungard Cloud Computing Research Center, so they can obtain first-hand experience in the commercialization of academic research. Sungard is willing contribute research dollars to support this activity (a letter of commitment from them will be provided if requested; more companies will follow).
·      Computational science and engineering has become the third leg for scientific discovery, along with theory and experimentation. The Institute for Computational Engineering and Science (ICES) at UT-Austin is one of the premier computational science centers in the world.
A new direction for this field is big-data enabled science and engineering, made possible by the fusion of large amounts of storage capacity and processing power. The National Science Foundation and other government organizations in the United States are undertaking major initiatives in this area. UT-Austin is taking a leading role in the creation of this field. For example, Sungard is working with several faculty members in the Computer Science Department (Keshav Pingali, Chandrajit Bajaj, Adam Klivans) to design and implement what is being called a 10/10/1 system that is capable of crunching 10 Petaflops of data by performing 10 quadrillion floating-point operations in 1 hour. This system will be designed and built at the UT-Austin/Sungard Cloud Computing Research Center. Given all the resources at TACC already, this system will let UT leapfrog the competition and become a world center for both high-performance computing and big-data/cloud computing. The Advanced Computing CoLab program will be an opportunity for Portuguese faculty and graduate students to participate in creating this important field from the start.
3. Advanced courses for faculty and post-graduate students
One of the most successful aspects of the CoLab program in Advanced Computing were the many advanced courses that were taught at Portuguese institutions under the aegis of CoLab.  A unique feature of these courses was that they were co-taught by leading researchers from both industry and academia. Below are described a few of these courses below to give an idea of what would likely occur in the next five years.
·      In summer 2009, UT-Austin conducted an advanced course on multicore platforms that was taught by world leaders in this area from academia and industry. Presenting were Professor David Padua (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), Dr. Michael Garland (NVIDIA), Professors Robert van de Geijn and Keshav Pingali (UT-Austin), Dr. Alexei Kukanov (Intel), and Dr. Montse Farrera (UPC, Barcelona).
·      In summer 2010, UT-Austin conducted a summer school on e-science with many core CPU/GPU processors at the University of Minho.  The course was taught by Dr. David Kirk, who was the Chief Scientist at NVIDIA, Dr. Michael Garland (NVIDIA), and Professor Wen-Mei Hwu (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).
·      In summer 2011, UT-Austin taught a workshop on GPU programming for scientific applications at the University of Coimbra. The lecturers were Dr. Jonathan Cohen (NVIDIA), Professor Martin Burtscher (Texas State), and Professor Donald Fussell (UT Austin).
UT-Austin will continue to organize these kinds of advanced courses for faculty and post-graduate students, which will be taught by leaders from both academia and industry.
4. Post-doctoral and Faculty Exchange Program
During the past five years, many faculty members from Portuguese institutions have visited The University of Texas at Austin to further advance research agendas or to initiate new research programs.  These visits are essential, and the University will continue to sponsor them.
UT-Austin will leverage its funds to pay for some of these visits.  For example, ICES has a program called the J. T. Oden fellowship program that provides partial support for researchers visiting ICES.  This cost-sharing will enable the program to stretch available funds to cover more visits.
5. Summer internships for post-graduate students
In the past five years, roughly 50-60 post-graduate students from Portuguese institutions have had internships at UT-Austin during which they worked with University faculty members on a variety of research projects ranging from parallel programming to wireless communication and computational biology.  Students were unanimously of the opinion that this was a very valuable experience for them.
The program will continue to have internships for roughly 12-20 post-graduate students from Portuguese institutions each year. In addition to working with faculty at UT, some of these students will have an opportunity to do internships with industrial collaborators at the UT-Austin/Sungard Cloud Computing Research Center.