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Linking Supercomputers

Officials at the NASA Aerospace Simulation (NAS) Facility first began using the most powerful computers (called high-performance or supercomputers) a decade ago with the goal of reducing, if not eliminating, wind tunnel testing of new aircraft. Wind tunnels, while extremely effective at evaluating how an aircraft will perform in flight, were expensive. Because tests took years to complete, major U.S. aircraft companies were unable to get their products to market fast enough to compete effectively in the global economy. NAS officials, who routinely perform long-term research and development for industry, believed supercomputers and high-end applications could recreate an airplane on screen and simulate factors such as turbulence and air flow.

Unfortunately, because of the cost and complexity of advanced computing, NAS officials struggled to advance their goals. But then in 1991, the National High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) program was created. Several agencies joined up and began exchanging data and resources, enabling NAS officials to collaborate with federal scientists and engineers working on climate control simulation and other related models.

"Previously, we were trying to solve some specific system software problems but we could only do so much considering the cost of the machines that we needed and...

A Vision Too Grand

When the Defense Department first began publicizing its Corporate Information Management (CIM) plan in 1989, top military brass, congressional leaders and even the press were almost unanimous in their praise.

Certainly the goals of CIM were difficult to criticize, for the change management program promised to streamline computer operations and cut red tape out of one of the world's largest and most bureaucratic organizations. The word "corporate" in the project's name suggested a key goal: to bring tightly organized, business-style management to DoD's sprawling operations.

CIM promised savings of more than $70 billion over seven years, enough money to fund modernization of defense computer systems and help bolster military readiness. The savings would come out of administrative and logistical operations, through such initiatives as the consolidation of data centers, the merging of redundant payroll, procurement and other systems and the reduction of inventories through better management of supply chains.

Savings generated would pay for installation of an information technology infrastructure capable of fighting the modern war. So CIM would be helping not only the pencil-pushers in the bureaucracy but also the young soldiers in the field. It would, in the process, spare the military the embarrassment of...

Linking Supercomputers

Officials at the NASA Aerospace Simulation (NAS) Facility first began using the most powerful computers (called high-performance or supercomputers) a decade ago with the goal of reducing, if not eliminating, wind tunnel testing of new aircraft. Wind tunnels, while extremely effective at evaluating how an aircraft will perform in flight, were expensive. Because tests took years to complete, major U.S. aircraft companies were unable to get their products to market fast enough to compete effectively in the global economy. NAS officials, who routinely perform long-term research and development for industry, believed supercomputers and high-end applications could recreate an airplane on screen and simulate factors such as turbulence and air flow.

Unfortunately, because of the cost and complexity of advanced computing, NAS officials struggled to advance their goals. But then in 1991, the National High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) program was created. Several agencies joined up and began exchanging data and resources, enabling NAS officials to collaborate with federal scientists and engineers working on climate control simulation and other related models.

"Previously, we were trying to solve some specific system software problems but we could only do so much considering the cost of the machines that we needed and...

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