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Information for Researchers No. 59 | 11 November 2011
Priority Programme “Software for Exascale Computing” (SPP 1648)

The Senate of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) has announced the establishment of a new Priority Programme entitled “Software for Exascale Computing” (SPP 1648). The programme is scheduled to run for six years; the present call invites project sketches for proposals for the first three-year funding period.

Idea and Objectives

The Priority Programme “Software for Exascale Computing” (SPPEXA) addresses fundamental research on the various aspects of High-Performance Computing (HPC) software, which is particularly urgent against the background that we are currently entering the era of ubiquitous massive parallelism. This massive parallelism only, subsumed to the notion of many-core processors and their assembly to systems beyond 107 processing units, will smooth the way for extreme computing up to exascale, i.e. computations with 1018 floating point operations per second and beyond, and the insight resulting from those simulations. Mastering the various challenges related to this paradigm shift from sequential or just moderately parallel to massively parallel processing will be the key to any future capability computing application at exascale, but it will also be crucial for learning how to effectively and efficiently deal with commodity systems of the day after tomorrow for smaller-scale or capacity computing tasks – and it is the overall scientific objective of SPPEXA.

To this end, SPPEXA re-connects several relevant sub-fields of computer science with the needs of Computational Science and Engineering (CSE) and HPC. SPPEXA provides the framework for a much closer cooperation and a much more co-design-driven approach – instead of a merely service-driven collaboration of groups focussing on fundamental HPC methodology (computer science or mathematics) on the one hand with those working on science applications and providing the large codes (science and engineering) on the other hand. Topically, SPPEXA will drive research towards extreme-scale computing in six areas or research directions:

  • computational algorithms

  • system software

  • application software

  • data management and exploration

  • programming

  • software tools

Hardware peak performance is ever increasing, exascale systems are currently predicted for around 2018, and insight is growing world-wide that a “racks without brains” strategy will not allow the science communities to exploit the huge potential of the computational approach in a massively parallel world. Against this background, SPPEXA provides an ideal framework for bundling research activities nation-wide and enabling the participating groups to significantly advance the state of the art in HPC software technology at an international scale.


SPPEXA is implemented as a Priority Programme, but it is different from others with respect to funding source and volume, to range of disciplines involved (informatics, mathematics, natural sciences, and engineering sciences), to a clear orientation towards a set of time-critical objectives, and with respect to both more and more intense structural and governance measures taken by SPPEXA.

SPPEXA’s projects shall be small interdisciplinary research consortia, typically consisting of 3–5 groups or researchers, respectively. These researchers must represent different scientific fields and contributions to CSE and HPC, and they will typically (but not necessarily) come from different institutions. Each SPPEXA project must cover at least two – hopefully more – of the above six sub-topics, thus incorporating not only the networking of disciplines, but also the networking of HPC-relevant issues. Most importantly, all proposals have to clearly address SPPEXA’s overall scientific goal: to master the various challenges related to this paradigm shift from sequential or just moderately parallel to massively parallel processing. Although this is no restriction to extreme-scale applications that need and are able to benefit from cutting-edge core numbers, it does exclude moderately parallel scenarios that do not contribute to advance the frontier of parallel computing.

As a DFG programme, SPPEXA is aimed at fundamental research and offers space for both more evolutionary research and completely new approaches – which clearly distinguishes it from other related activities.

Since SPPEXA aims at including the relevant expertise in a broad way, we expect individual researchers or research groups to participate in more than three sketches only in special cases.

Submission of Sketches for Proposals

Sketches for SPPEXA projects for the initial three-year funding period are now invited. Note that the application/submission process of SPPEXA has two stages, with first an open call for project sketches, followed second by full proposals on invitation only. All sketches must be written in English and should closely follow the template sketch which will be available online 1 December at SPPEXA’s homepage www.sppexa.de. Please send one paper copy and one CD-ROM copy of the sketch marked “SPP 1648: Software for Exascale Computing” to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Kennedyallee 40, 53175 Bonn. Please note that a PDF of the sketch (only) should also be sent to the coordinators (sppexa-proposals@in.tum.de). Deadline for the sketches is 31 January 2012.

An international review panel will evaluate the sketches and decide which consortia will be invited for full proposals. Invitations for full proposals will be sent by 2 April 2012. Expected submission deadline for the full proposals is 15 May 2012. Funding is expected to start 1 January 2013.

Further information

Further information concerning SPPEXA will be provided by 1 December via SPPEXA’s homepage:

Questions related to the scientific objectives and strategic intentions of SPPEXA including the requirements for funding should be directed to SPPEXA’s scientific coordinators:

  • Prof. Dr. Wolfgang E. Nagel,
    Technische Universität Dresden,
    Zentrum für Informationsdienste und Hochleistungsrechnen,
    01062 Dresden,
    phone: +49 351 463-35450,

Administrative questions, notably regarding the formal eligibility for participation and the submission of the sketches, should be directed to:

  • Dr. Marcus Wilms,
    Kennedyallee 40,
    53175 Bonn,
    phone: +49 228 885-2471,