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Assembling the Planetary Computer
Larry Smarr (UC San Diego)
Director, California Institute for
Telecommunications and Information Technology
After twenty years, the "S-curve" of building out the wired internet with hundreds of millions of PCs as its end points is flattening out, with corresponding lowering of the growth rates of the major suppliers of that global infrastructure. At the same time, several new "S-curves" are reaching their steep slope as ubiquitous computing begins to sweep the planet. Leading this will be a vast expansion in heterogeneous end-points to a new wireless internet, moving IP throughout the physical world. Billions of internet connected cell phones, embedded processors, hand held devices, sensors, and actuators will lead to radical new applications in biomedicine, transportation, environmental monitoring, and interpersonal communication and collaboration. The combination of wireless LANs, the third generation of cellular phones, satellites, and the increasing use of the FCC unlicensed wireless band will cover the world with connectivity. The resulting vast increase in data streams, augmented by the advent of mass market broadband to homes and businesses, will drive the backbone of the internet to a pure optical lambda-switched network of tremendous capacity. Finally, peer-to-peer computing and storage will increasingly provide a vast untapped capability to power this emergent planetary computer.
Dr. Smarr, age 52, earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Missouri, a master's at Stanford University, and a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin (all are in Physics). Dr. Smarr has long been a pioneer in the prototyping of a national information infrastructure to support academic research, governmental functions, and industrial competitiveness. In 1983 he initiated the first proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) recommending development of a national supercomputer center. This resulted in the creation of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) in 1985, where he served as its Director until March 2000. In July 2000, Dr. Smarr moved to La Jolla, CA, where he became a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering in the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California San Diego. In December, his successful proposal led to the creation of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, where he serves as Institute Director. He continues to be an active member of a number of high-level government committees such as the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee to the Director, NIH. Smarr is a Member of the National Academy of Engineering, and a Fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1990 he received the Franklin Institute's Delmer S. Fahrney Medal for Leadership in Science or Technology. He has co-authored with William Kaufmann III, the book, Supercomputing and the Transformation of Science (ISSN 1040-3213).