Frontera supercomputer enables cutting-edge science across disciplines


The Frontera supercomputer, the most powerful academic system in the U.S., has been supporting a wide range of scientific projects that require massive computational resources. The third annual Frontera User Meeting, held in August 2023, showcased some of the remarkable discoveries and innovations made possible by this state-of-the-art machine.

Frontera: A national cyberinfrastructure for large-scale computing

Frontera is a supercomputer funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and deployed at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) in 2019. It is the leading capability system in the national cyberinfrastructure intended for large applications that require thousands of compute nodes. Frontera has a peak performance of 38.7 petaflops and ranks as the ninth fastest supercomputer in the world according to the latest (June 2023) Top500 list.

Frontera supercomputer enables cutting-edge science across disciplines
Frontera supercomputer enables cutting-edge science across disciplines

Frontera serves hundreds of researchers from various domains of science and engineering, who use it to tackle complex problems that cannot be solved by conventional methods. Frontera provides access to its users through different allocation mechanisms, such as startup, large-scale community partnership, leadership resource, and Texascale days. These allocations allow users to run their codes on different scales, from a few nodes to the entire system.

Highlights from the 2023 Frontera User Meeting

The 2023 Frontera User Meeting, held on August 3-4, 2023, was an opportunity for users to share their experiences and findings while utilizing Frontera. The event featured 13 invited speakers who presented their projects spanning many fields of science, such as cosmology, geophysics, neuroscience, climate modeling, and more.

Some of the highlights from the meeting include:

  • Paul Woodward from the University of Minnesota showed how he used Frontera to simulate turbulent combustion in stars and supernovae. His simulations revealed new insights into the physics of stellar explosions and nucleosynthesis.
  • Omar Ghattas from the University of Texas at Austin demonstrated how he used Frontera to perform Bayesian inversion for earthquake source parameters. His method can estimate the fault geometry and slip distribution of large earthquakes from seismic and geodetic data in near real-time.
  • György Buzsáki from New York University explained how he used Frontera to analyze large-scale neural recordings from the hippocampus, the memory center of the brain. His analysis revealed how different types of neurons coordinate their activity to support memory formation and recall.
  • Suzana Camargo from Columbia University presented how she used Frontera to study the impact of climate change on tropical cyclones. Her simulations showed how different scenarios of greenhouse gas emissions and sea level rise can affect the frequency, intensity, and location of hurricanes.

Future plans for Frontera

As of September 2023, Frontera has progressed through more than 80 percent of its projected lifespan with new technology coming that will extend its operation through late 2025. Dan Stanzione, executive director of TACC and the principal investigator of Frontera, said that the system has been delivering reliable and high-performance service to its users.

“It’s a great opportunity to hear about how Frontera is performing and for users to hear from each other about how they’re maximizing the system,” Stanzione said.

Stanzione also announced that TACC is planning to deploy a new system called Frontera2, which will be a successor to Frontera and will offer even more computational power and capabilities. Frontera2 is expected to be operational by 2026 and will be part of the NSF’s Future Leadership-Class Computing Facility program.


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