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Abston, manager of Frontier and Summit data centers, named best of the year

Data Center World keynote presenter, Bill Kleyman, right, presented ORNL’s Paul Abston with the Data Center Manager of the Year 2023 award during the conference’s general session on May 9. Credit: Data Center World AFCOM

Paul Abston, leader of the HPC Infrastructure Operations Group of the National Center for Computational Sciences and manager of the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility’s data center, has been named Data Center Manager of the Year for 2023.

The award, sponsored by Data Center World, the global conference for data center facilities and IT professionals, recognizes exceptional leaders in the field nominated by their peers. Abston was chosen out of four finalists.

“It’s an honor,” he said. “I’m just proud to have so many great employees who work so hard to keep the data center running.”

Abston accepted the award May 9 at Data Center World’s annual meeting in Austin, Texas.

“We celebrate the scientific success stories achieved here at the OLCF, and we give credit to the technology that makes them happen,” said NCCS director Georgia Tourassi, who oversees the OLCF at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “But these discoveries could not happen without the people like Paul who care for these great beasts of computing and make the magic possible.”

Abston began his career at ORNL in 1992. He oversees day-to-day operations of all NCCS data centers for such high-speed machines as Frontier, the world’s first exascale supercomputer and fastest computer in the world, its predecessor Summit, and others. Abston presided over installation of Summit and later of Frontier, accomplished amid the COVID-19 pandemic, international supply chain crunches and worldwide shutdowns.

In his spare time, he enjoys time working in his yard and home workshop, gardening, golf and fishing.

“No one deserves this award more than Paul, and no one asks for recognition less than he does,” said his line manager, Kevin Thach, who heads ORNL’s High-Performance Computing Systems Section. “The great discoveries made possible by computers like Frontier and Summit owe a debt to his careful stewardship and oversight, and so do the generations to come who will enjoy the results of those discoveries.”

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit – Matt Lakin