Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Deeply learning about HPC - ISC17 day 3 summary - Wednesday evening

For most of the HPC people gathered in Frankfurt for ISC17, Wednesday evening marks the end of the hard work, the start of the journey home for some, already home for others. A few hardy souls will hang on until Thursday for the workshops. So, as you relax with a drink in Frankfurt, trudge through airports on the way home, or catch up on the week's emails, here's my final daily summary of ISC17, as seen through the lens of twitter, private conversations, and the HPC media.

This follows my highlights blogs from Monday "Cutting through the ISC17 clutter"  (~20k views so far) and Tuesday "ISC17 information overload" (~4k views so far).

So what sticks out from the last day, and what sticks out from the week overall?

Deep Learning

Wednesday was touted by ISC as "deep learning day". If we follow the current convention (inaccurate but seemingly pervasive) of using deep learning, machine learning, AI (nobody actually spells out artificial intelligence), big data, data analytics, etc. as totally interchangeable terms (why let facts get in the way of good marketing?), then Wednesday was indeed deep learning day, judging by by tweet references to one or more of the above. However, I struggle to nail down exactly what I am supposed to have learnt about HPC and deep learning from today's content. Perhaps you had to be there in person (there is a reason why attending conferences is better than watching via twitter).

I think my main observations are:
  • DL/ML/AI/BigData/analytics/... is a real and growing part of the HPC world - both in terms of "traditional" HPC users looking at these topics, and new users from these backgrounds peering into the HPC community to seek performance advantages.
  • A huge proportion of the HPC community doesn't really know what DL/ML/... actually means in practice (which software, use case, workflow, skills, performance characteristics, ...).
  • It is hard to find the reality behind the marketing of DL/ML/... products, technologies, and "success stories" of the various vendors. But, hey, what's new? - I was driven to deal with this issue for GPUs and cloud in my recent webinar "Dissecting the myths of Cloud and GPUs for HPC".
  • Between all of the above, I still feel there is a huge opportunity being missed: for users in either community and for the technology/product providers. I don't have the answers though.


Barcelona (BSC) has joined other HPC centers (e.g., Bristol Isambard, Cambridge Peta5, ...) in buying a bit of everything to explore the technology diversity for future HPC systems: "New MareNostrum Supercomputer Reflects Processor Choices Confronting HPC Users".

Exascale is now a world-wide game: China, European countries, USA, Japan are all close enough to start talking about how they might get to exascale, rather than merely visions of wanting to get there.

People are on the agenda: growing the future HPC talent, e.g., the ISC STEM Student Day Day & Gala, the Student Cluster Competition, gender diversity (Women-in-HPC activities), and more.

Wrapping up

There are some parts of ISC that have been repeated over the years due to demand. Thomas Sterling's annual "HPC Achievement & Impact" keynote that traditionally closes ISC (presenting as I write this) is an excellent session and goes a long way towards justifying the technical program registration fee.

2017 sees the welcome return of Addison Snell's "Analyst Crossfire". With a great selection of questions, fast pace, and well chosen panel members, this is always a good event. Of course, I am biased towards the ISC11 Analyst Crossfire being the best one!

I'll join Addison's fun with my "one up, one down" for ISC17. Up is CSCS, not merely for Piz Daint knocking the USA out of the top 3 of the Top500, but for a sustained program of supercomputing over many years, culminating in this leadership position. Down is Intel - brings a decent CPU to market in Skylake but gets backlash for pricing, has to face uncertainty over the CORAL Aurora project, and in spite of a typically high profile presence at the show, a re-emerging rival AMD takes a good share of the twitter & press limelight with EPYC.

Until next time

That's all from me for ISC17. I'll be back with more blogs over the next few weeks, based on my recent conference talks (e.g., "Six Trends in HPC for Engineers" and "Measuring the Business Impact of HPC").

You can catch up with me in person at the SEG Annual Meeting, EAGE HPC Workshop (I'm presenting), the TACC-NAG Training Institute for Managers, and SC17 (I can reveal we will be delivering tutorials again, including a new one - more details soon!).

In the meantime, interact with me on twitter @hpcnotes, where I provide pointers to key HPC content, plus my comments and opinions on HPC matters (with a bit of F1 and travel geekery thrown in for fun).

Safe travels,

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

ISC17 information overload - Tuesday afternoon summary

I hope you've been enjoying a productive ISC17 if you are in Frankfurt, or if not have been able to keep up with the ISC17 news flow from afar.

My ISC17 highlights blog post from yesterday ("Cutting through the clutter of ISC17: Monday lunchtime summary") seems to have collected over 11,000 page-views so far. Since this hpcnotes blog normally only manages several hundred to a few thousand page views per post, I'm assuming a bot somewhere is inflating the stats. However, there are probably enough real readers to make me write another one. So here goes - my highlights of ISC17 news flow as of Tuesday mid-afternoon.

Monday, 19 June 2017

How to keep up with the HPC news from ISC17

Overwhelmed by the HPC information pouring out of ISC17? Twitter, press releases, media stories, exhibitors, presentations, etc.? How to keep up?


  • @ischpc - the official ISC stream
  • @HPC_Guru - the anonymous tweeting wonder that feeds the HPC community's appetite for news, and adds targeted comments
  • @hpcnotes (me) - a subset of @hpc_guru's stream, plus my own extra snippets and opinion
The above three will get you most of what you need (in my opinion!) but you can gain useful additonal information by more exploring who the above three interact with throughout ISC17.

If you are a glutton, then follow #ISC17.

I'll update the above list throughout ISC17 if other tweeters become key commentators, but you might also find this (mildly out of date) list of HPC twitter accounts handy.

HPC Notes

Of course, I would say the most essential method is reading my ISC17 summary blogs!


If you prefer commentary and press releases from the main HPC media then here are the mian options:

  • - your first port of call for the main announcements and editor Michael Feldman's analysis
  • The Next Platform - in depth analysis of the stories behind the press releases from Nicole Hemsoth and Timothy Prickett-Morgan
  • InsideHPC - a selection of announcements, plus audio/video news and interviews from the show floor, by Rich Brueckner
  • HPC Wire - the most comprehensive list of HPC press releases, with other articles by Tiffany Trader and Doug Black
Happy reading!

Cutting through the clutter of ISC17: Monday lunchtime summary

ISC, the HPC community's 2nd biggest annual gathering, in fully underway in Frankfurt now. ISC week is characterized by a vibrant twitter flood (#ISC17), topped up with a deluge of press releases (a small subset of which are actually news), plus a plethora of news and analysis pieces in the HPC media. And, of course, anyone physically present at ISC, has presentations, meetings, and exhibitors further demanding their attention.

I go to ISC almost every year. It is a valuable use of time for anyone in the HPC community or who uses, or has an interest in, HPC even if they don't see themselves as part of the HPC community. However, I have decided not to attend ISC this year, due to other commitments. However, I will keep an eye on the "news" throughout the week and post a handful of summary blogs (like this one), which might be a useful catch-up on "news" so far, whether you are attending ISC or watching from afar.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Secrets, lies, women and money: the definitive summary of SC16 - Part 2

I'm usually not shy of speaking my opinions (if you read Part 1 of my summary of SC16, then you’ll know that marketing departments through the land of HPC are busy taking my name off their Christmas card lists 😀), but this Part 2 blog is probably sticking my neck out even further than normal, with some potentially uncomfortable opinions.

SC is arguably the main event of the year for the HPC/supercomputing community. And so it becomes an annual cauldron, relentlessly bubbling to the surface those issues that are most topical for the HPC world. In 2016, two of those issues were women and money.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Secrets, lies, women and money: the definitive summary of SC16 - Part 1

Just over a week ago 11,000 people were making their way home from the biggest supercomputing event of the year – SC16 in Salt Lake City. With so much going on at SC, even those who were there in person likely still missed a huge proportion of what happened. It’s simply too busy to keep up with all the news during the week, too many events/talks/meetings happening in parallel, and much of the interesting stuff only gets talked about behind closed doors or through informal networking.

There were even a couple of top-notch tutorials on HPC acquisition and TCO/funding models :-)

Amongst this productive chaos, I was flattered to be told several times at during SC that people find my blogs worth reading and commented they hadn’t seen any recently. I guess the subtext was “it’s about time I wrote some more”. So, I’ll make an effort to blog more often again. Starting with my thoughts on SC16 itself.

As ever, while I do soften the occasional punch in my writing (not usually in person though), there remains the possibility that some readers won’t like some of my opinions, and there’s always the risk of me straying into controversy in places.

I've got four topics to cover: secrets, lies, women and money.

Friday, 15 April 2016

HPC babble

Two things:
  1. I seem to have written a lot of stuff on HPC over the years (probably mostly waffle, nonsense and wildly wrong predictions).
  2. Here is a list of most of it:

Monday, 9 November 2015

SC15 Preview

SC15 - the biggest get-together of the High Performance Computing (HPC) world - takes place next week in Austin, TX. Around 10,000 buyers, users, programmers, managers, business development people, funders, researchers, media, etc. will be there.

With a large technical program, an even larger exhibition, and plenty of associated workshops, product launches, user groups, etc., SC15 will dominate the world of HPC for a week, plus most of this week leading up to it. It is one of the best ways for HPC practitioners to share experiences, learn about the latest advances, and build collaborations and business relationships.

So, to wet your appetites, here is the @hpcnotes preview to SC15 - what I think might be the key topics, things to look out for, what not to miss, etc.

New supercomputers

It's always one of the aspects of SC that grabs the media and attendee attention the most. Which new biggest supercomputers will be announced? Will there be a new occupier of the No.1 spot on the Top500 list? Usually I have some idea of what new supercomputers are coming up before they are public, but this year I have no idea. My guess? No new No.1. A few new Top20 machines. So which one will win the news coverage?

New products

In spite of the community repeatedly acknowledging that the whole system is important - memory, interconnect, I/O, software, architecture, packaging, etc., judging by the media attention and informal conversations, we still seem to get most excited by the processors.

Monday, 5 October 2015

HPC Bingo

A big part of SC (Austin in 2015) is actually getting there. Most attendees will have to navigate the joys of long distance air travel. If you travel enough, or play the game wisely, you can secure frequent flyer elite status which helps make the air travel more bearable. Here is a version of elite status bingo for HPC. I listed some categories and "achievements" required for each. Can you claim elite HPC status?

HPC System User category

There have been lots of systems in HPC over the years, but we should stick to options that even a recent recruit to HPC might be able to claim. You can award yourself this category if you have used (logged into and run or compiled code) each of these systems:
  • IBM Power system
  • Cray XT, XE, or XC
  • SGI shared memory system - Origin, Altix or UV
  • x86 cluster
  • A system with any one of Sparc, vector, or ARM, GPU, Phi, or FPGA

HPC Programmer category

Award yourself this category if you have written programs to run on a HPC system in each of these:
  • Fortran 77
  • Fortran 90 or later
  • C
  • MPI
  • OpenMP
  • Any one of CUDA, OpenACC, OpenCL, Python, R, Matlab

HPC Talker/Buzzword category

Buzzwords seem to be an integral part of HPC. To be awarded this category, you must have used each of these in talks (powerpoint etc.) since SC14:
  • Big Data
  • Any of green computing, energy efficient computing, or power aware computing
  • One of my HPC analogies?
  • "it's all about the science" (but then just talked about the HPC like everyone else!!)
  •  Any reference to "FLOPS are free, data movement is hard" or similar
  • Exascale