Friday, 17 June 2011

ISC 11 Preview

ISC11 - the mid-season big international conference for the world of supercomputing - is next week in Hamburg.

Will you be attending? What will you be looking to learn? I will be watching out for three battles.

GPU vs MIC vs Fusion

The fight for top voice in manycore/GPU world will be one interesting theme of ISC11. Will this be the year that the GPU/manycore theme really means more than just NVidia and CUDA? AMD has opened the lid on Fusion in recent weeks and has sparked some real interest. Intel's MIC (or Knights) is probably set for some profile at ISC11 now the Knights Ferry program has been running a while. How will NVidia react to no longer being the loudest (only?) noise in GPU/manycore land? Or will NVidia's early momentum carry through?

Exascale vs Desktop HPC

Both the exascale vision/race/distraction (select according to your preference) and the promise of desktop HPC (personal supercomputing?) have space on the agenda and exhibit floor at ISC11. Which will be the defining scale of the show? Will most attendees be discussing exascale and the research/development challenges to get there? Or will the hopes and constraints of "HPC for the masses" have people talking in the aisles? Will the lone voices trying to link the two extremes be heard? (technology trickle down, market solutions to efficient parallel programming etc.) What about the "missing middle"?

Software vs Hardware

The biggie for me. Will this be the year that software really gets as much attention as hardware? Will the challenges and opportunities of major applications renovation get the profile it deserves? Will people just continue to say "and software too". Or will the debate - and actions - start to follow? The themes above might (should) help drive this (porting to GPU, new algorithms for manycore, new paradigms for exascale, etc). Will people trying to understand where to focus their budget get answers? Balance of hardware vs software development vs new skills? Balance of "protect legacy investment" against opportunity of fresh look at applications?

The rest?

What have I not listed? National flag waving. I'm not sure I will be watching too closely whether USA, Japan, China, Russia or Europe get the most [systems|petaflops|press releases|whatever]. Nor the issue of cloud vs traditional HPC. I'm not saying those two don't matter. But I am guessing the three topics above will have more impact on the lives of HPC users and technology developers - both next week and for the next year once back at work.

 What will you be looking out for?

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