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.


2016 was the year, I think, that the theme of diversity in the HPC workforce broke forth to be acknowledged as a fundamental issue that affects HPC. Isolated appeals have been trying to raise the diversity failure and opportunity for several years. But it was only in 2016 that the efforts of a persistent few gained momentum, brought focus, and dragged the issue into the center of the HPC community's self-awareness. And, equally importantly, a sufficient proportion of the HPC community was finally willing to see the glaringly obvious and maybe even do something about it.

In essence, the issue is simple: the HPC workforce - from new entrants to leaders - is numerically dominated by white men. Yep, that includes me too. And the leadership roles are dominated by older white men. (I don't think I'm "older" yet - although I guess that is relative.)

So what?

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.


It came out in several conversations during the week. “What has been your highlight so far?” “What’s the most grabbing announcement you’ve heard this week?” “What’s the big story of the show?”.

Sadly, my answer was mostly “meh – nothing really”. Many people I spoke to agreed, SC16 was lacking in “big” news. There was lots of “news” but there wasn’t much beyond business as usual, evolutionary announcements, or re-announcing of products that had already been talked about for a long time, etc. There were some desperate attempts by marketing departments to say otherwise (see “Lies” below) but overall SC16 was a calm news week. (My media friends have probably just hit the screen at the word “calm” – I hear they get a bit flooded in the run up to each SC/ISC.)

However, away from the public news, in the off-the-record chats that happen as friends bump into each other when moving around the SC16 campus, and in the many networking receptions, and in private meetings held under NDA, there was plenty of news. Re-read the previous sentence to see why I’m not going to reveal most of these snippets. But I will hint at some.

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: http://www.hpcnotes.com/p/interviews-quotes-articles.html.