SC18 - My Schedule Highlights

Insights HPC


SC18 gets underway in Dallas, Texas, today, kicking off a week of panels, workshops and tutorials. This is the 30th year of the conference, which is properly known as the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis. It's an exhausting schedule to navigate and even experienced attendees will have to do some diligent research to pick out the highlights. Here are mine...


SC18 offers lots of opportunities for catching up on the technical side of HPC - there are loads of tutorials and workshops, and Brendan McGinty as already offered his tips for navigating the huge event . I want to point out some personal highlights of the schedule, most of which look at the big picture of HPC.

First, Tuesday morning's keynote speech will be fascinating - as you would expect from the major talk at such a big conference. Erik Brynjolfsson's title - 'Explore How to Deploy the Unruly Power of Machine, Platform and Crowd' - sounds intriguing for a number of reasons.

I initially wrote 'cloud' instead of 'crowd' when I typed that, which reminded me of how the conversation has changed in recent years. A decade back, when I worked in newspapers and we talked about a quaint idea called 'Web 2.0', much attention was on 'the wisdom of crowds' and how we could involve more people in decision making and unleash their creativity. Back then, Clay Shirky's book, Here Comes Everybody (2009) was energising people on these topics but the idea of using technology to give more people a voice in society goes back to the printing press.

It seems that high-performance computing could be the latest technology to advance those ideas. Brynjolfsson, who is Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, plans to address the "almost-magical effectiveness for obtaining ideas from the general public – the crowd – rather than from the experts at the core of the business". Brynjolfsson is the co-author of The Second Machine Age (2016), a seminal text on the possibilities for technology and society, so his thoughts will be welcome.

Second, Wednesday offers a Scientific Visualization & Data Analytics Showcase, with presentations illustrating all kinds of practical implementations of HPC. From visualising "outbursts of massive stars", to "Arctic ocean-sea ice interactions" and a "programmable interactive visualisation of core-collapse supernova simulation", this session promises to shine a light on some ground-breaking scientific research while also demonstrating the possibilities of HPC for simulation and visualisation.

Later that day, and following the theme of practical examples of HPC, Boeing, Procter & Gamble and GE will be presenting sessions on how HPC has changed their business and the way they develop products . Similar presentations follow, on Thursday, from Lockheed Martin, BP, GM and John Deere.

Also on Thursday, there's a potentially interesting panel discussion on the 'federated cloud' . This is an approach that has been written about as "the future of cloud computing" for years now, but it remains elusive, partly because of its complexity. This panel, led by Khalil Yazdi, of the Open Research Cloud Alliance, is going to discuss the way that a federated cloud could drive innovation and look at potential paths to bringing it about.

By Friday, SC18's attendees are likely to have sore feet and, if they've been socialising after hours, fuzzy heads. The final day's program doesn't run for the full day but there are still a bunch of workshops to explore and one panel discussion that looks worth a visit.

Bilel Hadri, from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, will lead the discussion on the topic of "Convergence between HPC and Big Data" . A group of experts from around the world will come together to discuss how the two disciplines should respond as they have to work together even more closely. What will be required is a pooling of skills, in which the best process or workflow is adopted, but it is also possible that some new skills will be required. The challenges and opportunities that will emerge are both worthy of discussion.

It promises to be an intriguing week, with plenty of opportunities to learn. Just remember not to cram your schedule with too many sessions - it's worth making time to explore the vast exhibition halls too. My blog hosts, Verne Global are based on the Arm booth #


Written by Shane Richmond (Guest)

See Shane Richmond (Guest)'s blog

Shane Richmond is a freelance technology writer and former Technology Editor of The Daily Telegraph. You can follow him at @shanerichmond

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