As I explained in my last post, the “official” birth of the SC17 conference was on November 17, 2016, 8:25. However, only a day later, I am “really officially” in charge of the SC conference, when in a little behind-the-scences ceremony, the Key of the SC Conference was passed on form the past chair (John West, SC16) to me.
It is a SC tradition that on Thursday of the SC conference (this year: November 17th), next year’s conference is unveiled to the public. In some sense, it is the “official” birth of the SC17 conference, even if I started to work on its organization now almost two years ago. It is also the moment, the SC17 website is finally made available to the public.
In a special preview session before the Thursday morning plenary session, I had the chance to present our SC17 preview video.
The video introduces our SC17 tag line: HPC connects! We chose this tagline highlighting the fact that the most important reason to attend the SC conference (provided by the annual attendee questionnaire results) is “Networking with friends/colleagues”.
I sure hope you like our video! We put quite some efforts into creating it! The producer of the video is Jennifer Boyd, a nine-times Emmy award winner! The music was composed by Michael Bacon (yes, he is the brother of Kevin Bacon, the Hollywood actor) who is the composer of many Hollywood and TV movies and documentaries (and he also won a Grammy!).
At the end of the video, our SC17 logo is uncovered. And here it is (TaTa!):
I know what you think now: Is it a coincidence that the colors of the logo match the colors of the Belgian flag? Yes, I can assure you, this is pure coincidence 😉 The story behind the logo is that our story behind the tagline (HPC connects) actually has three components: HPC connecting minds, systems, and science! That is, HPC connecting the people working in HPC, the systems (clusters, instruments, storage, visualization and analytics components) they are using, collaboratively working in different areas of science (computer and application sciences). The three aspects are symbolized by the three circles. Of course, the three aspects cannot clearly be separated, this is why the circles are connected and their color “blend” into each other. The red circle is representing the minds, as red is the color of passion and determination, but also is the color of blood. The black circle (surprise!) is representing the systems (black boxes!). Finally, the yellow (or gold) circle stands for science, as this is the important (and most valuable) output of our communities’ work.
At the conference, we used the logo for the layout of our conference preview booth where we informed attendees about SC17 and Denver, where the conference will be located.
The designer of the booth did a great job! The logo was sticking out of the wall and had a “back-light” made out of LED-strings. This light effect made quite some impression in the dark entry lobby of the Salt Lake City convention center.
SC is not only a large technical conference with technical paper presentations, tutorials, workshops or panels, but also features a Research and Industry Exhibition where (this year) 349 exhibitors from industry, academia and research organizations from around the world presented their latest products, research and concepts in exhibition booths. Setting up the exhibition is quite some effort and actually starts days before the opening of the conference (and the exhibition).
I tried to document this effort by taking a picture from the same position every day. The pictures show only half of the exhibition floor, as the Salt Palace Convention Center has the form of a large “L”, so it is very hard to take a picture of both legs of the “L”.
From November 13th to 18th, 2016, SC16, the 28th annual international conference of high performance computing, networking, storage and analysis, took place in Salt Lake City, Utah. Like every year the past 27 years, the conference was very successful and drew more than 11,100 registered attendees and featured a technical program spanning six days. The exhibit hall featured 349 exhibitors from industry, academia and research organizations from around the world.
Of course, as every year, many exciting things happened, but luckily for me, others already nicely summarized the SC16 conference, so I can keep this article short. 😉 The SC16 communication team published a nice summary about SC16 including a list of all award winners. My JSC colleague Andreas Herten wrote an entertaining FZJ blog article describing his experiences and impressions visiting SC16 and Salt Lake City. And finally, Kim McMahon, the Marketing & Communications Chair of my SC17 Inclusivity Committee, shared her thoughts and impressions of SC16 in this blog post.
So what is left to me are some personal picture impressions 😉
[Note: This is an article I originally wrote for TOP500 Blog. It is reproduced with permission here.]
While there is always a lot of buzz about the latest HPC hardware architecture developments or exascale programming methods and tools, everyone agrees that in the end the only thing that counts are the results and societal impact produced by the technology. Results and impacts are coming from the scientific and industrial applications running on HPC systems. The application space is diverse ranging from astrophysics (A) to zymology (Z). So the question arises of how to effectively fund development and optimization of HPC applications to make them suitable for current petascale and future exascale systems.
The answer was provided in the European Union (EU) Horizon 2020 (H2020) e-Infrastructures call, Centres of Excellence for computing applications, which was initiated in September 2014. The work would establish a limited number of Centres of Excellence (CoE) necessary to ensure EU competitiveness in the application of HPC for addressing scientific, industrial or societal challenges. The Centres were conceived to be user-focused, develop a culture of excellence, both scientific and industrial, and place computational science and the harnessing of “big data” at the center of scientific discovery and industrial competitiveness. Centres could be thematic, addressing specific application domains such as medicine, life science or energy; transversal, focused on computational science (e.g., algorithms, analytics, and numerical methods); challenge-driven, addressing societal or industrial challenges (e.g., aging, climate change, and clean transport); or a combination of these approaches.
Eight Centres of Excellence for computing applications were subsequently selected for funding and established before the end of 2015. They cover important areas like renewable energy, materials modeling and design, molecular and atomic modeling, climate change, global system science, and bio-molecular research, as well as tools to improve HPC applications performance. Now, nine months later, these Centres are up and running and it is worth to have a closer look at the different ones:
- CoeGSS – CoE for Global Systems Science will address the emerging scientific domain of Global Systems Science (GSS), which is a vital challenge for modern societies to understand global systems and related policies. The field will use high performance computing as a critical tool to help overcome extremely complex societal and scientific obstacles. Due to the nature of the problems addressed in typical GSS applications, the relevant data sets are usually very large, highly heterogeneous in nature, and are expected to grow tremendously over time. Bridging HPC with high performance data analysis is thus the key to the success of GSS in the next decade.
- EoCoE – Energy Oriented CoE is helping the EU transition to a reliable and low-carbon energy supply using HPC. The Centre is focusing on applications in (a) meteorology as a means to predict variability of solar and wind energy production; (b) materials employed for photovoltaic cells, batteries and super capacitors for energy storage; (c) water as a vector for thermal or kinetic energies, focusing on geothermal and hydropower; and (d) fusion for electricity plants as a long-term alternative energy source. These four areas will be anchored within a strong transversal multidisciplinary basis providing expertise in advanced mathematics, linear algebra, algorithms, and HPC tools.
- E-CAM – Supporting HPC Simulation in Industry and Academia is an e-infrastructure for software, training and consultancy in simulation and modeling. It will identify the needs of its 12 industrial partners and build appropriate consultancy services. E-CAM plans to create over 150 new, robust software modules, directed at industrial and academic users, in the areas of electronic structure calculations, classical molecular dynamics, quantum dynamics, and mesoscale and multi-scale modeling.
- ESiWACE – CoE in Simulation of Weather and Climate in Europe is leveraging two established European networks: the European Network for Earth System modelling (ENES) representing the European climate modeling community and the world leading European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). Its goal is to substantially improve the efficiency and productivity of numerical weather and climate simulation on HPC platforms by supporting the end-to-end workflow of global Earth system modeling in a HPC environment.
- MaX – Materials design at the eXascale CoE is supporting developers and end users in materials simulations, design and discovery. It is enabling the best use of HPC technologies by creating an ecosystem of codes, data workflows, analysis, and services in material science to sustain this effort. At the same time, it will enable the exascale transition in the materials domain by developing advanced programming models, novel algorithms, domain-specific libraries, in-memory data management, software/hardware co-design and technology-transfer actions.
- NOMAD – The Novel Materials Discovery Laboratory is developing a materials encyclopedia and big data analytics toolset for materials science and engineering. The Centre will integrate the leading codes and make their results comparable by converting (and compressing) existing inputs and outputs into a common format, thus making this valuable data accessible (as the NOMAD Repository) to academia and industry. It currently contains over three million entries.
- BioExcel – CoE for Biomolecular Research is operating towards advancement and support of the HPC software ecosystem in the life sciences domain. Research and expertise covers structural and functional studies of the main building blocks of living organisms (proteins, DNA, membranes, etc.) and techniques for modeling their interactions, ranging from quantum to coarse-grained models, up to the level of a single cell. The Centre will improve the performance, efficiency and scalability of key codes in biomolecular science, make ICT technologies and workflows easier to use, promote best practices, and train end users.
- POP — Performance Optimisation and Productivity CoE gathers leading experts in performance tools/analysis and programming models in Europe. It is the only transversal CoE. The Centre offers services to the academic and industrial communities to help them better understand the behavior of their applications, suggests the most productive directions for optimizing the performance of the codes, and helps implementing those transformations in the most productive way. The consortium includes academic and supercomputing centers with a long track record of world-class research, as well as service companies and associations with leading expertise in high performance support services and promotion.
Teams from the Jülich Supercomputing Centre are involved in four of the CoE: EoCoE, E-CAM, MaX, and POP (where my team is participating).
On August 3 and 4, 2016, we had our third SC17 planning meeting in the SC17 conference city, Denver, Colorado. In Germany, we would call this August meeting “mountain party” (“Bergfest”) , as we reached now the halftime in our three year quest to organize the SC17 conference, and after 18 months of steep, hard, up-hill work to reach the summit, the second half of the trip should be easier and down-hill. Of course, the future will show whether it is really down-hill 😉 It is also the last (face-to-face) planning meeting this year before the SC16 conference in Salt Lake City in November, however the organizing committee will continue to meet in monthly tele-conferences.
Meeting attendance was again higher than past meetings: 31 attendees compared to 22 and 12, so beyond the top-level Executive Committee much more of the next level Committee Chairs (mainly from Infrastructure and Local Arrangements) and of our contractors (like Exhibition Management, Meeting Management, or Web Design) attended.
Like in the last meeting we mainly discussed the progress the teams accomplished the past three months and the next steps ahead of us. Most of the work done at this point is actually working on contracts: After we had finalized in 2015 all the contracts with hotels for our attendees and exhibitors for the conference in November 2017 (almost two dozen of them!), in 2016 the work concentrates on the contracts with hotels for the five planning meetings in 2017 (January, March, June, August, and October), the SCinet meeting also in October, the January meeting (“turnover”) in 2018, the final Convention Center contract, and, last-but-not-least, renewals or even competitive bids for our contractors. Luckily we get a lot of support here from professionals working for ACM and IEEE, the SC conference sponsors! The second focus point is the communication team, which has to get our first version of the SC17 website live and public by November 17, the Thursday of this year’s conference. The same day, a short (2 minutes) SC17 preview video will be shown for the first time. The production of this video is especially exciting as we hired a producer which won already 9(!) Emmy awards, so you see how serious we take this task 😉
After the meeting, a smaller group of us used the opportunity being in our conference city touring more possible locations for our two big evening events: the Sunday Exhibitor and Thursday Tech Program Networking Events. The locations must be able to host a couple of thousand attendees and you can imagine that even in a big city like Denver, there are not too many of those. In addition, they should be close to the Convention Center and conference hotels, and finally, they must be available for us on the two very specific dates (because these are already set). I can report that we found fabulous locations for both events, but of course I cannot tell you yet, as it would ruin the surprise (and, of course, we have not finalized the contracts(!) with them yet 🙂
This visit allowed me also to test the new Denver tram line which connects Denver airport to downtown Union station. Worked like a charm! A one-way trip is US$ 9 and there is a train every 15 minutes. The ride takes about 40 minutes. The best part is that this makes the trip to the airport much more reliable, because before that it depended very much on the traffic in and around Denver.
On June 9, 2016, we had our second SC17 planning meeting in Snowbird, Utah. It is actually a ski winter resort which means you can rent it for meetings in summer for quite some low rate 😉 Why Snowbird? Well, the meeting is traditionally in the city of the conference the year before which is Salt Lake City this year (2016). However, due to some other event in the city during the week, all hotels were completely booked, so the meeting was relocated to Snowbird nearby. It is a very nice place but being located at 2468 meters above sea level, you had to drink a lot of water all day in order not to get elevation sick 😉
This second meeting was a little bit larger than the first (22 attendees compared to 12), so beyond my Executive Committee some other Committee Chairs (like the Space Chair and our new Inclusivity Chair) as well as some of our contractors (like Exhibition Management, Meeting Management, or Web Design) attended.
In the meeting we mainly discussed the progress the teams accomplished the past three months and the next steps ahead of us. The communication team reported on the conference tagline and the logo they created; however you have to wait until SC16 in November to see them when our first version of the SC17 website goes live and public. The finance team has created a first budget for the conference and we now have to wait for approval of the budget by the governance bodies of the societies behind SC, ACM and IEEE.
After the meeting, I used an afternoon to visit the Bonneville Salt Flat, about two hours west of Salt Lake City. It is the largest of many salt flats located west of the Great Salt Lake and is known for land speed records at the “Bonneville Speedway”.
On March 28 to 30, 2016, we had our first SC17 Planning meeting in Denver, Colorado. This is just a small, first meeting of the Executive Committee, i.e., the Chairs for Technical Program, Communication, Exhibits, Local Arrangements, SCinet, Students@SC, Communications, and Finance, the Deputy Chair, the Vice Chair, the Executive Director, a representative of ACM, and me.
On the first day, we visited various locations in Denver suitable for events with 2000 and more people. During the SC conference, there are typically two associated networking events: one for the exhibitors on the Sunday before the conference with 1500 to 1800 people, and one for the technical program attendees on Thursday with up to 2500 attendees. As one can easily imagine, organizing these large events is not a simple task and you have to start early finding the right locations and work with the local staff, to make it work.
The rest of the meeting we discussed the status of the work in each area. The main task for each executive chair in the next months is to recruit her/his subcommittee. With all subcommittees and reviewers for the technical program in place, the overall committee will be over 500 people by the end of the year. Another topic was the organization of the rest of the planning meetings; another 3 in 2016 (June, August, and November) and 5 more in 2017 (January, March, June, August, and October) before SC17 in November 2017.
The meeting went very well, and after the meeting I am now even more confident that I picked the right people for my Executive Committee.
What do you do if you have two meetings to attend in the U.S. within two weeks (one in Salt Lake City, the other in Denver) with just a weekend in between and flying separately to the two meetings across the Atlantic is about four times more expensive than a single trip combining both? You spent a nice extended weekend driving through the Rocky Mountains!
However, someone should have told me in advance that March is the month with the most snow in Colorado 😉
Being SC17 General Chair also means that I am SC16 Deputy Chair “shadowing” the SC16 General Chair John West which means that I watch and learn from him at all meetings and at the conference in 2016, so I am well prepared for the conference organization work “my” year.
The SC16 Organization Committee met in Salt Lake City, where the SC conference will be this year, for a first planning meeting on March 22nd and 23rd. The first morning, a tour of the Salt Palace Convention Center (SPCC) was on our schedule. Just in time, when we wanted to start walking to the Convention Center , it started snowing heavily 😉 Luckily, I was prepared and I had packed some warm clothing.
When we arrived at the Convention Center we saw that preparations were in full swing to get ready for Comic Con Salt Lake which was scheduled to open just a few days later.
When we toured the Convention Center, we could also watch the preparations in the main ball room which seats up to 4900 people. We will use it for the keynote and invited talks at SC16.
There is not much to report from the actual meeting: the progress in the different areas of the conference (technical program, finance, infrastructure, local arrangements, communications, student@SC, SCinet, and exhibition) is discussed. About 60 people, almost all volunteers from all other the world, typically attend such a meeting.