This is the first part of my “Things you never wanted to learn about SC, but I tell you anyhow!” (TynwtlaSC,bItya!) posts 😉
When you organize a conference for over 10,000 people, even simple things like stuffing the conference bags become a large task! SC, the world-largest international conference on high performance computing, networking, storage and analysis, has almost 5,000 people from all over the world attending the Technical Program. Each of them gets a conference bag which includes the printed conference programs, various sheets with announcements and useful information, sponsor advertisement material and sometimes small gifts. So, your task suddenly becomes: stuff 18 different item into each of the 5,500 conference bags as fast as possible!How do you do this? Of course, HPC specialists use a parallel processing based on a multi-pipelined approach!
First, you build up the pipelines: the material gets placed on a long row of tables, twice, on each side of the table. The volunteers walk done one side of the table picking up and collecting the different items along the way. At the end of the table, they hand it to another volunteer which inserts it into a conference bag, closes it, and in turn hands it to another set of volunteers which collect the bags and stack them for later behind the registration desk. Meanwhile, the first set of volunteers walk back the other side of the table, collecting the material for the next bag, and so on, before the start the cycle again. So each volunteer stuffs two bags per cycle.
Depending on the number of volunteers (and available space) you can use now multiple of these pipelines in parallel. For SC15 in Austin, three pipelines were used (as can be seen in the picture).
Result: 5,500 conference bags stuffed in less than 4 hours by about 40 people!