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 😉

20160611_084231This 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.

20160611_124443After 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.

Near fullscale model of StarWars X-Wing Fighter at the "Wings over the Rockies Air & Space" Museum -- Picture by Bernd Mohr

Near fullscale model of StarWars X-Wing Fighter at the “Wings over the Rockies Air & Space” Museum — Picture by Bernd Mohr

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.

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.

Snow blizzard in Salt Lake City -- Picture by Bernd Mohr

Snow blizzard in Salt Lake City — Picture by Bernd Mohr

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.

Salt Lake City Convention Center, ready for ComicCon -- Picture by Bernd Mohr

Salt Palace Convention Center, ready for ComicCon — Picture by Bernd Mohr

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.

SPCC main ballroom -- Picture by Bernd Mohr

SPCC main ballroom — Picture by Bernd Mohr


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.

Hilton Head island beach - Picture by Bernd Mohr

Hiking the Hilton Head island beach in a meeting break – Picture by Bernd Mohr

After the conference (see past blog entry) is before the conference! So the SC committee met last week in the picturesque Hilton Head island in South Carolina. This is the so-called “Turnover” meeting: the outgoing SC committee (SC15 this time) meets with the now-in-charge committee for this year’s conference (SC16) to exchange ideas and experiences, discuss issues and problems and suggestions how to fix them for the next conference. This is one instrument SC uses to ensure quality and continuity over the years although the organizing committee changes from year to year. The other is the SC Steering committee which also meets in the same place for two additional days to discuss strategy and policies.

These face-to-face planning meetings are important for the success of the conference as SC is mainly organized by a large group of volunteers with the help of a few contractors. The typical committee size is around 500 people. Of course, only the committee and subcommittee chairs come to these meetings but this still can be easily 60 to 80 people. (And in case you were wondering about it: yes, the home organizations of the people are paying for the travel and hotel!) Besides exchanging experiences, face-to-face meetings also ensure that the different subcommittees (e.g. technical program, exhibition, infrastructure, finance, or local arrangements) get to know each other better and learn more about the work of the other subcommittees.

The Turnover meeting is traditionally in a “warmer” location (as it is always mid to end of January), and while it was warmer than many places people came from (e.g. in Jülich it was snowing ;-)) it was not as warm as expected: the temperature was more in the single-digit degrees Celsius and with the cold wind it was feeling more like freezing. At least we were not hit by “Snowzilla”, the blizzard which went over the Northeast of the US at the end of the week. A few committee members actually got stuck in Hilton Head Island for a few extra days as there home airport was closed a few days.

This is the second part of my “Things you never wanted to learn about SC, but I tell you anyhow!” (TynwtlaSC,bItya!)  posts 😉

My SC drinking mug, glasses, and bottles collection -- Picture by Bernd Mohr

My SC drinking mug, glasses, and bottles collection — Picture by Bernd Mohr

If you go to the same conference every year for a long time you collect some nice experiences and memories, but also you collect quite some souvenirs (ask my wife about it!). My typical souvenir is some conference logo wear like a t-shirt, polo shirt or sweater. If you have met me at work, you know that I wear them every day! Unfortunately, I collected so much SC pieces of clothing over the years that it will be quite some effort to get them out of my closets and arrange them all nicely on the floor, so I can take a picture of it. But if I ever get around to find the time for it, you will see it first here on this blog, I promise!

So, to get started, I took a picture of the various mugs, glasses, and bottles I collected at SC (see above). As you can see, SC makes quite some effort to have a large collection of shapes, volumes, and colors available over the years.

My mug and classes collection -- Picture by Bernd Mohr

My mug and glasses collection — Picture by Bernd Mohr

The SC glasses are actual just a small part of my collection of drinking classes from my business trips from all over the world. If you visit me in my office, I am happy to show them to you in detail. And if someone ever wonders what gift she or he wants to give to me when you are visiting Jülich, now you know … wink! wink!

Update Jan 29: Found some more glasses at home (see below) 😉

My SC drink glass collection - Picture by Bernd Mohr

My SC drink glass collection – Picture by Bernd Mohr

Me introducing the SC15 invited plenary speakers -- Photo by SC15

Me introducing the SC15 invited plenary speakers — Photo by SC15

Wow! What a conference! SC15, the 27th international conference of high performance computing, networking, storage and analysis, from November 15 to 20, 2016 in Austin, Texas, again broke all records and with 12, 862 registered attendees from 65 countries is now officially the largest SC conference ever. There were 4830 people attending the technical program. It featured 78 technical paper presentations, 15 invited speakers, 41 tutorials, 42 workshops, 123 posters, 75 BoFs, and 12 panels. In parallel to the technical program, the attached exhibit hall featured 343 exhibitors from industry, academia and research organizations from around the world in approx. 137,000 net square feet of exhibit space, again the largest of all SC conferences. It certainly sets a high bar for me looking forward to 2017!

SC15 Technical Program Networking Event in Austin Football Stadium - Photo by Bernd Mohr

SC15 Technical Program Networking Event in Austin Football Stadium – Photo by Bernd Mohr

So where do have the customary technical program social event during the conference when you have over 4000 people coming? Answer: at the University of Texas at Austin football stadium! The food court was easily able to handle this crowd. 😉

Also, as a leading high-tech IT conference, attendees expect the latest and best networking support. So, during the conference, Austin also became the hub for the world’s fastest conference computer network – SCinet – which made 1.63 TeraBits of bandwidth available to exhibitors and attendees.  The network featured 89 miles of fiber deployed throughout the convention center and was constructed and maintained by 130 volunteers from 15 countries using US$22 million in loaned equipment. 337 wireless access points provided excellent service to about 6000 concurrent wireless clients roaming the Austin convention center during the conference.

But after the conference is before the conference! Let’s get SC16 organized in Salt Lake City!

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!

[SC15 Conference Bag Stuffing]

SC15 Conference Bag Stuffing – Picture by Oliver Mohr

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!