Wait a minute? In Dallas? Didn’t you say the SC17 conference is in Denver? Yes, this is correct. Like for last year’s August meeting in 2016, where my team met in Denver, even when the SC16 conference was in Salt Lake City, we met in Dallas on August 8 and 9. Logical thinking people can now conclude where SC18 will be located 😉

As we get closer to the actual conference in November (only 13 weeks left!) the topics discussed in the meeting are less big strategic issues but more lots and lots of nitty-gritty details which need to be decided to ensure a smooth running conference.  One afternoon of the meeting is the so-called “logistics fair”: service providers (catering, student volunteers, audio/visual, electrics, housing, networking, etc) are located at various tables around the room, while groups responsible for organizing specific technical program or students program events are moving from service provider table to table, discussing, deciding and documenting the various needs from the services for their events.

SC17 August Logistics Fair in Dallas — Picture by Bernd Mohr

Looking for the perfect location for an event in the Colorado Convention Center in Denver — Picture by Bernd Mohr

Overall, the preparations for the conference are in good shape. The bulk of the technical program is selected (workshops, tutorials, technical papers, and panels) and you can browse them in the online program. Submissions for the rest of the technical program (posters, bofs, doctoral showcase, scientific visualization showcase, exhibitor forum, HPC impact showcase and much more) are currently peer-reviewed and once selected (early September) will be included in the online program as well. Very early registration numbers are looking very promising compared to past years.

I am also very proud to be able to announce that we found the perfect speakers and topic for the SC17 keynote, namely Prof Diamond and Dr Bolton from the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) project. It is a prime example for our #HPC connects conference theme, connecting brilliant minds, diverse systems, and science areas truly all around the globe (and not just only in the northern hemisphere!). Read the full story here.

On the way back from dinner, I came across this German restaurant (yes, it is a restaurant despite the name and there is no garden anywhere), but trying it out has to wait until 2018 😉

German restaurant near Dallas Convention Center — Picture by Bernd Mohr

Luckily, Denver is a really nice city with a European-style pedestrian shopping area and many excellent restaurants in the city center, otherwise it would become boring coming here so often. It felt like I had been here just a while ago, but it was actually March. I came here (yet again) for the Technical Program Paper Selection meeting on June 5 and 6 as well as our next SC planning meeting on June 6 and 7. In addition, there was a meeting of the SC Steering Committee on June 9.

SC17 Tech Paper committee meeting — Picture by Bernd Mohr

The first one and half days the SC17 Tech Paper committee met face-to-face to discuss and select the final paper submissions for the conference in November. Almost the complete committee attended — over 200 people! SC is one of a few parallel computing conferences where this meeting is face-to-face; normally the paper selection is done in a smaller group or on-line only. This is remarkable, given the size of the committee (which is larger than the number of actual attendees for quite a few smaller HPC conferences or workshops I know) and that at least 35% of the reviewers are non-US, which means, they have to travel transatlantic or transpacific just to attend this short meeting (on their own or their home institution’s money!). A big thank you to them for their hard and dedicated work!

SC considers it essential that this meeting is done face-to-face to ensure that every paper is well discussed in a fair manner,  to ensure a balance in fairness and quality across the different topic areas and to ensure a high quality of the accepted papers. Since last year, the review is done double-blind, i.e. not only the reviewers are kept anonymous to the authors but also the author names and organizations are hidden from the reviewers. This is to ensure that the reviews are fair to everyone and not only submissions of well-known authors or organizations are chosen.

SC17 continued efforts started at SC16 to promote reproducibility of scientific results in the SC Technical Papers program. SC16 introduced an Artifact Description appendix, an optional appendix for paper submissions. SC17 continued with this optional appendix and introduced a second, complementary, and also optional, Computational Results Analysis appendix for papers. As the Reproducibility Initiative FAQ explains “The Artifacts Description appendix is simply a description of the computing environment used to produce the results in a paper. By itself, this appendix does not directly improve scientific reproducibility. However, if this artifact is done well, it can be used by scientists (including the authors at a later date) to more easily replicate and build upon the results in the paper. Therefore, the Artifacts Description appendix can reduce barriers and costs of replicating published results. It is an important first step toward full scientific reproducibility.

While the paper committee was meeting, a small group and me used the time to visit a few catering companies which want to provide the food and drinks for our two big evening events in November namely the Sunday night Exhibitor event and the Thursday night Tech program event. Both are attended by over 2,000 people so you better make sure you have enough space and enough food and drinks 😉 Of course the visits included a food tasting at the various caterers. This sounds like fun but as I can tell you now from my own experience, it is actually quite stressful! At each caterer, they prepared about 20 different samples and of course they are all delicious and you want to eat them all, but you have to restrain yourself and only take small bites, otherwise you would not be able to walk out by yourself at the end of the day 😉

Chili Bucket Wall Segment — Picture by Bernd Mohr

Chili Buckets — Picture by Bernd Mohr

We also learned about new trends in the food industry — especially about innovations to help feed our larger group of attendees more quickly: one such innovation is the food bucket wall (see above). Multiple segments each with 80 or more little buckets (the size of a large coffee mug) forming a long (15 to 20 m) wall containing for example a variety of Chili (beef, buffalo, or vegetarian). People entering the event quickly can grab a bucket and the buckets are large enough to satisfy hunger. Waiters behind the wall can quickly repopulate the wall with new buckets.

After the Tech paper meeting, the SC planning committee met for another one and half days. We discussed the status and next steps for each of the different areas (Communication, Exhibits, Finance, Infrastructure, Inclusivity, Local Arrangements, SCinet, Students@SC, and Tech program) especially items which needed interactions between the different subcommittees. A lot can be prepared over emails and phone calls, but nothing beats sitting in a group around a table and getting things done 😉 !

SC17 committee at work — Picture by Christine Harvey

Overall, the organization of the conference is running smoothly, no major issues. Must be because the conference is led by a well-organized German for the first time 😉 — just kidding, it is of course because of all the work of my amazing committee!!

An interesting item we decided in this meeting was the design for the stage we will use for the opening of the conference, the award sessions and the invited speaker talks in the main ballroom. The stage (and its main presentation screen) will be 50m(!) wide, that is all I can reveal at this point. It will be breath-taking but you will have to come to the conference in November to see yourself!



On March 21 and 22, 2017, we had our 6th SC17 Planning meeting, again in Denver, Colorado. Wow, time flies, I still remember getting some rest over the Christmas holidays and then spent a nice week in the US at the SC16/17 Turnover meeting in January.  Where did the past two month go? Now there are only 235 days left until the opening of SC17 in November. Saying it is still 5640 hours is not really helping 😉 At least we had nice Spring weather — last year around the same time when we had our 1st meeting, Denver was hit by a major snowstorm!

SC17 Committee Meeting in Denver — Picture by Bernd Mohr

The SC17 committee (which by now has 540 members, counting everyone including all the technical program reviewers) is working daily on preparing the conference in November. Meanwhile, I am spending 2 to 4 hours a day reading and answering SC committee email, and working on SC plans, guidelines, policies and contracts. Luckily for me, I am fully supported by Forschungszentrum Jülich and my institute, Jülich Supercomputing Centre, for this task — doing such a job aside (in your free time) is hardly possible.

We are making good progress. Selection of technical program elements are in full swing. Workshop submissions have already been reviewed and handled. We accepted 36 out of 54 submissions. Last year there were 56 submissions, another sign we are well on track. Currently, the submission is open for technical papers and tutorials, the other two major elements of our technical program, with deadlines coming up early April. The deadline for other program elements are later in the year in July and August. Managing the submission, reviewing and selection of the various technical program elements is the largest part of the currently on-going work.This explains why the technical program committee is the largest of our conference committees (currently 368 members). Just the Technical Paper Committee features over 200 members, so we can assure that every paper submission gets at least 4 reviews, and the review can be done in a reasonable amount of time.

Beside this, the space plan, a detailed document which shows which activity and conference functions are located in which conference center room at which time, with all details including the room layout, available electricity and AV equipment, is almost complete. A group of people which are responsible for the various conference activities as well as our local arrangements team visited the Colorado Convention Center again to familiarize themselves with the rooms and center layout. Sales of commercial and research exhibit booths for our show floor are also  coming together well — we are well set for another record number of exhibitors and exhibition booth space.

To keep me focused on my SC organization work, I bought myself a 20cm replica of the Blue Bear statue out side of the Colorado Convention Center (see below). It is standing now in my book shelf behind my back in my office watching me work 😉

The “Blue Bear” mascot of the Colorado Convention Center, Denver — Picture by Bernd Mohr

Replica of Blue Bear mascot of Colorado Convention Center — Picture by Bernd Mohr

This week, the SC committee met in the historic city of Charleston in South Carolina. This was another so-called “Turnover” meeting. As I explained in this post, in a “turnover” meeting the outgoing SC committee (SC16 this time) meets with the now-in-charge committee for this year’s conference (SC17, so my committee!) 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 Turnover meeting is traditionally in a “warmer” location (as it is always mid to end of January), and Charleston did not disappoint us in this regard: we had nice spring temperatures, wore T-shirts during the day, and one evening was even so warm , we could sit outside for a round of drinks after dinner.

Luckily, no major issues happened during SC16 in Salt Lake City, so in the meeting we concentrated on discussing and fixing minor subjects, for example how to improve the double-blind review for technical papers, the child-care room, and the online program available as mobile website instead of a separate smart phone app; all items which were introduced at SC16. Other topics included selecting the final submission deadlines for technical program elements or the communication strategy for the rest of the year. Although this was already the 5th planning meeting for SC17, it felt different this time, now my committee and I are really in charge, as we have to organize this year’s SC conference. We still have 10 months to accomplish this task, but everyone knows how time flies when you are busy 😉 Anyhow, the more planning meetings we have, the more I am convinced I picked the right people for my committee and that we will deliver the best SC conference ever!

In the evenings, we had time to explore the excellent restaurant and bar scene of the city. One bar was especially interesting: it had the custom that guests sign a one dollar bill out of the tip and glue it to the wall:

Money wall in bar in Charleston, SC — Picture by Bernd Mohr

Closer look at money wall in bar in Charleston, SC — Picture by Bernd Mohr

The weekend before, I had the chance to visit the in Congaree National Park, the largest intact area of old growth hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States.  The forest gets flooded every winter by the Congaree and Wateree Rivers. This together with perfect temperatures through-out the year make the park home of many national and state champion trees.

Flooded forest in Congaree National Park — Picture by Bernd Mohr

Board walk in Congaree National Park — Picture by Bernd Mohr

Visiting the park in Winter means that it is not as green and pretty as in Summer, but if you are lucky you can experience some of the flooding. In order to make this possible, many miles of the hiking paths of the park are actually elevated wooden board walks. But the best part is that in Winter there are no mosquitos; I got told that some parts of the year, the mosquito situation is so bad that you are only allowed to hike in the park with special protective gear!

Mosquito meter in Congaree National Park — Picture by Bernd Mohr

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.


The "Blue Bear" mascot infront of the Colorado Convention Center, Denver -- Picture by Bernd Mohr

The “Blue Bear” mascot of the Colorado Convention Center, Denver — Picture by Bernd Mohr

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 🙂

New Denver A line train connection Denver airport to Downtown -- Picture by Bernd Mohr

New Denver A line train connection Denver airport to Downtown — Picture by Bernd Mohr

Arriving in Denver Union Station! -- Picture Bernd Mohr

Arriving in Denver Union Station! — Picture Bernd Mohr

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 😉

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”.

Travel for my job often means visiting colleagues all over the world at their high-performance computing centers. As they are hosting some of the most powerful, and therefore very expensive, computers in the world, it is clear that this requires a little bit more than a large enough room in the basement of your university or research center institute. For one thing, they require quite some power: a typical top25 HPC system installation with the actual computer, the high-speed network, enough storage and cooling needs anything between 5 and 25 MW.

In this first part of a new mini-series (“HPC Centres Around the World”), I would like to show you the most beautiful HPC machine room of the world at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC).

Mare Nostrum Supercomputer at BSC -- picture by BSC (2003)

Mare Nostrum Supercomputer at BSC — picture by BSC (2003)

As you can see, it is actually inside a church, a de-secularized church to be precise 😉  The stories (at least how I remember it) is that in 2003, IBM wanted to demonstrate that it is possible to build a world-class HPC system out if industry-standard compute blades. A partner, the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) at Barcelona, was quickly found. UPC would get a special deal, however, there was the requirement that the system would be up and running in a year. The problem then was to find a building suitable to be able to host a supercomputer, as constructing a new one would have taken too long. The University had a church building on campus which at that time was used for chorus singing. This is actually the reason why the roof of the church inside is covered with a red carpet — it was installed to improve the acoustics for singing. In order to avoid having to cool the whole building a steel / glass frame was constructed inside the church housing the computer. During a sight-seeing tour, visitors are taken to the gallery in the backside of the church, with nice movie theater like seating, with a great view down to the computer. The tour guide can actually walk on top of the glass cage and this way can easily show and explain the different parts of the computer.

If you are interested in more pictures just search for “marenostrum” and “bsc” at Google Images. And, if you visit Barcelona in the future — a good idea anyhow — make sure to reserve some time for the “Temple of HPC Technology” as I call it 😉

BSC machine room from the outside -- Picture by Bernd Mohr

BSC machine room from the outside — 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!

Wow! My own “official” blog! I never thought I would do this one time, but here we go.

[Bernd Mohr]

Me in front of our Jugene supercomputer (2009-2011) – Picture by Ralf-Uwe Limbach

For those who do not know me so well (yet), I am a scientist at the Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC) working on Supercomputing, High-Performance Computing and especially performance tools for parallel computing. Besides being researcher, I am also deputy head of the JSC division “Application support”.

I plan (for now) to blog about my research activities and projects, my visits to workshops, conferences and colleagues all over the world, and about my quest to organize SC17.

I am working on performance tools for High-Performance Computing (HPC) for almost 30 years  now, at a time the term “HPC” had not even been invented yet. I have been involved in the development of many open-source performance tools among them TAU, Vampir, KOJAK and currently Score-P and Scalasca. Supercomputers, the biggest and largest computer systems used to solve the world’s toughest problems, are a fascinating research area. The HPC computer hardware architectures, system software and programming models develop so quickly that my work never becomes boring and many exciting research challenges are still ahead of me. If you are interested to learn more about this, and you have some time, you could listen to my podcast about HPC – be aware it is 2.5 hours long and unfortunately, it is in German 🙁

End of 2014, I also got elected the be the General Chair of SC17, the world-largest international conference on high performance computing, networking, storage and analysis attended by over 10,000 people every year. As I am the first non-American after 28 years to organize this conference, it created quite some buzz, for example I made it into the 2015 list “People to Watch” from the online magazine HPCwire. As you can imagine, it is quite an effort to organize a 10,000 attendee multimillion U.S. dollar conference with the help of about 600 volunteers. I will write in the next three years about this effort in a series of blog articles tentatively called “Things you never wanted to learn about SC, but I tell you anyhow!” 😉 If you are interested in this topic, check out the SC15 blog article “10 Questions with SC17 General Chair Bernd Mohr”.

P.S. In case you wonder why the blog is called “Do you know Bernd Mohr?”: The story is that one of our lab directors (name known to the author ;-)) told me once that many times he visits new places or meets new persons, and tells them that he is from Jülich, they often ask him “So you know Bernd Mohr?”.