Six Can’t Miss Sessions for ISC’13

By Nicole Hemsoth

June 13, 2013

Outside of the main attractions, including the keynote sessions, vendor showdowns, Think Tank panels, BoFs, and tutorial elements, the International Supercomputing Conference has balanced its five-day agenda with some striking panels, discussions and topic areas that are worthy of some attention.

We scoured the agenda in search of the sessions we thought would strike the most resonant chords with the diverse mix of user, vendor and researcher attendees and compiled them here. Even if you’re not able to make the trip to Germany next week, the list offers a sense of what the community has found valuable enough to dedicate exclusive attention to.

For those of you who are heading out, stop by and see us – and use this guide to help you wrangle some last-minute schedule scratching. Let’s begin – in no particular order….

Solving HPC’s Energy Challenges: No Stone Left Unturned

The growing energy demands of high performance computing systems require new approaches across the energy ecosystem. From data center design, to system cooling and power distribution, all the way down to the individual HPC applications – researchers and engineers are bringing a wealth of new ideas and technologies to help the address these challenges.

This hour-long session will bring together a number of experts in the field of energy efficient HPC, including researchers from Hewlett-Packard, NREL, NCAR and UC San Diego, all of whom will address individual topics under this umbrella with time at the end for questions.

More info here:

Supercomputing and the Human Brain Project

Some of the most recognized leaders working on the vast Human Brain Project will be onhand at ISC 13 to discuss the many computational challenges such an undertaking involves. From defining a roadmap to looking at new hardware and software technologies powering the effort, this hour-long session is sure to draw some serious attention.

The goal of the Human Brain Project is to pull together all our existing knowledge about the human brain and to reconstruct the brain, piece by piece, in supercomputer-based models and simulations. The models offer the prospect of a new understanding of the human brain and its diseases and of completely new computing and robotic technologies. Central to the Human Brain Project is Information and Computing Technology (ICT).

The project will develop ICT platforms for neuroinformatics, brain simulation and supercomputing that will make it possible to federate neuroscience data from all over the world, to integrate the data in unifying models and simulations of the brain, to check the models against data from biology and to make them available to the world scientific community. Exploiting the resulting knowledge on the architecture and circuitry of the brain will allow researchers to develop new computing systems..

Starting in 2013, the European Commission will support this vision through the new FET Flagship Program. Federating more than 80 European and international research institutions, the Human Brain Project is planned to last ten years and estimated to cost an estimated EUR 1,190 million. The series of yearly sessions at ISC aims at presenting the challenge and the progress and to provide a platform for engaging the community of High Performance Computing and beyond.

More info about this session here:

Next >> File Systems for Supercomputers + 3 More

Panel: File Systems for Supercomputers: Challenges for the Future

Some of the foremost leaders in high performance computing file system development from organizations like Intel-Whamcloud, EPFL, IBM, Xyratex and CEA will spend an hour discussing the next generation of file systems for top systems.

As the organizers note, parallel file systems are an indispensable part of the operation of modern Supercomputers where hundreds of thousands of processor cores work on the same (simulation) challenges. At the same time they are probably the most complicated pieces of system software for High-Performance Systems and often a single point of failure when any part of the system hardware does not quite work as expected (especially the internal network or storage controllers).

The I/O procedures have to be very carefully planned by the developers and designers of such file systems as well as by the users who must deal with total different means as before to get reasonable performance. The panel will address these and other issues in file system development for the era of exascale.

More info about this file systems panel here:

Overview of the SME Market

Earl Joseph from IDC and Max Lemke from the European Commission will provide two presentations in their hour long-session around the potential for HPC to infiltrate into the “missing middle” markets.

Joseph will focus on the market and its needs as a whole while Max Lemke will talk about how to bring simulation and HPC into broader reach in manufacturing.

The HPC system vendors refer to the SME/SMB HPC market as the “missing middle” and public funding bodies like the European Commission have setup specific programs for increasing the use of HPC in small and medium businesses. They are doing so because it is well recognized that innovation and competitiveness cannot be maintained in most markets without intensifying the use of HPC and because the bulk of industrial research and production actually comes from small and medium businesses.

This panel will question why is it not evident for SMEs/SMBs to to invest in HPC, what keeps them from doing so even when they recognize the need. They will also question public funding is required and why HPC system vendors have apparent difficulties in penetrating this market.

More info can be found here:

The Role of HPC in the Oil & Gas Industry

What better way to understand the needs and concerns of the oil and gas industry than to gather some of its technology end users together to discuss in a series of presentations? This session will bring together Keith Gray, from BP Upstream IT&S, Muhammad Soofi from Saudi Aramco, and Detlef Hohl from Shell International Exploration and Production.

The presenters will explore a number of topics, including how HPC operations function at a large oil company (BP), how new technologies are being used (Saudi Aramco) and the numerous computational challenges of the industry, particularly in terms of seismic processing and simulation (Shell).

More information about this Wednesday session can be found here:

Better Understanding Brains, Genomes & Life Using HPC Systems

One of the most important real-world grand challenges is the understanding of complex biological systems. New technologies have allowed the sequencing of genomes at unprecedented rates and volumes and new sensors allow for the scanning and imaging of living beings. The challenges are immense, in terms of both computational requirements and data intensity, and require the use of high-performance computing and big data technologies for tackling these challenges. This session will explore three areas in medical and life sciences; i.e., analyzing massive collections of genomic sequences, scalable life simulation, and brain-scale neuronal networks. The session will encourage the dialog between the HPC and Big Data technologists and the life sciences application developers.

David Bader from Georgia Institute of Technology will chair the session and oversee presentations from some of the leading genetic researchers and organizations, including experts from BGI, ScalaLife and INM/IAS Julich and RWTH.

More information about this session can be found here:

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