XSEDE14 Spotlights Recent Work, Future Plans

By Travis Tate

July 23, 2014

The XSEDE14 Conference, held in Atlanta from July 13-18, brought nearly 650 registrants (161 students), from over 200 organizations, 45 states (plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) and 10 countries.

XSEDE14 chairperson Scott Lathrop and XSEDE Project Director John Towns opened the conference on Tuesday morning, offering updates on the conference and project as a whole.

Lathrop asked attendees to, “reach out to new friends and make new connections. This is your opportunity to meet new people and really open your sphere of connections to those who will help you and challenge you.”

X14_005“This is truly the place to ask questions and get answers – or at least get help to get answers from someone else,” continued Lathrop. “Don’t leave here without asking the hard questions.”

Towns Time

The work done by XSEDE in the past year (from July 2013-June 2014) is valued at $767 million, about half of which is done through NSF grants. Much of the rest of the pie is done through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Energy (DOE) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Additionally, there were more than 14,000 attendees to XSEDE training events; there are more than 200 Campus Champions—essentially, evangelists for XSEDE resources and services on campuses and institutions across the country—at over 175 institutions; a fourth cadre of under-represented students into the XSEDE Scholars program; a new, mobile version of the XSEDE User Portal; and a completely re-built allocations request program. These were announced among many other improvements and changes to the XSEDE project.

Most notably, Towns furthered his point about the 14,000 trainees: “We don’t typically see that many XSEDE users, so what does that mean? It means we’re training a larger community than just those that only use XSEDE resources, we’re extending ourselves out there.”

XSEDE has extended not just to outside users and future users, but has established relationships with many other resource, service, and infrastructure providers like Compute Canada, NAREGI, RIKEN, PRACE and more.

“Many things we offer are outside of our large-scale systems,” Towns said when addressing how XSEDE is able to help so many people and institutions. “There are other services we provide. What we hear from researchers, as our greatest strength, is the help aspect and human capital we have. We need to know how to deploy and support these complicated infrastructures to support a broad range of disciplinary activities.”

“We do not have funding for the major hardware—those are separate agreements with NSF—so a lot of collaboration takes place between us and NSF so that we can offer those resources to the community.”

With this information in hand, Towns looks forward to an important weekend in just a few months.

A key review will take place for XSEDE in September 2014 with an NSF Review Panel, a group of scientists and engineers from various backgrounds, that will, essentially, be make important decisions further down the line.

“Normally at the XSEDE Conference, I’m reporting to you on a recent review. This time, we have a major review at NSF in September,” Towns said. “This review will take a close look at our first three years and what our current status is and what our trajectory is going forward. It’s more than a regular review.”

“The results will be the basis for NSF having the option to make a decision to provide additional funding and extend the life of XSEDE, which, of course, many of us would like to see.”

Meet Me in St. Louis

XSEDE15 chairperson Greg Peterson spoke near the end of the conference and encouraged the attendees to visit St. Louis for next year’s conference in the last week of July 2015. Peterson is XSEDE Director of Operations and the Director at National Institute for Computational Sciences (NICS).

“I’ve got big shoes to fill, but hope to make XSEDE15 a great experience and see each of you there,” Peterson said in closing.

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