SC15 Chair on HPC Transforms, Diversity Outreach, and Austin

By John Russell

March 3, 2015

SC15 General Chair Jackie Kern is hardly new to the HPC community. A member of the SC planning committee since 2003, Kern led the building of SCINET in 2007. The largest network in the world for a week, it delivered multicast video conferencing, among other things, onsite and around the world. As general chair this year, Kern is overseeing a broad agenda – themed HPC Transforms – and hoping to attract roughly 11,000 attendees, somewhat more than last year.

HPC Transforms falls neatly under SC’s multiyear overarching theme HPC Matters begun in 2014. “It takes a deeper dive into how HPC is transforming people’s lives,” says Kern, whose day job is Director of Information Technology for the Department of Facilities and Services at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Kern manages a team that provides application development, infrastructure, web services, and user support for her department of more than 1,200 employees.

HPC Transforms also captures the growing democratization of high performance computing technologies; their adoption by large enterprises is expanding the HPC footprint in business sectors. Kern agrees and says, “We’ve got a lot of focus this year on architecture, networks, and cloud computing, making sure that we are reaching out to many groups.” Leading edge topics, of course, dominate the conference and exascale, for example, will receive considerable attention.

SC15, the 27th annual, returns to Austin, Texas,  (Nov. 15-20) this year, which hosted SC08. It’s a somewhat smaller venue that provides opportunity and challenge. “It will be cozy,” agrees Kern, but also it may help drive attendence and accomplish another of SC15’s goals. “One focus is to make sure we are reaching out to those people who are under represented and the great thing about Austin is it’s such a thriving high tech area and I am really hoping to drive a lot of local community participation.”

SC15 logoReaching out to diverse and under-served populations to help build the next generation of HPC specialists has long been a SC priority. Several measures have been taken to increase those efforts, for example sending a few key people to the recent Tapia Conference in Boston who “are deep into the communities that helped build Tapia and will be working with us to find avenues to get information out,” says Kern.

Student recruitment is also being streamlined. All of the different state programs have been combined under one umbrella in an effort to ‘even out’ the application process to become a student volunteer. There’s also a mentor-protégé component. Kern says there’s a strengthened emphasis on trying to bring students from areas that don’t always get to participate.

“We have some funding opportunities and they can apply. We don’t have a lot of money to help them out but we have a little and can help bring them to the conference and get engaged in the community. Hopefully they will become full fledged active members of the community and start mentoring others as they come up as they were mentored themselves,” says Kern.

One challenge Austin’s smaller size presents is accommodating the student cluster competition. Kern says this year there are likely to be nine groups but the plan is to expand back to 12 or so next year. Another concern, says Kern, is ensuring the agenda is rich enough in compelling content to loosen tight travel budgets. In recent years new funding requirements have prompted government cutbacks in the number of people allowed to attend.

No surprise, getting the word out, accelerating the program submission process, and readying the infrastructure are ongoing priorities. SC15 is leveraging social medial and, among other things, has launched a blog and newsletter. Details of many activities, the student cluster competition, for example, have already been posted on the blog, as has news about future SC.

One example of the latter is an article introducing Dr. Ing. Bernd Mohr named as SC17 General Chair. Dr. Mohr was also selected this year as one of HPCwire’s People to Watch in High Performance Computing (HPC) for 2015.

Browse News From SC15“He is our first international general chair,” says Kern. Since 1996 Mohr has been a senior scientist at the Jülich Research Center. He also serves as the Deputy Division Head of Application Support as well as a team lead for Programming Environments and Performance Optimization at the Jülich Supercomputing Centre (JSC). He is an active member in the International Exascale Software Project (IESP) and a leader in the European (EESI) and Jülich (EIC, ECL) exascale efforts.

Here are few links to important SC15 activities and dates:

Website: http://sc15.supercomputing.org

Blog: http://sc15blog.blogspot.com

Important Dates: http://sc15.supercomputing.org/important-dates

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