Diane Bryant Comments on Upcoming SC15 HPC Matters Plenary

By Thomas Ayres and Tiffany Trader

November 13, 2015

Back in September, the news broke that Intel’s Senior Vice President Diane Bryant was named the HPC Matters plenary speaker for the SC15 conference taking place in Austin, Texas. The theme for this year’s HPC Matters program is “Fueling the Transformation” and Bryant, along with multiple industry luminaries, will be taking the stage before the SC15 opening gala on November 16 to discuss the myriad of ways that HPC is transforming lives.

Bryant leads Intel’s datacenter business unit, one of the chipmaker’s strongest segments. This year, FORTUNE magazine named Bryant to its Most Powerful Women in Business list. Criteria for selection to this prominent listing includes the importance of the woman’s business in the global economy, health and direction of the business, career arc, and cultural influence. This dovetails well with Bryant’s role as keynoter for this year’s HPC Matters plenary. The HPC Matters program, launched by the SC program committee two years ago, rests on four pillars: influencing daily lives, science and engineering, economic impact, and education.

Bryant speaks frequently on all of these issues and has been especially prominent in promoting the benefits of diversity in the workplace. For the upcoming HPC Matters plenary, Bryant will draw on her experience running Intel’s datacenter group, which includes the HPC business segment and products ranging from high-end coprocessors for supercomputers, to big data analytics solutions, to high-density systems for the cloud. In the exclusive interview to follow, she shares her thoughts on where she sees HPC heading in the upcoming years, why it’s an important topic in our world, and how her career at Intel has shaped her views on HPC. Following is the interview:

HPCwire: What key points are you going to touch on in your presentation?

Diane Bryant: We are in the midst of an unprecedented change in High Performance Computing. Everything about how HPC systems are used and built is going to change over the next decade. HPC must support more complex models with more and more data, and enable new usages as industries realize the benefits of very powerful real-time analytics.  To meet these needs, HPC must achieve exascale performance and beyond, while expanding access to more users.  This will require a transformation of not only the systems, but the entire solution stack.

How does HPC matter to you?

As an engineer, what excites me is seeing how information technology is used to solve real world problems.  HPC is a transformational capability helping solve society’s most pressing challenges.  Look at the improvements in life science and precision medicine that have really been enabled by researchers and physicians gaining access to more powerful supercomputers.  Seeing industry after industry take these tools with Intel technology as their foundation and use them to improve lives and drive economic growth is tremendously gratifying and exciting to all of us who work to push IT forward.

Why do you think HPC is such an important topic in our world today?

One of computing’s largest growth areas is turning the massive accumulation of data into actionable insights. HPC is a key tool for driving discovery and innovation with just this type of data analysis, helping bring new approaches like machine learning to solve problems for digital service companies. More organizations from on-line social networks to governmental agencies can benefit from HPC solutions providing real-time data analysis to make it possible to rapidly test hypotheses, solve problems or prototype new products and services.

How does it feel to have been selected as the HPC Matters plenary speaker?

I’m honored and excited of course! Intel’s been part of the community for decades both as a technology provider and as someone who uses HPC as a fundamental part of building and designing our own products.  It’s a treat to be able to engage with the SC’15 audience, and have a discussion about the future of HPC, and take the opportunity to recognize how much our work together has made a difference in the world.

Where do you see HPC heading in the next 10 years?

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From a technology perspective, we’re on the cusp of major change. Foundational innovations in compute, fabric, memory, system software technologies are entering the market. They aim to overcome the growing technical barriers inherent in the industry’s traditional system designs of the last couple decades. Removing these barriers brings a fundamental shift in what is technically and economically feasible, and promises to unleash an extended period of rapid scientific discovery and commercial innovation across industry, academia and government labs. An example of the possibilities emerging is the convergence of HPC and truly Big Data workflows. The coming new technologies will allow near real-time processing of immensely large data sets. This opens up entirely new pathways for scientific discovery and industry innovation in areas like metagenomics, large-graph processing, and uncertainty quantification and will enrich myriad traditional HPC usages. Another exciting example made possible by the new HPC technologies is the still-nascent field of machine learning. Deep learning techniques using convolutional neural networks promises an immense transformational effect. In the coming 10 years, we’ll see great advances in science and industry as the machine itself learns to extract useful patterns from data and make useful predictions or automatically take actions based on those identified patterns.

How has your career at Intel shaped your views on HPC?

My previous role as Intel’s CIO I saw firsthand how complex it can be to deploy these solutions. That really drove home for me that we need to look at the solutions holistically.  We must enable the best technology and drive performance forward, as well as invest in software modernization so it can take advantage of the systems, and ensure everything works together so that the users can focus on what they care about and not be slowed down by systems that are complex to implement and use.

Aside from your talk at SC15, what else are you looking forward to at the event?

SC15 is the industry’s premier event of the year. For Intel, it is our single-best opportunity to meet with our customers, end-users and partners and join with the entire industry to share our collective expertise and perspectives. We are especially excited to share new details of our Intel Scalable System Framework. The Intel SSF is our advanced architectural approach for designing HPC systems with the performance capabilities necessary to serve a wide range of workloads like traditional HPC, Big Data, visualization and machine learning. A foundational element of the Intel Scalable System Framework is the Intel Omni-Path Architecture—a next-generation HPC fabric that we are launching (TBD) at the show. At our expanded Intel HPC Developer Conference, we expect over 500 attendees from around the world to engage Intel and industry experts to learn about the latest technologies, tools and techniques for HPC code modernization. And we are particularly pleased to jointly announce with CERN the winner of the inaugural Intel Modern Code Developer Challenge. This is a student-only contest for programmers intended to spur advancement in parallel coding and the science it supports and also encourage students to pursue careers in HPC. The contest attracted the interest of 18,000 developers around the world (approximately 50% of whom are women) for a chance to win an internship at CERN openlab.

What advice would you give to someone with aspirations of getting involved in HPC?

Browse News From SC15I can’t think of a more exciting time in HPC. New technologies and broader access are opening up more career opportunities in HPC. There is a growing demand in areas of systems design and operation, traditional HPC science, data analytics, data visualization, and machine learning, as well as domain experts using HPC for disciplines ranging from weather, high energy physics, chemistry, environmental management, and financial services to neuroscience and medicine.  A combination of new technologies and the available talent to use fully is critical.  So, government labs, academic institutions and commercial operations of all sizes are searching for people with HPC expertise, and domain experts to use HPC. A great way to get started is to study computing, engineering and science. An internship before you graduate is an excellent path to building experience and contacts. And attending trade shows like SC15 and any of the numerous academic conferences is another important step to getting involved.  With HPC you can change the world.

Any further comments that you would like to add?

The intersection of data science and technology is one of the sexiest jobs out there – that’s not just my opinion, Harvard Business Review says the same – so you can have a big impact while doing fascinating work.  Getting more people, and more diverse people, into computer science is critical to all of us.  For those who are already in HPC or engineering we need you to go out and talk to people about what you do and let the next generation know about the opportunities a technical career opens up.

Click here to view our initial coverage of the SC15 HPC Matters plenary speaker news.

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