[email protected] and a Tale of Four Unicorns

By Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek Nonprofit

September 8, 2017

This will be STEM-Trek’s third year to support a workshop during the annual supercomputing conference, or SC. This year’s program is titled “Understanding Risk in Shared Cyberecosystems,” or [email protected]. We’re collaborating with Von Welch who leads the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) supported Center for Trustworthy Scientific Cyberinfrastructure at Indiana University, and specialists from the South African Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC).

We acknowledge that universities struggle to provide professional staff with conference-related travel and advanced training opportunities. Therefore, early-career professionals who work as campus technology facilitators or sysadmins at regional-serving public universities in the U.S. and Africa are invited to apply for travel support by Sept. 11, 2017.

Our SC co-located workshops have had NSF and private support. This year we are thankful that Google is helping, but we’re still fundraising to bridge gaps—flight costs are likely to increase due to petro industry damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, and we would love to support a larger cohort. Anyone interested in helping may contact [email protected].

As for return on investment, some prospective donors might think this demographic represents weak sales potential. Few are in the market for new systems or services since they operate on a shoestring; some support hardware that’s ten or more years old with no replacement in sight. What keeps them up at night? Most say it’s a challenge to keep older hardware running, they can’t afford or take time off to train, they don’t have enough time for outreach and education, and everyone struggles with cybersecurity.

What prospective donors may not realize is that the demographic we support represents industry growth in important and often new directions. This might be more difficult to understand for those who haven’t worked with this community as long as we have (I have 13 years of experience with campus tech/10 years global HPC external relations/5 years with African projects). Some are building new centers from scratch, and local advocacy often rises to meet unique regional industry needs. Once trained, many relocate to find better-paying jobs with academic, government or commercial facilities that appreciate their resourcefulness and creativity. I call them “unicorn-generalists” who are likely to become lead decision-makers in the $44 billion HPC industry.1

I can think of many unicorn-generalist examples, but I’ll share four today.

Nick Thorne (standing) was the lead trainer at the CHPC in Cape Town, and now works as a research engineer with the Large Scale HPC Group at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC).

When I met Thorne in 2012, he was laser-focused on building CHPC Director Happy Sithole’s vision. Dr. Sithole understands the importance of student development and international outreach better than anyone I know. Thorne contributed substantially to the CHPC Advanced Computer Engineering Lab’s effort to establish a student cluster competition for South African universities to compete in. This project, aimed at SA human capital development, allowed a winning team to represent SA at the annual International Supercomputing Conference Student Cluster Competition in Germany. SA has placed first or second at ISC since they began to compete in 2014. Thorne also supported the Southern African Development Community (SADC) CHPC Ecosystems project (map, below) that began with donated decommissioned hardware (part of TACC’s Ranger system, and another donated by University of Cambridge). He supervised the refurbishing, distribution and cluster installation at five national and three international sites; the five in SA support student cluster teams and light research. Thorne possesses the rare combination of interpersonal, diplomatic and technical aptitude which makes him a good director candidate. It wouldn’t surprise me if someday Thorne becomes the TACC director (give him another 15-20 years—he’s young, and so is TACC Director Dan Stanzione).

When I first met Chungu Ngolwe (tallest, center back row), he worked as a systems engineer for ZAMREN, Zambia’s national research and education network. As project leader for the setup of Eduroam for the Zambian Federation, he facilitated workshops on campus network design, routing, switching and Eduroam before assuming the role as ZAMREN’s HPC sysadmin.

Ngolwe attended several workshops that STEM-Trek and CHPC supported between 2012 and 2016, and I have always been impressed with his motivation and enthusiasm. Following a brief interview in 2016, I suggested he might consider specializing in cybersecurity (that epiphany had to do with questions he asked, and his personal interests). With a small child at home, I knew night classes would be inconvenient, so I shared a link to the collection of free or low-cost online instructional materials listed on our web site—training he could pursue in his spare time. My hunch must have been correct. I recently learned that Ngolwe left ZAMREN and now supports cybersecurity for Copperbelt Energy Corporation, one of the largest energy providers on the African continent.

As a high school junior who grew up in South African townships, Zama Mtshali stood at a crossroads. Her grades were excellent, so she knew she would be college-bound. Unfortunately, she didn’t know what to study. With a University of Cape Town prospectus in hand, she searched for academic tracks that would provide her with employable skills. It was her goal to support herself and her family in the future. One sister is a soap opera actress, and her brothers have professional jobs, but none work in STEM fields. No one influenced Mtshali to pursue computer science, but she read where mathematical aptitude was helpful—and she loved math! This was the decision-tree that ultimately led Mtshali to her current role as a sysadmin for the largest HPC system for open research on the African continent, Lengau (which means “Cheetah” in the Tswana language; the fastest animal in the world).

Mtshali has great role models since many women hold leadership positions in South African government science and technology divisions (and throughout the SADC region). She also has encouragement and support from CHPC Director Happy Sithole, and the respect of fellow CHPC sysadmins. STEM-Trek is committed to increasing workforce diversity, but we’re often disappointed by the small number of women who apply for travel support to attend HPC workshops; they are the rarest unicorns! When it becomes normalized for women everywhere to sit in the HPC “bullpen,” we expect more will follow Mtshali’s footsteps.

Scott Yockel (Interim Director of Research Computing, Harvard University) is one of many U.S. success stories. We invited Yockel to talk about Harvard’s new green data center at the HPC on Common Ground @SC16 workshop (OCG).

While STEM-Trek can’t take credit for Yockel’s career trajectory, his path has not been unlike many who participate in our workshops. He grew up in Oklahoma, and attended Oklahoma Baptist University where he earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry before completing his graduate degree at the University of North Texas. As a computational chemist, he returned to UNT to manage their HPC facility before accepting a position at Harvard.

Even though Texas isn’t an EPSCoR state (NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research), and UNT benefits from urban cultural and employment opportunities found in nearby Dallas, as an undergrad his HPC career was influenced by training programs offered by EPSCoR XSEDE partners in Oklahoma (NSF Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment). He could therefore relate to OCG participants, and recognizes that they’re also driven, resourceful, creative, and mobile. They must be all of these things in order to succeed, and many do!

To learn more about STEM-Trek and to follow [email protected], please visit our website.

1 EnterpriseTech report, June 21, 2017, “Intersect 360 at ISC: HPC Industry at $44 billion by 2021,”accessed Sept. 6, 2017

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

RIKEN Post-K Supercomputer Named After Japan’s Tallest Peak

May 23, 2019

May 23 -- RIKEN President Hiroshi Matsumoto announced that the successor to the K computer will be named Fugaku, another name for Mount Fuji, which is the tallest mountain peak in Japan. Supercomputer Fugaku, developed b Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray’s Emerging Market & Technology Director Arti Garg Peers Around HPC/AI Corner

May 23, 2019

In her position as emerging market and technology director at Cray, Arti Garg doesn't just have a front-row seat to the future of computing, she plays an active role in making that future happen. Key to Garg's role is understanding how deep learning scientists are using state-of-the-art HPC infrastructures and figuring out how to push those limits further. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Combining Machine Learning and Supercomputing to Ferret out Phishing Attacks

May 23, 2019

The relentless ingenuity that drives cyber hacking is a global engine that knows no rest. Anyone with a laptop and run-of-the-mill computer smarts can buy or rent a phishing kit and start attacking – or it can be done Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture: How to Power a Cloud

Learn how HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture provide critical infrastructure for leading Nordic HPC provider’s HPCFLOW cloud service.

For decades, HPE has been at the forefront of high-performance computing, and we’ve powered some of the fastest and most robust supercomputers in the world. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Who’s Driving Your Car?

Delivering a fully autonomous driving (AD) vehicle remains a key priority for both manufacturers and technology firms (“firms”). However, passenger safety is now a top-of-mind concern due in great part, to fatalities resulting from driving tests over the past years. Read more…

TACC’s Upgraded Ranch Data Storage System Debuts New Features, Exabyte Potential

May 22, 2019

There's a joke attributed to comedian Steven Wright that goes, "You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" Users of advanced computing can likely relate to this. The exponential growth of data poses a steep challenge to efforts for its reliable storage. For over 12 years, the Ranch system at the Texas Advanced Computing Center... Read more…

By Jorge Salazar, TACC

Cray’s Emerging Market & Technology Director Arti Garg Peers Around HPC/AI Corner

May 23, 2019

In her position as emerging market and technology director at Cray, Arti Garg doesn't just have a front-row seat to the future of computing, she plays an active role in making that future happen. Key to Garg's role is understanding how deep learning scientists are using state-of-the-art HPC infrastructures and figuring out how to push those limits further. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Combining Machine Learning and Supercomputing to Ferret out Phishing Attacks

May 23, 2019

The relentless ingenuity that drives cyber hacking is a global engine that knows no rest. Anyone with a laptop and run-of-the-mill computer smarts can buy or re Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray – and the Cray Brand – to Be Positioned at Tip of HPE’s HPC Spear

May 22, 2019

More so than with most acquisitions of this kind, HPE’s purchase of Cray for $1.3 billion, announced last week, seems to have elements of that overused, often Read more…

By Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

HPE to Acquire Cray for $1.3B

May 17, 2019

Venerable supercomputer pioneer Cray Inc. will be acquired by Hewlett Packard Enterprise for $1.3 billion under a definitive agreement announced this morning. T Read more…

By Doug Black & Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning Competitors Stalk Nvidia

May 14, 2019

There is no shortage of processing architectures emerging to accelerate deep learning workloads, with two more options emerging this week to challenge GPU leader Nvidia. First, Intel researchers claimed a new deep learning record for image classification on the ResNet-50 convolutional neural network. Separately, Israeli AI chip startup Hailo.ai... Read more…

By George Leopold

CCC Offers Draft 20-Year AI Roadmap; Seeks Comments

May 14, 2019

Artificial Intelligence in all its guises has captured much of the conversation in HPC and general computing today. The White House, DARPA, IARPA, and Departmen Read more…

By John Russell

Cascade Lake Shows Up to 84 Percent Gen-on-Gen Advantage on STAC Benchmarking

May 13, 2019

The Securities Technology Analysis Center (STAC) issued a report Friday comparing the performance of Intel's Cascade Lake processors with previous-gen Skylake u Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Claims 6000x Speed-Up for Stock Trading Backtest Benchmark

May 13, 2019

A stock trading backtesting algorithm used by hedge funds to simulate trading variants has received a massive, GPU-based performance boost, according to Nvidia, Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray, AMD to Extend DOE’s Exascale Frontier

May 7, 2019

Cray and AMD are coming back to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to partner on the world’s largest and most expensive supercomputer. The Department of Energy’s Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphene Surprises Again, This Time for Quantum Computing

May 8, 2019

Graphene is fascinating stuff with promise for use in a seeming endless number of applications. This month researchers from the University of Vienna and Institu Read more…

By John Russell

Why Nvidia Bought Mellanox: ‘Future Datacenters Will Be…Like High Performance Computers’

March 14, 2019

“Future datacenters of all kinds will be built like high performance computers,” said Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang during a phone briefing on Monday after Nvidia revealed scooping up the high performance networking company Mellanox for $6.9 billion. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

It’s Official: Aurora on Track to Be First US Exascale Computer in 2021

March 18, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy along with Intel and Cray confirmed today that an Intel/Cray supercomputer, "Aurora," capable of sustained performance of one exaf Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ClusterVision in Bankruptcy, Fate Uncertain

February 13, 2019

ClusterVision, European HPC specialists that have built and installed over 20 Top500-ranked systems in their nearly 17-year history, appear to be in the midst o Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Reportedly in $6B Bid for Mellanox

January 30, 2019

The latest rumors and reports around an acquisition of Mellanox focus on Intel, which has reportedly offered a $6 billion bid for the high performance interconn Read more…

By Doug Black

Looking for Light Reading? NSF-backed ‘Comic Books’ Tackle Quantum Computing

January 28, 2019

Still baffled by quantum computing? How about turning to comic books (graphic novels for the well-read among you) for some clarity and a little humor on QC. The Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Competitors Stalk Nvidia

May 14, 2019

There is no shortage of processing architectures emerging to accelerate deep learning workloads, with two more options emerging this week to challenge GPU leader Nvidia. First, Intel researchers claimed a new deep learning record for image classification on the ResNet-50 convolutional neural network. Separately, Israeli AI chip startup Hailo.ai... Read more…

By George Leopold

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
NVIDIA @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

Deep500: ETH Researchers Introduce New Deep Learning Benchmark for HPC

February 5, 2019

ETH researchers have developed a new deep learning benchmarking environment – Deep500 – they say is “the first distributed and reproducible benchmarking s Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Bets $2B Seeking 1000X AI Hardware Performance Boost

February 7, 2019

For now, AI systems are mostly machine learning-based and “narrow” – powerful as they are by today's standards, they're limited to performing a few, narro Read more…

By Doug Black

Arm Unveils Neoverse N1 Platform with up to 128-Cores

February 20, 2019

Following on its Neoverse roadmap announcement last October, Arm today revealed its next-gen Neoverse microarchitecture with compute and throughput-optimized si Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Cascade Lake Xeons with Up to 56 Cores

April 2, 2019

At Intel's Data-Centric Innovation Day in San Francisco (April 2), the company unveiled its second-generation Xeon Scalable (Cascade Lake) family and debuted it Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Announcing four new HPC capabilities in Google Cloud Platform

April 15, 2019

When you’re running compute-bound or memory-bound applications for high performance computing or large, data-dependent machine learning training workloads on Read more…

By Wyatt Gorman, HPC Specialist, Google Cloud; Brad Calder, VP of Engineering, Google Cloud; Bart Sano, VP of Platforms, Google Cloud

Nvidia Claims 6000x Speed-Up for Stock Trading Backtest Benchmark

May 13, 2019

A stock trading backtesting algorithm used by hedge funds to simulate trading variants has received a massive, GPU-based performance boost, according to Nvidia, Read more…

By Doug Black

In Wake of Nvidia-Mellanox: Xilinx to Acquire Solarflare

April 25, 2019

With echoes of Nvidia’s recent acquisition of Mellanox, FPGA maker Xilinx has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Solarflare Communications, provider Read more…

By Doug Black

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This