HPC Perspectives with Dr. Seid Koric

By Brendan McGinty

September 12, 2019

Brendan McGinty, director of Industry for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, kicks off the first in a series of pieces profiling leaders in high performance computing (HPC), writing for the Verne Global blog. The first profile Q&A is with Dr. Seid Koric, technical director at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Seid is a legend in HPC and a multiple winner of HPCwire’s Readers’ Choice Awards, including the 2017 Top Supercomputing Achievement. 

1. How did you get into the role and career you are in now?

In summer 1997, I made my way to the University of Illinois from my war-torn hometown of Sarajevo in order to pursue a graduate degree in engineering. I was looking for research assistantship possibilities. I met Drs. Melanie Loots and Fouad Ahmad who worked at NCSA at the time, and they were advertising a position for a research assistant. It sounded pretty cool since I didn’t even know what supercomputers were! So I went there and interviewed with them and they offered me a summer job. When the semester finished, they said I had done a good job and asked me to stay as an RA on throughout my degree.” Working at NCSA and in HPC has been so much fun for me that I have stayed at NCSA ever since!

2. What are the biggest challenges or opportunities before you?

I am currently the technical assistant director of NCSA, leading several domain application teams from modeling/simulation, bioinformatics/genomics, and big data analytics and AI. We primarily work with the NCSA Industry – the largest industrial HPC outreach in the world, but we are also very actively engaged in the center’s research and educational activities through our numerous campus, national and international interdisciplinary research collaborations, publications, and rewards including work with many students.

Our 40+ current industrial partners hail from all over the country and globe, representing hundreds of billions of dollars in economic development in sectors such as manufacturing, energy, life sciences, aerospace, financial services, and technology. At the same time, we live in an academic environment where a long term fundamental research and education are priorities.

Bridging those two worlds often presents a challenge. However, over the course of years, we have learned to match our culture with the industrial one. We often work under tight deadlines, industrial pace and NDA-s, and most importantly we deliver on time and under the budget. The unwavering support from the NCSA Industry Business unit has been a huge game-changer as well, leaving us enough time and resources to better focus on the technical aspects of our work and activities.

Moreover, our academic research work has been often complementary to NCSA Industry, and it helps our industrial partners to tackle their toughest scientific and engineering challenges and provide them with at least a 6-month competitive advantage over their competitors. In return, our industrial partners have been always providing interesting applied problems that we very much enjoy working on, and which also helps recruiting and retaining our excellent staff and students.

3. How does high-performance computing help? 

HPC plays in this day and age an important role in modern society, it frequently contributes to scientific discoveries, improves engineering designs, criminal detection and prevention, health care and life sciences, financial and energy sectors, national security and lately even helping in social sciences and humanities. At the same the world has seen exponential data growth in the last decade due to sensors, computing, IoT, social media, mobility, E-commerce and other factors. HPC coupled with big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) is the major enabler nowadays for the emerging data driven paradigm in science in engineering, which aims to extract the key information and knowledge from that massive data – otherwise unavailable by deterministic modeling methods.

I have worked on at least 10 different generations of HPC architecture during my NCSA tenure, and each one has brought something novel and exciting. Among them probably the most known to the HPC world is the world’s first sustained petascale system of Blue Waters funded by NSF and the state of Illinois, and which is still in production and still enables scientist and engineers to work on a wide range of challenging problems. I have had a pleasure to be the PI on several collaborative national and international research projects on Blue Waters, and we have for the first time demonstrated the feasibility of efficiently solving extreme-size real-world multi-physics or geophysics problems on the petascale and potentially exascale level, and thus provided crucial advances in high-fidelity modeling and design in science and engineering, as well as a better understanding of the properties of the Earth’s subsurface for energy exploration- and moving forward that may be one the major legacies of Blue Waters.

4. What are you hoping to achieve in the next year with the help of HPC?

We plan to further consolidate and enhance our HPC domain expertise teams and establish even more campus, national and international collaborations and connections in order to remain well positioned to provide services and consulting for the growing number of our industrial and academic partners and projects. I also believe that directors/managers should “work and learn” too, or they become “rusty”, so I will enjoy getting personally involved in technical HPC work as well as to learn and apply new things – particularly from the emerging technologies such as AI – and thus lead by example. As research faculty at The Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois, I will continue HPC enabled fundamental and applied multidisciplinary research work.

5. What does the future five years from now look like? 

Prof. Andrew Ng, the founder of Coursera and a professor at Stanford recently said, “AI is the new electricity.” During the dawn of the 20th century, and when Nikola Tesla introduced AC and its induction motor, it affected every industry and every part of human life and totally changed it forever. Nowadays we start seeing AI doing the exact same thing. HPC is no different, in fact since AI and particularly deep learning can only be efficiently run on HPC, the confluence of AI, HPC and big data analytics is a natural thing happening. Many HPC people use the term “convergence” blindly, which may not be appropriate since I believe that AI and HPC will likely retain their own identities. We at NCSA are already working on a several AI confluence projects ranging from astrophysics to quantum mechanics and material science. I am particularly involved in deep learning accelerated topological optimization and multiscale research activates, and the results so far look very exciting and promising.

In future, we will likely see more of the confluence with AI happening on all levels of HPC, while computers (particularly in HPC) will be learning to do more of intelligent tasks and even out-performing humans at them. It remains to be seen, however, if and how and when the major AI singularity point of true intelligence will be reached?

6. Do you have an HPC hero or someone who has had the greatest impact on your career? If so, please describe.

During my 22 years at NCSA, I have had a privilege to work with the plethora of bright and innovative HPC minds, so it is a delicate task to pinpoint to a single person or two. However, the person who had initially hired me at NCSA, Dr. Fouad Ahmad, and from whom I have learned the basics of HPC and supercomputing, comes to my mind first. I am indebted to Fouad for all of his sincere guidance, support and encouragement over the short period of time we spent together at NCSA, and which later shaped my entire career.

Another person, with whom I have a privilege to work nowadays, is the NCSA director Prof. Bill Gropp. Besides being a great leader, Bill is a living legend of HPC, he helped create MPI (Message Passing Interface) and PETSc (the suite of solver libraries), two among the most important tools that helped propel HPC to be pervasive across many scientific and engineering fields. Bill is an HPC hero who inspires us every day to make NCSA the place to solve grand challenges for the benefit of science and society.

NCSA’s Industry Conference will be held October 9-10. Check out the agenda here.

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!

Amid Upbeat Earnings, Intel to Cut 1% of Employees, Add as Many

January 24, 2020

For all the sniping two tech old timers take, both IBM and Intel announced surprisingly upbeat earnings this week. IBM CEO Ginny Rometty was all smiles at this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, after  Read more…

By Doug Black

Indiana University Dedicates ‘Big Red 200’ Cray Shasta Supercomputer

January 24, 2020

After six months of celebrations, Indiana University (IU) officially marked its bicentennial on Monday – and it saved the best for last, inaugurating Big Red 200, a new AI-focused supercomputer that joins the ranks of Read more…

By Staff report

What’s New in HPC Research: Tsunamis, Wildfires, the Large Hadron Collider & More

January 24, 2020

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Toshiba Promises Quantum-Like Advantage on Standard Hardware

January 23, 2020

Toshiba has invented an algorithm that it says delivers a 10-fold improvement for a select class of computational problems, without the need for exotic hardware. In fact, the company's simulated bifurcation algorithm is Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Energy Research Combines HPC, 3D Manufacturing

January 23, 2020

A federal energy research initiative is gaining momentum with the release of a contract award aimed at using supercomputing to harness 3D printing technology that would boost the performance of power generators. Partn Read more…

By George Leopold

AWS Solution Channel

Challenging the barriers to High Performance Computing in the Cloud

Cloud computing helps democratize High Performance Computing by placing powerful computational capabilities in the hands of more researchers, engineers, and organizations who may lack access to sufficient on-premises infrastructure. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Intelligent HPC – Keeping Hard Work at Bay(es)

Since the dawn of time, humans have looked for ways to make their lives easier. Over the centuries human ingenuity has given us inventions such as the wheel and simple machines – which help greatly with tasks that would otherwise be extremely laborious. Read more…

TACC Highlights Its Upcoming ‘IsoBank’ Isotope Database

January 22, 2020

Isotopes – elemental variations that contain different numbers of neutrons – can help researchers unearth the past of an object, especially the few hundred isotopes that are known to be stable over time. However, iso Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Toshiba Promises Quantum-Like Advantage on Standard Hardware

January 23, 2020

Toshiba has invented an algorithm that it says delivers a 10-fold improvement for a select class of computational problems, without the need for exotic hardware Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

In Advanced Computing and HPC, Dell EMC Sets Sights on the Broader Market Middle 

January 22, 2020

If the leading advanced computing/HPC server vendors were in the batting lineup of a baseball team, Dell EMC would be going for lots of singles and doubles – Read more…

By Doug Black

DNA-Based Storage Nears Scalable Reality with New $25 Million Project

January 21, 2020

DNA-based storage, which involves storing binary code in the four nucleotides that constitute DNA, has been a moonshot for high-density data storage since the 1960s. Since the first successful experiments in the 1980s, researchers have made a series of major strides toward implementing DNA-based storage at scale, such as improving write times and storage density and enabling easier file identification and extraction. Now, a new $25 million... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AMD Recruits Intel, IBM Execs; Pending Layoffs Reported at Intel Data Platform Group

January 17, 2020

AMD has raided Intel and IBM for new senior managers, one of whom will replace an AMD executive who has played a prominent role during the company’s recharged Read more…

By Doug Black

Atos-AMD System to Quintuple Supercomputing Power at European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts

January 15, 2020

The United Kingdom-based European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), a supercomputer-powered weather forecasting organization backed by most of Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Julia Programming’s Dramatic Rise in HPC and Elsewhere

January 14, 2020

Back in 2012 a paper by four computer scientists including Alan Edelman of MIT introduced Julia, A Fast Dynamic Language for Technical Computing. At the time, t Read more…

By John Russell

White House AI Regulatory Guidelines: ‘Remove Impediments to Private-sector AI Innovation’

January 9, 2020

When it comes to new technology, it’s been said government initially stays uninvolved – then gets too involved. The White House’s guidelines for federal a Read more…

By Doug Black

IBM Touts Quantum Network Growth, Improving QC Quality, and Battery Research

January 8, 2020

IBM today announced its Q (quantum) Network community had grown to 100-plus – Delta Airlines and Los Alamos National Laboratory are among most recent addition Read more…

By John Russell

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

SC19: IBM Changes Its HPC-AI Game Plan

November 25, 2019

It’s probably fair to say IBM is known for big bets. Summit supercomputer – a big win. Red Hat acquisition – looking like a big win. OpenPOWER and Power processors – jury’s out? At SC19, long-time IBMer Dave Turek sketched out a different kind of bet for Big Blue – a small ball strategy, if you’ll forgive the baseball analogy... Read more…

By John Russell

Julia Programming’s Dramatic Rise in HPC and Elsewhere

January 14, 2020

Back in 2012 a paper by four computer scientists including Alan Edelman of MIT introduced Julia, A Fast Dynamic Language for Technical Computing. At the time, t Read more…

By John Russell

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann Read more…

By John Russell

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

AMD
AMD
ASROCK RACK
ASROCK RACK
AWS
AWS
CEJN
CJEN
CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
IBM
IBM
MELLANOX
MELLANOX
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
SIX NINES IT
SIX NINES IT
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL
WEKAIO
WEKAIO

IBM Unveils Latest Achievements in AI Hardware

December 13, 2019

“The increased capabilities of contemporary AI models provide unprecedented recognition accuracy, but often at the expense of larger computational and energet Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

SC19: Welcome to Denver

November 17, 2019

A significant swath of the HPC community has come to Denver for SC19, which began today (Sunday) with a rich technical program. As is customary, the ribbon cutt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU Read more…

By John Russell

Top500: US Maintains Performance Lead; Arm Tops Green500

November 18, 2019

The 54th Top500, revealed today at SC19, is a familiar list: the U.S. Summit (ORNL) and Sierra (LLNL) machines, offering 148.6 and 94.6 petaflops respectively, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

51,000 Cloud GPUs Converge to Power Neutrino Discovery at the South Pole

November 22, 2019

At the dead center of the South Pole, thousands of sensors spanning a cubic kilometer are buried thousands of meters beneath the ice. The sensors are part of Ic Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Azure Cloud First with AMD Epyc Rome Processors

November 6, 2019

At Ignite 2019 this week, Microsoft's Azure cloud team and AMD announced an expansion of their partnership that began in 2017 when Azure debuted Epyc-backed instances for storage workloads. The fourth-generation Azure D-series and E-series virtual machines previewed at the Rome launch in August are now generally available. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel’s New Hyderabad Design Center Targets Exascale Era Technologies

December 3, 2019

Intel's Raja Koduri was in India this week to help launch a new 300,000 square foot design and engineering center in Hyderabad, which will focus on advanced com Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Summit Has Real-Time Analytics: Here’s How It Happened and What’s Next

October 3, 2019

Summit – the world’s fastest publicly-ranked supercomputer – now has real-time streaming analytics. At the 2019 HPC User Forum at Argonne National Laborat Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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