ISC 2022: International Association of Supercomputing Centers to Debut

By Oliver Peckham

May 23, 2022

At ISC 2022 in Hamburg, Germany, representatives from four supercomputing centers across three countries plan to debut the International Association of Supercomputing Centers (IASC). The IASC aims to bring together public-facing, public-funded supercomputer centers around the world to help those centers navigate common challenges, share best practices and deepen their collaborations.

The organizing representatives include Michael Gleaves, deputy director of the UK’s Hartree Centre; Wayne Miller, acting director of the HPC Innovation Center at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in the U.S.; Brendan McGinty, director of industry for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), also in the U.S.; and Laura Schulz, head of strategic development for Germany’s Leibniz Supercomputing Center.

The four IASC organizers. Left to right: Michael Gleaves, Hartree Centre; Wayne Miller, LLNL; Brendan McGinty, NCSA; and Laura Schulz, Leibniz Supercomputing Centre.

In advance of their session at ISC 2022, HPCwire spoke to these representatives to learn more about the idea for the IASC and how interested parties can become involved.

“Worldwide, there’s about a hundred publicly funded supercomputing centers which exist to serve a user community for—more or less—public benefit,” Miller explained. “And of these many, many centers (representing many, many billions of dollars), there is no organizational body that lets them come together and talk about common challenges and best practices. And simply, that’s what this organization, IASC, is intended to be.”

Forming the IASC

If the idea for the IASC sounds like low-hanging fruit to you, you’re not alone. “The common refrain is: ‘I’m surprised this doesn’t exist already!’” Miller said of other supercomputing centers that have contacted the organizers.

But it didn’t exist already—and late last year (“before Halloween”), Miller set out to change that. “We’ve known each other for many, many years at this point and collaborated in different venues,” Schulz recounted. “Wayne came to us somewhat out of the blue one day and said he had this concept, that he really felt that this was something that we needed.”

By February, the four of them were nearing a final draft of the proposal for the IASC.

“We’ve been meeting regularly for a couple of months now on a biweekly basis,” Schulz said, “and what’s been really interesting is the conversations that we’re having with one another, with four different centers spread across the globe with somewhat different purposes. It’s really amazing—we get on the concept of net-zero and energy efficiency and ‘What are you guys doing, and how’s it different from [in] Europe? What are you doing for setting up quantum computing within your compute center? How is that going?’”

“We just realize the power for the four of us and how that would be amplified to a global community,” she said. “There are some really interesting conversations … all the way from the national lab level down to regional centers—everybody has different tactics, and I think that there’s so much insight and cleverness from solutions that can be garnered, shared and then inspire other organizations to maybe find a solution that they hadn’t thought about yet.”

“That’s the stuff we love,” Gleaves said.

Image courtesy of the IASC.

IASC’s role in a complex world

Asked about how the IASC will exist in relation to other national or regional bodies that exist to support or organize supercomputing centers, McGinty said that he sees the IASC as “nothing but complementary.”

“Anything that’s already in motion, we’re a plus,” he said. “We’re more resources, we’re more intel, different perspectives.” Schulz agreed, saying she saw the IASC “as a synergy and as a magnifier.” Miller pointed out that for many of these existing initiatives, the IASC could serve as a venue to enhance awareness of their activities and outputs.

With that new territory, of course, will come new hurdles.

“There are certainly challenges with a fully open-door policy with the geopolitics [of 2022],” Miller said. “We worry about questions like export control and IP protection and things like that. So I suppose at the floor level, whatever IASC endorses and becomes will need to be kind of in the public domain, and not so proprietary.”

“The ability, though, for this organization … to take interest groups, if you will, and create perhaps more confidential discussion is there,” McGinty added. “It is the ability to reach all of these audiences in that non-political manner that allows for some of these other connections to happen that may, perhaps, otherwise not have occurred.”

“I think there’s plenty of initial areas that we are all struggling with today that we can use to generate collaboration,” Gleaves agreed.

But before any of that: ISC.

Next week’s first steps

On Tuesday, May 31 at ISC 2022 in Hamburg, Germany, the four representatives will take the stage for a birds of a feather session, where they will present the proposal for the IASC. “What we’re hoping to do at ISC is announce that we do intend to form this,” Miller said. “It doesn’t exist right now more than just the four centers represented on this call, but we’ve already had inquiries from other centers who heard about it by the grapevine.”

The session will include a sampling of the kinds of conversations centers could be having via the IASC, a panel discussion and an opportunity to ask questions.

The following day, the organizers will host a buffet lunch and discussion at a hotel across the street from ISC. That event, intended to foster more direct interactions with interested parties, will be made available to online participants.

“Based on that engagement—whether there is a strong poll from the community—we’re then going to incorporate the organization and then look at running a series of meetings associated with that activity,” Gleaves said.

The organizers are encouraging all interested parties to get in touch. “Size of center is not a barrier—that’s a plus,” Schulz said.

Learn more

For more information on the IASC and how to participate, attend the birds of a feather session “International Association of Supercomputing Centers” from 11:30am to 12:30pm on May 31 at ISC 2022 (Hall D) in Hamburg. The buffet lunch and discussion will be held from 11:30am to 1:30pm on June 1 at the Grand Elysée Hotel Hamburg.

The IASC also has an online information hub, accessible (of course) via both https://supercomputingcenters.org/ and https://supercomputingcentres.org/.

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