Supercomputing Road Trip: Pacific Northwest Kick-Off

By Dan Olds

November 5, 2022

The 2022 Great American Supercomputing Road Trip started in fine style with my first stop at Pacific Northwest National Lab in Richland, Washington – about 250 miles from home base.

This was my first visit to the lab and I came away highly impressed by their ambitious projects plus the range and depth of their work. In total, we talked to five folks, as you can see in the video below.

We started with Robert Rallo, the director of PNNL’s Advanced Computing, Mathematics, and Data Division. We discussed the lab’s mission and how they’re using highly advanced compute to help accomplish it.

I also spoke with Kevin Barker, the group leader of their HPC group (did you know that the government is working on new accelerators? I didn’t.) We went into all sorts of details about current and future HPC tech and how it might be used by the lab.

As you’ll see in the interview, Mahantesh Halappanavar, acting group leader of their data science and machine intelligence group, really knows his graph analytics and is working to make these tough problems more parallel and quicker to compute.

Vito Castellana, senior research scientist, has hardware in his blood even though he’s mainly working with software today (compilers and such). He’s working towards a mind blowing goal:  to design the tech where any developer can design a custom hardware accelerator for their unique code. This could take the form of a FPGA in the early days, but will over time become full-blown ASICs or processors. It’s baby steps today, but Vito explains how this might become a reality in the medium term.

Gokcen Kestor has a dream too. She wants to ensure that scientists never have to think about how their code will be handled by the computer. She envisions a compiler that will automatically compile code for any or all accelerator/CPU combinations without scientists having to get their hands dirty. She explains how this would work and the benefits we might see in her part of the interview.

I have to thank PNNL PR maven Tom Rickey for setting up this tour stop. I also have to thank HPE, Cornelis Networks, GigaIO, and Dell Technologies for making this road trip possible. And of course, without our pals at HPCwire, you wouldn’t be reading this and watching the video. I’d have to fax it to you or something, right?

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