ParslFest 2023 Marks a Milestone in Supercomputing with NCSA’s Support and Global Participation

November 22, 2023

Nov. 22, 2023 — This year was the fifth year for ParslFest, a large-scale, two-day meeting of Parsl community members supported by the National Science Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI). ParslFest 2023 was a free hybrid event, with in-person participants meeting at the University of Chicago (UChicago). Parsl and Globus Compute were the main topics as participants from around the world gathered to share their experiences developing and using these tools.

Scientists and researchers have, for years, become accustomed to utilizing desktops and laptops to aid them in their work. However, scaling to parallel and distributed computing resources like HPC clusters, clouds, and supercomputers is daunting for many who could benefit from their use. That’s where Parsl comes into play.

Parsl was co-founded by Daniel S. Katz, NCSA chief scientist, and researchers from UChicago. It debuted in 2017 as a way to help those new to supercomputing figure out how to work with a scaled-up infrastructure. Using the popular programming language Python, Parsl was created to assist in programming and executing data-oriented workflows in parallel.

Globus Compute, developed by a team from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of Chicago with funding from the National Science Foundation and an Argonne National Laboratory Directed Research and Development award, is a platform that builds on Parsl designed to make remote computing less complicated. Globus Compute is a federated Function-as-a-Service (FaaS) platform. In plain terms, a FaaS system makes it so you can have the power of a server without having to maintain the server or set up underlying infrastructure. Globus Compute differs from centralized FaaS platforms in that users can deploy endpoints on their own resources and can then, via a centralized cloud platform, orchestrate execution of functions on those resources.

Benjamin Galewsky, NCSA senior research software engineer, gives his presentation at Parslfest 2023. Credit: NCSA.

ParslFest 2023 was a great way for researchers interested in cyberinfrastructure to learn how Parsl and Globus Compute are being used in real projects. The Parsl community includes developers of the open-source system as well as its users and system administrators, so large events like ParslFest are essential to help the project grow and evolve, as this is a great opportunity for Parsl developers and users to talk to each other. ParslFest is an open space where researchers can share their results, highlights, challenges, and suggestions with the community, inspiring people to do more and providing opportunities to network and collaborate, and to discuss new approaches with peers.

“I’ve been very inspired by what I’ve seen at ParslFest,” said Christopher Harrop from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and NOAA Global Systems Laboratory. “It makes me realize that what I want to do is very possible, and people are already doing it for other disciplines/applications.”

With over 100 registrations and 37 speakers, ParslFest continues to attract large numbers of experts who see the benefits of Parsl and Globus Compute. Attendees and speakers came from a number of academic backgrounds, as well as industry representatives interested in the technology. Keeping such a large community abreast of the newest updates and ongoing work on Parsl is a large job. Katz has been observing how people communicate their experiences at ParslFest to help inform better ways to connect users to one another.

“Each time I attend ParslFest, I’m encouraged to see the increasing number of exciting things people are doing with Parsl,” said Katz. “Though I also see overlaps where multiple people are doing similar things without knowing about each other’s work, other than when they meet at ParslFest, which tells me we need to improve the interaction of members of the Parsl community. We’re fortunate that support from CZI and NSF has allowed us to hire Sophie Bui as a community manager at NCSA to work to address this need.”

ParslFest attendees make the most of their break and network with each other. Credit: NCSA.

As the use of Parsl grows and is adapted to new use cases, the make-up of the meeting changes as well. Attendees have noted a trend toward more science-based uses for the application. “I’ve been coming to ParslFest since the beginning,” said Logan Ward, assistant computational scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, “and it’s been fantastic to see more scientific users each year. Parsl is being used for applications I never imagined, which is inspiring and helps me know we’re going in a good direction as a project.”

This increase in science-based adopters of Parsl is evident in the list or presentations. Alex Brace, a research associate at Argonne National Laboratory, who won a Gordon Bell Special Prize in 2020 for his work on COVID-19 simulations, presented ways to achieve biomolecular simulations that were up to 1,000 times faster than the average simulation. Sander Vandenhaute, a graduate student from Ghent University, showed how he used Parsl for efficient neural network training and then used that AI for molecular simulations.

A number of NCSA staff also spoke at this year’s ParslFest, including Benjamin Galewsky, senior research software engineer, and Doug Friedel, research programmer, showing that the Center’s support for these platforms is strong.

As the two-day meeting wound down, Kyle Chard, Parsl PI, research associate professor in computer science at UChicago and co-lead of the Globus Labs research group, ended on an optimistic note for the growing Parsl community.

“Momentum has really been growing in this community,” Chard said. “If you’ve been here for the last four years, the number of people each year steadily increases. The range of domains and the range of institutions are growing. A big focus for us… is to continue building our community.”

You can find out more about Parsl and ParslFest, including links to videos of the talks and slide decks, on the ParslFest 2023 page.

NCSA’s Sophie Bui, community manager – Software, contributed to this story.


Source: Megan Meave Johnson, NCSA

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