After the opening ceremony early Monday evening, the first, and for some of us, most important party starts within a couple of hours – the Beowulf Bash.
No one is marketing anything, no one is pushing an agenda, no one has ownership – it’s a community that spans a large part of the field of HPC, from hardware, through Linux based software, to lots and lots of real world applications – oh, and fun. There is nothing else like it at SC. Like the domain of Beowulf clusters, or commodity clusters, or PC clusters or, well you get the picture; whatever you call them, the Beowulf Bash is about people who like to be part of doing stuff.
And while it has a bit of a hacker (the good kind) reputation and is the one place at SC where the average age doesn’t look like an AARP meeting, it is a very significant ensemble of practitioners and broader contributors from industry, academia, government labs, agencies, and just about any other category of people who can get through the door.
All over the world, student competitions are conducted to introduce and inspire incipient Supercomputing participants, including at the annual SC meeting, but also at ISC six months later and many other places. Why? Well, Beowulf was a heroic character taking on the ferocious Grendel (yes, and his mother, but we don’t talk about that) and getting down and dirty is something that cluster people do all the time. We feel/are heroic.
But Beowulf cluster computing has also been about freedom, initiative, and creativity. Beowulf has also been a poster child for Open Source software, not to replace commercial software but to partner with it, maximizing the benefits to all. There is a reason that Linux is the preferred software base for much of the field of supercomputing, and it wasn’t because it was imposed by industry; rather it was led by the Beowulf community and ultimately in partnership with vendors to everyone’s advantage.
By some count, Beowulf has reached its maturity at an age of 21 years old. But the Beowulf Bash is still in its adolescence, and let’s hope it never gets to a point where it feels too old. I look forward to seeing you all there in Austin at the Beowulf Bash in just a few days. And if you happen to recognize me, please stop by and say “hello”.
Many of you are too new to Beowulf computing to even know who the founders were. That’s OK. Beowulf computing and the Beowulf Bash is not about any one or even a few people – it’s about everyone and the fun of supercomputing.
Author: Thomas Sterling, Co-founder, Beowulf Computing