[Beowulf] SC13 wrapup, please post your own

Prentice Bisbal prentice.bisbal at rutgers.edu
Mon Nov 25 15:03:18 PST 2013

Okay, here's my attempt at summarizing my SC13 experience.

1. The show was actually kind of boring this year. I think this was 
because there were now big new technologies or products to talk about. 
Also, there's usually a lot of activity at the NOAA and OLCF booths 
every years, and neither of those booths were there this year, which 
could contribute to that. Neither were there last year, but there were 
several industry announcements to make up for that. The DoE had one 
booth for all the DoE labs, and there really wasn't much activity there 
this year. Someone mentioned that the exihibitor floor was smaller than 
usual. In hindsight, I have to agree.

2. What I think was the biggest announcement of the show went unnoticed 
by most people: IBM and NVIDIA are teaming up to put a Power8 processor 
and NVIDIA GPU together. Thinks of 'Project Denver' but with a Power8 
processor instead of an ARM. I think this is a first move towards an 
architecture for an Exascale system. Blue Genes and GPU clusters have 
been taking turns at the top of the Green500 list. ARM processors much 
more energy efficient than either, but don't have the floating-point 
performance. If these Power8 processors are as power-efficient as the 
processors in the Blue Gene products, then this (I think) is the best 
chance at reaching the 20 MW limit cited for an exascale system. I don't 
know much about the Power8 processor, so please don't skewer me if I'm 
completely wrong about it being very energy-efficient.

3. Once again, NVidia's schooled everyone else on how to have a busy 
booth that gets everyone's attention. Best location (on the corner of 
two busy walkways, as usual), large screen facing passers-by, and great 
audio making it easy to hear the presentations without being annoyingly 
loud. And they're green scarves are the best give-away of the conference 
: their practical, have an air of exclusivity which makes everyone want 
to wear theirs, turning many attendees into walking advertisements for 
NVidia. Why more vendors don't take lessons from NVidia is beyond me. 
Seriously. When it comes to marketing at SC13, Nvidia makes everyone 
else look like a bunch of chumps.

4. I went to a BoF on ROI on HPC investment. All the presentations in 
the BoF frustrated me. Not because they were poorly done, but because 
they tried to measure the value of a cluster by number of papers 
published that used that HPC resource. I think that's a crappy, crappy 
metric, but haven't been able to come up with a better one myself yet. I 
was very vocal with my comments and criticisms of the presentations, so 
if any of the presenters are reading this now, I apologize for 
hi-jacking your BoF. Getting good ROI on a cluster is close to my heart, 
but is also difficult to quantify and measure. I hope I can be part of 
the discussion next year.

5. There were a  LOT of people at the D-Wave quantum computer presentation.

6. The NSA had the balls to have a booth there, looking to recruit 
people. My own politics aside, I though they were crazy. I know they're 
there every year, but scientists are known for liking openness, after 
the Edward Snowden revelations and the fact that the US govt. banned 
chinese scientists from a NASA conference (which led to boycotts of the 
conference), I would to keep a low-profile around scientists if I was 
part of the US Security/Defence complex.

7. The cover band 'London Calling' played the IBM Platform 
Computing/Intel party again. Despite calling themselves 'London Calling' 
they still do not play any Clash songs. They are a good cover band, but 
it's starting to get boring seeing the same band play the same set year 
after year.

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