An insideHPC Exclusive Interview with Hans Meuer, Co-founder and Organizer of the International Supercomputing Conference, ISC.
While the HPC community has seen its share of vendor companies that haven’t been able to demonstrate the staying power needed for survival, it’s quite the opposite story when it comes to conferences focused around this community.
The ACM/IEEE SC conference series will hold its 23rd annual meeting in New Orleans in November, the HPCC insider’s conference known as the Newport Conference has wraped up its 24th annual event in Newport, Rhode Island, and this year marks an impressive 25th anniversary for Europe’s most important HPC event, ISC’10, the International Supercomputing Conference.
insideHPC is pleased to share this exclusive interview with Prof. Dr. Hans Werner Meuer, the man behind the ISC conference.
insideHPC: First of all, congratulations on celebrating the 25th anniversary of the International Supercomputer Conference. It is truly a remarkable achievement. When you reflect on the history of this conference and how much you have achieved, what stands out as something you are particularly proud of?
Meuer: We started out in 1986 as a seminar at the University of Mannheim with 81 local attendees and 11 speakers. We are thus the HPC conference with the longest tradition worldwide. Over time we evolved to become the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC). For our 25th Anniversary in 2010, we are expecting a visitor crowd of 2,000 and as many as 140 exhibitors from all over the world. And, around 200 experts will be sharing their expertise at ISC’10.
We are proud to have realized early on that the IT world needs two major HPC events per year — the SC in the US alone is not sufficient to cater for such a fast-evolving sector like supercomputing. ISC is a good addition and also an alternative to the SC conference.
insideHPC: Will the difficult global economic situation have an impact on the conference this year, and what, if anything, are you doing differently this year because of the economy?
Meuer: Even during ISC’09, we were confronted with the global financial crisis and a poor economic situation. It was exactly one year ago that many of our sponsors predicted that our visitor numbers would plummet by 50 percent. On the contrary, our visitor numbers soared up by 21 percent. Even though there is of course no guarantee as to what things will be like this year, we will stick to our proven strategy. We have increased our efforts to extend and improve our overall concept and in particular our conference program and I believe we have succeeded — this year’s program is the best in our 25 years of history.
insideHPC: What do you believe will be some of the highlights of this year’s conference?
Meuer: Let me summarize the highlights of this year’s conference:
- An absolute MUST will be High Performance Computational Life Sciences — The Challenge for HPC Systems
- The panel about hitting the Exascale frontier in the future, including the keynote from Prof Dr. Horst, Zuse 80 Years of Computing: From Konrad Zuse to Exascale Computing.
- The session Parallel Computing in the Years to Come focuses on the development of parallel computing tools, especially under the point of view of millions of cores.
- The HPC-enabled simulation of global warming in the session Supercomputers for Modeling the Climate & the Roles of Energy Production in Climate Change
- And the upcoming supercomputer countries in Evolving New HPC Markets: China, Middle East & Russia.
insideHPC: Do you have many first-time exhibitors coming to ISC10? Will the number of exhibitors be up from last year?
Meuer: This year we see a 20 percent surge in new exhibitors — about 30 businesses and scientific institutions will be exhibiting at ISC for the first time. We are hopeful to host around 140 exhibitors compared to 120 in 2009. Our exhibitors come from all continents, apart from Australia. For example, Brazil, South Africa, China, Japan, Russia, US and almost all European countries will be represented at our show.
Even though we increased our exhibition space by 15 percent, we are almost sold out at the beginning of February. There are only very few slots left in the industrial area.
Moreover, sponsors continue to value ISC as a core HPC event, which further contributes to the success of the exhibition.
insideHPC: Many people speak fondly about the networking events at ISC. How important are these networking events to the conference?
Meuer: The ISC networking events have become an integral part of our conference. They offer an effective instrument for establishing, maintaining and extending professional contacts. What participants appreciate most is the casual and relaxed atmosphere that makes it particularly easy to meet new and interesting people.
It is important to point out that these networking events are no longer limited to ISC itself but are now also taking place before and after ISC. When choosing the locations for our conferences, one crucial factor is to offer suitable networking locations also outside of the convention centers. Fortunately, with Hamburg we have found a location that offers ideal conditions.
As organizers, we would like to invite our participants and exhibitors to join our 25th Anniversary opening party on May 31.
insideHPC: What advice do you have for a first-time attendee to help them get the most out of ISC10?
Meuer: This year’s conference program offers a broad spectrum for all attendees. New attendees will benefit significantly from the seven tutorials on Sunday, May 30. Topics like GPUs, Manycore, Parallel Programming, Interconnects, LINPACK and HPC Software will be covered extensively in the tutorials.
For non-HPC experts whose day-to-day work demands HPC solutions, the Crash Course on High Performance Computing, on Wednesday, June 2 will prove to be beneficial.
And naturally, they shouldn’t miss the opening party, networking events and the Hot Seat session which is unique to ISC.
Finally, I would advise attendees to register before April 30 because the early bird fees will disappear forever after that.
insideHPC: I’ve heard some people refer to ISC as the “sister event” to the annual SC conference. But in fact, the two conferences are not linked in any way — is that correct?
Meuer: We are completely independent of the SC, even if we certainly acknowledge that the SC is the largest HPC event around. I think that we can both learn a lot from one another — and we surely make use of this opportunity. As for myself, I participated in all SC events so far — starting with Orlando in 1988 to Portland in 2009. Many HPC key players from the US have been ISC regulars from the very beginning of the conference, as speakers as well as attendees. As regards the involvement of the SC officials in ISC, I feel there is room for improvements. I believe, however, that this is due to a lack of continuity in the SC which is caused by the annual rotation of responsibilities.
Finally I take the opportunity to thank insideHPC for this wonderful opportunity.
See you soon in Hamburg!
For more background on Prof. Dr. Hans Werner Meuer, check out his CV [PDF].
insideHPC has already started running special feature coverage of ISC’10. To submit items for editorial coverage related to ISC’10, send us an email.