Attendee finds ISC's continued focus on real users and applications a good thing

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insideHPC’s pal Stan Posey from Panasas emailed us last week to share an insight that’s he’s had about the emerging difference between the SC and ISC conference series. Here are Stan’s thoughts…agree or disagree? Leave a comment!

I email to make you aware of a recently developed ISC vs. SC contrast that has me puzzled. I’ve attended both many times in the past (SC for the past 17 years!) so I believe I write with some level of perspective. Over time SC seems to have shifted away from a healthy balance of end-user conventional HPC applications vs. IT topics, to an increasing focus on IT, IT-like applications, and non-HPC applications.

Meanwhile it’s refreshing to see that ISC continues with a mindful interest on end-user trends and topics, and this year will focus among others, on HPC for aeronautics (CFD) and climate modeling. Last year included a very in-depth session on the automotive industry.

As such, I was able to organize a ISC’09 BoF on CFD that was rejected by SC08, that will examine very relevant trends to industry-scale HPC for aerospace, automotive, and manufacturing product development. It is titled “Advanced CFD and Practical HPC Considerations,” and comprises HPC-relevant organizations such as ANSYS, CD-adapco, Renault F1 Team, and CU-CCMS. I still like SC very much – I’m just concerned about the drift.

In the most recent past two years of SC, I’ve noticed that application-related BoF’s (example: one that was always well-attended — HPC trends for the Automotive Industry) have all been rejected according to past organizers. True, there have been Master Series topics around applications, but these are not forums for discussion – only talks, and to hear a speaker answer a question or two.

It strikes me odd that in the increasing instance of IT organizations proclaiming to end-users “we know what’s best for you”, SC seems to be following a similar path, which I fear is in a direction of SC end-user erosion on interest, participation and ultimately attendance. As a member of the HPC vendor community, we are increasingly aware of how end-users and their application objectives drive an HPC architecture and the ultimate solution. We support and exhibit at SC and ISC because there has been a proper balance of IT and end-user objectives (and end-users!) coming together –- it seems ISC is doing a better job at this currently, and I hope SC can regain its past end-user appeal.