Interview: Satoshi Matsuoka Looks Forward to ISC’12

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ISC’12 will host the HPC in Asia Day on Sunday, June 17 in Hamburg. To learn more, I caught up with Satoshi Matsuoka from the Tokyo Institute of Technology to talk about the event and the challenges presented by extreme scale computing.

insideHPC: ISC will once again host a day devoted to HPC in Asia. How did that go last year and what can we expect to happen there this year?

Satoshi Matsuoka: It went quite well last year, with audiences not only from within Asia but also extensively from EU and the US. This was largely fueled by the Asian machines facilitating 4 of the top 5 machines on the Top 500, esp. getting the #1 (K) and #2 (Tianhe), as performing well also on the Green 500 (Tsubame2 being the #1 production machine).

insideHPC: I was part of the press corps that travelled with you to see the Chinese Tianhe-1A system in December. What did you take away from that visit?

Satoshi Matsuoka: That China of course is investing heavily into HPC, no doubt. By all means despite their impressive buildings and so forth their operational as well as application abilities are not quite there compared to the top centers in the US, EU, or Japan, but given that they were nowhere several years back their efforts should be applauded.

Given that, however, they are now considered to be in the “big leagues”, just as US/EU/Japanese top tier centers, so their various current shortcomings might haunt them. For example, we cannot get any detailed info regarding their operational information, that otherwise would be openly provided by other centers, e.g., the # of users, node occupancy rate, job rate, failure logs, etc. These will require honest, true-to-form committment to publish results even if they turn out to be disadvantageous to the Chinese centers. We did witness that such was not necessarily so in the recent high-speed train acceident; let us hope that the Chinese centers do not fall into the same trap.

insideHPC: You are on the Steering Committee for ISC and the SC conference series. What makes these conferences so valuable to you?

Satoshi Matsuoka:

These conference serve a common theme that it is a one-stop gathering for everything, including the latest research results, machines and other infrastructures, various software, applications, and of course the people. When I am at either of the conferences my schedule becomes extremely packed and tight for the whole week and even before, with abundance of meetings, talks, interviews, etc. It allows me to stay at the top tier of competitiveness by allowing me to both acquire and emit the latest info on quite an interactive basis with most of the people I would want to share the information with.

Now I am a fellow of ISC, as well as ACM Fellow and an advisor to ACM SIGHPC, in addition to being involved with the running of the SC conferences, including community chair for SC11 and program chair for SC13. Such positions and experiences are allowing me to see the organizational side of running such a mammoth gathering, especially from the perspective of giving the participants with the best experiences they could envision by being at ISC and SC. In this regard both conferences have their strength and weaknesses, and it would be a continued endeavor to contribute to improve them both on a candid, comparative basis.

insideHPC: The Tsubame 2.0 supercomputer is the only machine that is in the Top10 of both the TOP500 and Green500 lists. At extreme scale, does extreme power efficiency get even harder?

Satoshi Matsuoka: We are also in the Top 5 for the Graph500, as well as having received the Gordon Bell prize in 2011.

Gary Johnson, formerly of DoE has written a very nice article in this regard on HPCWire, and we here at Tokyo Tech including the University president is very happy about it.

Indeed, it has been pointed out by numerous studies that power & energy will become the limiting factor for exascale and we have every evidence to believe that. That is why as we operate TSUBAME we have several ongoing “Green” projects to investigate power efficiency for next generation TSUBAME3.0 as well as beyond.

insideHPC: What is your favorite thing about visiting Hamburg?

Satoshi Matsuoka: There is a folklore in Japan that Hamburg is the origin of Hamburgers. While I found this to be not true, Hamburg embodies multitudes of good German restaurants of all regions, and it is a joy to visit the good restaurants I have found over the years. Also Germany in general is very hospitable to Japanese, with longstanding mutual respect, and it is quite a comfortable place to mingle with the local people who seem to be really glad to see us there.