Interview: General Chair Jeff Hollingsworth Looks Forward to SC12

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The SC12 conference is only six weeks away and all indications are that it will be a record-breaking show. To learn more, I caught up with the conference General Chair, Jeffrey K. Hollingsworth.

insideHPC: What’s going to be new and exciting this year at SC12?

Jeff Hollingsworth: The papers program looks really exciting.  We had a record number of paper submissions and have selected a great set of papers.  We are building on the success of last year’s State of the Practice sessions by fully integrating them into this year’s technical program.  State of the Practice recognizes the importance of innovation in building and operating high end computing resources and provides a peer-reviewed forum for exchanging best practices in the field.

Being such a large event, SC can sometimes be overwhelming for first-time attendees.  We worked hard to simplify the number of named tracks in the program that should really help all attendees. For example, we merged plenary speaker and Masterworks into a single category called Invited Speakers.

One of the conference’s strengths has been fostering the next generation of HPC professionals via our Communities program. There are some changes in Communities programs that should help to continue that tradition.  The HPC Educators program provides peer-reviewed presentations about how to teach HPC and parallel computing.  In addition to specifically selected educators who will attend this program, it will be open to all technical program attendees during the conference.  We also started a new program called “Experiencing HPC for Undergraduates” that brings talented sophomores and juniors to SC12.  The program is designed to introduce students to the world of high-end computing and encourage them to either attend graduate school in the field or to join HPC related companies after completing their bachelors’ degrees.

We are continuing to improve the overall SC attendee experience by introducing digital signs that provide clear information about each session, including any last-minute changes. We have also arranged to have SCinet’s wireless network support Eduroam this year, which enables participating organizations to automatically authenticate and encrypt their WIFI connections.

insideHPC: How are preparations coming along in Salt Lake City for the big challenges such as SCinet, etc?

Jeff Hollingsworth: I was in Salt Lake City the first week of October going over the final plans for SC12 with the committee, contractors, and the convention center. It’s always a bit more work the first year we visit a new town, but the folks in Salt Lake City are genuinely excited about SC12.

insideHPC: Some of the DOE organizations had to cancel their exhibit plans due to travel restrictions. Do you think this will put a damper on the proceedings in Salt Lake?

Jeff Hollingsworth: We will all miss seeing the latest research demos in DOE booths.  Collaboration has always been at the heart of SC and I think we will still be seeing their work on the show floor in partner vendor and academic booths. Also DOE work will continue to be well represented in the technical papers and poster sessions, BOFs, and tutorials. We just got word that DOE has tentatively approved nearly 400 people to attend.  Last year’s DOE participation was estimated at around 550, so the DOE should still have a strong showing.

insideHPC: How is the exhibit floor shaping up? Will there still be a record number of booths this year?

Jeff Hollingsworth: We will have a record number of industry exhibitors and a record amount of industry booth space. In fact, Extreme Networks and Intel both purchased additional booth space when DOE labs canceled their exhibit space. I don’t want to spoil their surprise, but I can say both companies are planning some really exciting and unique activities with the additional space.

The research booth space probably won’t break a record, but will still be one of the largest in SC conference history. We are also planning a few special booths to highlight the history of computing in the state of Utah and to showcase the 20 years of the TOP500 list. The show floor will continue to be an exciting and collaborative experience for all.

insideHPC: What do you think about having Dr. Michio Kaku as the keynote?

I am eager to see Dr. Kaku’s keynote address. He is both a well-regarded physicist and someone who can communicate science to a general audience. More and more it is important for scientists to explain our work to the broader community. Dr. Kaku is a model example of how scientists can engage the world at large about both the excitement and importance of science and its impact on our world.

insideHPC: What do you know now about being General Chair that you wish you knew coming in?

Jeff Hollingsworth: I wish I really knew how much work it would be. But seriously, I have continued to be surprised by the passion and dedication of the HPC community. I was amazed when word of US federal travel restrictions were announced at the number of people who told me that if their employer was not going to pay their travel to SC12, they would take vacation time and pay their own way to be here.  That dedication to the conference has really impressed me and demonstrated how highly people regard SC. I am a bit humbled and very honored to chair a conference that is so central to people’s professional lives.