Professional Development at SC13: A Q&A with the Tutorials Chair

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SC13LogoThe annual SC conference is the premier international event for the HPC community. With more than 10,000 attendees from around the world covering every area of research, development, and industry in the HPC community, SC is a unique event. And as the US government continues to place onerous travel restrictions on federal and contract employees alike, many in our community are choosing SC as the one event that they are prepared to push hard to attend.

For many, attending SC13 is a key part of their annual professional development. In addition to the research and emerging technologies demonstrated on the exhibition floor, the papers, and the workshops, SC offers a unique and rich selection of full- and half-day tutorials. These courses are taught by the HPC community’s experts in today’s technologies, and by the pioneers creating the technologies of tomorrow.

To learn more about the course offerings this year, we spent a few moments talking to SC13 Tutorials Chair Bronis de Supinski of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

insideHPC: Can you give us the basics about tutorials at SC?

Bronis R de Supinski

Bronis R de Supinski

Bronis de Supinski: The tutorials program this year, as always, features a variety of fundamental and emerging topics related to high performance computing, networking, storage and analysis. All tutorials submissions undergo a rigorous peer-review process: the SC13 Tutorial committee this year accepted 30 tutorials from 70 submissions.

insideHPC: What can attendees expect from the tutorial experience? Is it all slides and coffee breaks?

de Supinski: SC’s tutorials are very interactive. More than half of SC13’s tutorials include hands-on sessions (usually in full-day lessons) where attendees work directly with the tutorial presenters to learn and to explore the given topic in detail. Almost all other tutorials (often taking only a half-day) include detailed demonstrations that still provide in-depth exposure to the topic. Also, we encourage presenters to be flexible and to allow the audience questions and interests shape the content on which they focus. So it’s definitely not “death by PowerPoint!”

insideHPC: What kinds of topics are you featuring this year?

de Supinski: This year, in addition to popular recurring tutorial topics (such as MPI and OpenMP programming), twelve new tutorials on hot topics and emerging technologies will be offered. These additions cover topics such as statistical data analysis, new many-core architectures, large-scale data management and even HPC system procurement.

insideHPC: Procurement? Tell us about that one, as it sounds odd for a technical conference.

de Supinski: Well, remember that the SC conference serves the entire high performance and supercomputing community. We emphasize all aspects of our profession from the state of the practice in center management to bleeding edge computational research. System acquisition is certainly a key part of effectively managing an HPC center, and so belongs as part of SC. More importantly, system acquisition – done right – is a highly technical activity. From specifying an architecture that will meet the needs of a particular user community to assessing the performance of proposed systems accurately, a well-informed purchase requires a lot of fairly specialized knowledge. This particular tutorial also covers an aspect of procurement that can be a real stumbling block for those just getting started with procurements or who are trying to bring HPC to their institution: how to demonstrate to stakeholders the solution that you select represents a good value for their money.

SC’s focus on quality and expertise in all of its education offerings is evident in this tutorial as well – the presenters have been involved in major national and international HPC procurements since 1990 both as bidders and as customers.

insideHPC: Are there any other tutorials that you find particularly novel or interesting this year?

de Supinski: For another new topic, I expect that the Xeon Phi tutorial being offered by staff from TACC, where Stampede is located, will have a large number of attendees. I also think some long-standing topics, MPI and OpenMP, are likely to generate a lot of interest in light of the recent releases of MPI 3.0 and OpenMP 4.0. Of course, I am biased about the latter as I am the chair of the OpenMP Language Committee and one of the presenters of the “Advanced OpenMP” tutorial.

insideHPC: Registrations for SC and tutorials are already underway; where can readers go to find out more?

de Supinski: Tutorials will be presented on Sunday, November 17 and Monday, November 18 at the start of SC week. For more information on what tutorials we are offering this year, check out the Tutorials page. And those planning to attend can register at the conference site.