Jeff Squyres on Building Community at OpenHPC

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Jeff Squyres, Cisco

Jeff Squyres, Cisco

Over at the OpenHPC Blog, Dr. Jeff Squyres from Cisco and the MPI Forum standards body discusses the importance of community building and his involvement in OpenHPC.

As I understand it, the whole point of OpenHPC is to make it trivially easy to install and maintain HPC clusters. If OpenHPC can unite the industry and make a central point of distribution and updates for HPC operating systems, network stacks, resource managers, applications, …and all the other things you need for HPC, yet still allow (and encourage!) individual vendor value-add and community contributions, that would be a phenomenal achievement. Every member of the ecosystem would be able to both contribute and benefit. While Open MPI is a key component, it is but one layer of the overall stack that you run on an HPC resource. As a community, we are excited about enabling HPC for everyone. If OpenHPC can really make it so easy to install HPC systems that more people join the ecosystem – as users, system administrators, resource managers, or developers – we all win. At the commodity HPC level, it’s my sense that end users (and their entire support structure) just want to run their HPC jobs. They don’t want to spend a lot of time tuning and tweaking; they don’t necessarily care about the underlying technologies and gizmos. They just want to run their HPC jobs. Benchmarks and metrics are great, and can be useful tools for discussing requirements and bottlenecks. But, to be incredibly redundant: users just want to run their HPC jobs. Anything that we, as an HPC community, can do to get the HPC technology out of the way and let users run their jobs is a Good Thing. If OpenHPC can do that – take the focus away from the underlying technologies, and let the end users focus on the problems that they’re trying to solve with their HPC applications – that would be fantastic.

According to Squyres, a successful community project needs to exhibit multiple characteristics:

  1. Actually be open. Don’t just throw code over the wall every once in a while.
  2. Encourage the community – not just vendors – to participate and innovate. Even those who are not paid a salary to develop HPC stacks can have great ideas.
  3. Encourage vendors to participate and innovate. There must be possibilities for vendor value-add and differentiation.
  4. Don’t let any one organization – vendor or otherwise – drive the community. Working together as a community is hard. Sometimes it’s really hard. But I am a huge believer that community-driven projects, when properly nurtured and encouraged, can result in significantly better results than are possible by any individual organization.

Open MPI has thrived because we have adhered to those principles. It’s not about Cisco, it’s not about Mellanox, it’s not about Intel, it’s not about individual Universities or even the government research labs. Open MPI is about the collective group of us coming together and deciding as a community: where should this software go? Keeping this focus is actually really, really important to the health, stability, and longevity of the project. And I assume that the same will be true for OpenHPC.”

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