OpenFabrics Alliance Workshop 2018 – An Emphasis on Fabric Community Collaboration

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In this special guest feature, Parks Fields and Paul Grun from the OpenFabrics Alliance write that the upcoming OFA Workshop in Boulder is an excellent opportunity to collaborate on the next generation of network fabrics.

History is littered with giant thinkers who have singlehandedly pushed technology forward. But in the real world, the great leaps occur most often when people collaborate. And that’s the theme for this year’s OpenFabrics Alliance (OFA) Workshop – “Collaboration.”

The annual OFA Workshop, held this year in Boulder, Colorado, April 9-13, is recognized as the ”go to” event focused exclusively on fabrics and particularly on software for fabrics. This is an engaging gathering designed for people who want to understand and be a part of shaping the latest in fabric technology.

Computer systems consist of many moving parts, but there’s little question that a capable fabric is at the heart of virtually all systems ranging from enterprise and commercial systems, to cloud infrastructures, to systems focused on research and development, to the very largest High Performance Computing systems. The dependency on the fabric only increases as systems scale up in size and capability.

The OFA, with its focus on software for networking, is dedicated to accelerating and supporting the pace of development in fabric technologies. It does this by creating opportunities for collaboration among the developers of such technology and those who rely on fabrics.

This is where the annual OFA Workshop comes in. By bringing together a broad spectrum of participants, the Workshop aims to create a community of individuals from diverse backgrounds to accelerate the development and adoption of fabric technologies through collaboration and problem solving. This community includes people ranging from developers of applications that rely on fabric performance, to network vendors, to those who integrate such systems and the folks who deploy and maintain them. But all of them have a common intersection at the system fabric.

Each year, the OFA strives to develop a Workshop curriculum of topics that are ‘top of mind’ in the area of fabrics. This year, the Workshop is focused on fabrics and allied technology topics including:

  • The commoditization of RDMA techniques in modern networks
  • Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning
  • Data analytics
  • Cloud deployments over RDMA fabrics
  • The competitive landscape in fabric technologies
  • Topics in system administration as it relates to fabrics and fabric management
  • Integrating accelerators, FPGAs and GPUs into modern systems
  • Topics related to the kernel and its role in networking
  • Fabrics for the emerging field of Persistent Memory over Fabrics

The Workshop has long been acknowledged for the high quality technical sessions presented and this year is no exception. But this year, the OFA is putting a special emphasis on collaboration among Workshop participants by offering an expanded portfolio of opportunities beyond the technical talks. These new opportunities are designed to enable the type of collaborative exchanges that cut to the core of critical networking issues and begin the process of developing innovative solutions:

  • Panel Discussions to stimulate thought by offering alternative views
  • Town Halls for topics that require engaging the entire community
  • Meet the Experts sessions give participants the opportunity to engage with thought leaders
  • Lightning Talks are a fast-moving way of introducing new and novel ideas
  • Birds of a Feather (BoF) sessions

The OFA this year is particularly interested in seeking out BoF sessions, since those are often the most fertile breeding grounds for the formation of new activities that move us forward. In addition, we are also planning an “OpenFabrics Think Tank” designed to identify ”Grand Challenge” problems and brainstorm on ways to address them. These are ground floor opportunities.

As is true of the Alliance itself, the Workshop thrives because the community of “Fabriticians” demands it. Come join the community in Boulder this year to lend your voice to shaping the direction of fabric technology in big ways or small, or perhaps just to listen and learn about the latest trends coming down the pike, or to pick up tips and tricks to make you more effective in your daily job.

The 2018 Call for Sessions describes one of the many ways to engage others at the Workshop. The call is open until February 16th year; the process of submitting a proposal for a talk, or a panel, or especially a BoF, is purposely kept as lightweight as possible. All you need is a brief bio and a two hundred word description of your topic. Lightning Talks, as the name suggests, don’t require any advance preparation, just sign up onsite for a five minute slot.

The deadline for submitting a proposal for a technical session, a panel, a BoF, or a Town Hall is February 16th. Early Bird registration for the Workshop is open through March 19th.

We invite you to submit a proposal, or just register to attend the Workshop. But above all, be prepared to engage with your peers and to add your voice and ideas.

See you in Boulder!

Technical Program Committee Co-Chairs: Paul Grun (Cray Inc.) and Parks Fields Los Alamos National Lab