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Why Containerization was Key to Fueling Innovation at ISC19

In this special guest feature, Ian Lumb from Sylabs describes containerization was Fueling Innovation at ISC 2019.

Ian Lumb from Sylabs

From a pre-event tutorial, to a post-event workshop, containerization bracketed the 2019 ISC High Performance conference and exhibition. A small, but enthusiastic, crew from Sylabs was on hand in Frankfurt, Germany to ‘fuel innovation’ via these technical sessions as well as the main event itself.

Pre-Event Tutorial

In a collaboration featuring Sylabs’ lead engineer Eduardo Arango, together with co-authors from two US national labs as well as the University of Oregon, the pre-event tutorial focused on introducing containerization to the HPC community. During this afternoon hands-on session, participants were provided with a balanced introduction that covered a number of container platforms, including Singularity. Based upon the level of interaction between the audience and the authors, this was a well-received session that was also well attended. Although containerization remains topical for this ISC audience, it is evident that uptake remains a work-in-progress that is still at a fairly early stage of adoption.

Post-Event Workshop

Whereas the pre-event tutorial was intended to serve as an introduction, the post-event workshop allowed for a deeper dive into the state-of-the-art when it comes to container science. The 5th Annual High Performance Container Workshop employed an innovative format that allowed all comers to weigh in on topics relevant to containerization — from runtimes, building, and distribution, to orchestration, infrastructure, and use cases including some HPC-specific content. Following each ‘topic block’ was an opportunity for the audience to engage with a panel that included speakers alongside workshops organizers and others. The format proved especially engaging, often with the panel sessions teasing out key challenges and opportunities for the community. The only surprise, perhaps, was the lack of a focused discussion on matters relating to security — even though the agenda did account for this important topic.

Sylabs’ lead engineer Michael Bauer contributed to many of the topic-driven sessions through presentations. Although he was also a panelist following these sessions, the discussion that provided the most engaging interaction followed the session on orchestration and scheduling. Stimulated by his introduction of , the ensuing panel session was dominated by a discussion of the same topic. The workshop organizers were kind enough to capture Michael’s presentation, the panel sessions, and indeed the rest of the workshop; the corresponding video captures and slides have been made available .

In this video from ISC 2019, Christian Kniep kicks off the High Performance Container Workshop.

The Main Event

In between the tutorial and workshop was the main event — the conference and exhibition that collectively comprises the heart of ISC. By all accounts, this was a very successful event, and much has been written about it elsewhere. From the Sylabs perspective, the highlight was staffing a demo pod in the AMD booth in the exhibition hall. From this vantage point, Sylabs was able to showcase a new integration that allows Singularity to fully leverage AMD Radeon Instinct™ accelerators and the ROCm open software platform. This generalization of GPU support in Singularity was received with considerable interest from those who stopped by the booth. Demonstrated as an exclusive preview at ISC19, support for AMD accelerators and ROCm will be included in a release of Singularity Community Edition later this calendar year.

Finally, and speaking of releases, the first release candidate for Singularity 3.3.0 was announced during ISC. Originally intended to be a release that emphasized ‘just’ enhanced quality and stability, Singularity 3.3.0 RC1 also includes:

  • Secure UID/GID mappings via user namespaces
  • A new “sif” command
  • Pushing to, and pulling from, Open Containers Initiative (OCI) registries via the “oras” reference

For additional details, please refer to our blog post here.

ISC19 provided ample opportunities to network. From formal discussions with prospective to existing customers and partners, to those informal conversations that happen almost anywhere, the entire event proved to be of tremendous value. As we follow up on those interactions at ISC19, we look forward to sharing our progress with you on a number of fronts.

Next Steps

Interest in containerization has never been stronger. Although there’s much to extract from ISC19, even if you weren’t able to attend the event, there are alternative approaches for accelerating your uptake of this secure, performant, and portable technology that also ensures reproducibility. As first steps, we suggest starting  with Singularity, and immediately . We can guarantee that, once you’ve internalized this enabling and exciting paradigm for designing, building, testing, running, and signing/verifying containers, your adoption of Singularity will be inevitable.

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