Systems and Networking

A Week of HPC at SC15

Torsten Hoefler

The SC conference is the "main event" of the year for many in the advanced computing community. This year, nearly 13,000 researchers, vendors, funders, and leaders from all over the world attended to exchange ideas, see new technologies, and get a glimpse of the future of HPC.

I started this year's SC with the new Workshop on Heterogeneous High-performance Reconfigurable Computing (H2RC), focused on evaluating the suitability of FPGAs for high-performance computing. They seem to have the potential to have a similar impact that GPUs had by enabling energy savings of up to 10x. The workshop began with a keynote by Jason Cong, who developed much of the high-level synthesis which now forms the basis for the OpenCL-based programming models for FPGAs. Doug Burger then continued to discuss the economics and future of FPGAs in high-performance computing and datacenters. The future certainly seems to look bright! I'm enthusiastic about getting my hands on the latest high-level synthesis tools.

Then I helped teach two tutorials on performance modeling and MPI programming as part of the SC15 technical program. The tutorial program at SC is one of the largest educational gatherings in high performance computing, and each year over 1,000 participants work with internationally recognized instructors to grow their skills. This hands-on experience is where I learned many concepts while I was a student, and now it is an honor to teach in that very same program. 

A major topic at SC15 was computational reproducibility. I spoke at the Performance Reproducibility in HPC BoF on Monday, and it was a pleasure to see the room filling up so quickly. There were only standing spots left even five minutes before the start time. The high attendance this year made the program feel even more vibrant than usual. It was sometimes hard to get into even the larger, 300-seat rooms. The "Post Moore's Law Computing: Digital versus Neuromorphic versus Quantum" panel was so popular, the fire marshal stopped by to make sure everything was in order!

SIGHPC also kept me busy during the conference with an excellent members meeting, as well as time spent reaching out to new members at the SIGHPC booth. ACM's SIGHPC is the co-sponsor of SC15, and as an elected member-at-large I have been honored to be part of the growth of this organization. I then followed several vendor NDA sessions with important updates on next-generation technologies. It is amazing how several vendors are renting whole hotels around the conference. It seems SC consumes the whole city of Austin, TX.

This year, the conference broke nearly all of its historical attendance records, due in no small part to the quality of the technical program, which attracts 5,000 attendees alone each year. The high-quality program attracts many attendees to the talks; my own talk had a packed double-room. A key goal for presenting at a conference is wide dissemination of your results, and SC offers a unique opportunity to reach a very large body of researchers at one time.

Torsten Hoefler is an assistant professor for computer science at ETH Zürich, where he leads the Scalable Parallel Computing Laboratory (SPCL).


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