ANALYSIS & OPINION

In perfect tune with supercomputing

31 May 2013



In keeping with the forward-thinking that has characterised the International Supercomputing Conference since it was founded 28 years ago, this year’s event, ISC’13, made two changes for the better – moving to a state-of-the-art conference center in Leipzig, and the introduction of the brand new industry track focusing on users in product development and manufacturing.

Supercomputers, long a resource reserved for government research facilities, universities and major manufacturers, are working their way into other industrial and academic uses. For example, the recently introduced IBM PureSystems can provide a terascale machine, offering state-of-the-art integration at a cost of less than €100,000. Thus, the HPC capabilities that significantly reduced the time-to-market in the automotive and aircraft industries are increasingly available to other segments in manufacturing and engineering.

ISC’13, to be held 16-20 June, will continue to explore high-performance computing frontiers from the research viewpoint. But parallel to the main conference, on Tuesday, 18 June, and Wednesday, 19 June, sessions and workshops in the industry track will focus on the technical and scientific use of supercomputers for commercial organisations. This track will cater to different user needs – from procurement and operation of supercomputers in SMEs, to IT administrators desiring to learn about building high-performance clusters, to advanced users mainly concerned about the operation and administration of supercomputers in industrial environments. In addition, all sessions are designed to promote and strengthen the dialogue between hardware and software vendors, and service providers.

At the last conference, one of the highlights was a ‘chat session’ hosted by Horst Simon, an internationally recognised HPC expert from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the US. This year, Simon’s chat will focus on ‘The Missing Middle – How Can HPC Help Industry?’ Four world-class speakers from Asia, Europe and the USA will discuss how HPC systems can drive innovation and help businesses stay competitive. For the full agenda, click here

Following ISC’s tradition of moving to different locations at regular intervals, the organisers chose Leipzig as it offered a bigger and truly modern conference centre – with more conference rooms and built-in AV systems, as well as lots of natural daylight filtering in during long conference hours. The Congress Centre Leipzig (CCL) is definitely a far more comfortable space for our 2,500 expected attendees. In 2012, the CCL was voted ‘Best Congress and Convention Centre’ by readers of British trade magazine Business Destinations and corporate travel centre directors of the world’s top 500 companies.

ISC conference track

HPC applications will continue to play a dominant role at ISC’13. Two sessions – Application of Supercomputing, and HPC Applications: State of the Art – will give an overview on the use and challenges of HPC in life sciences, fusion energy, superconductors, energy production and reactive flow in gas turbines.

The development of applications for the petaflop computers (1015 flop/s) poses extreme programming challenges due to the complexity of the architecture and sometimes it is only possible to develop algorithms with the help of highly trained software engineers. One would want to apply the knowledge gained from this experience for application development on future exaflop computers (1018 flop/s). Therefore, some of the presentations at ISC will specifically address the transfer of programming know-how to the exascale era.

Big Data will also play a major role at ISC as these types of applications represent a fusion of high-performance analytics and challenging data sets (in regard to size and/or velocity). There is a need to process very large amounts of data, even in traditional supercomputing; for example, in astronomical research and complex fluid mechanics. In these applications, large amounts of structured data are processed based on numerical calculations. But sources can also be a combination of structured data (CAD systems or databases, experimental data or other measurements) and partly unstructured data (video and sound). This means that new algorithms and applications are needed to extract specific knowledge from these varied sources.

To gain access to extreme amounts of data, I/O performance of HPC systems plays a crucial role. Some sessions at ISC will devote their attention to programming models as well as the future of data aggregation and analysis. Topics such as memory design, caches, external storage and the hybrid memory cube will be analysed.

Power consumption will also be a focus at ISC’13, since growing energy demands require entirely new approaches to system and data centre design. Well-known experts in this field will offer their perspectives on the topic in various sessions, including a Bird of a Feather session to discuss HPC’s energy challenges.

One of the highlights of the ISC'13 is the release of the latest Top500 list. Five years ago, Roadrunner was the first computer in the world with the power of one petaflop and in March 2013, it was sent off into retirement. Such rapid turnover is a hallmark of the Top500, now in its 20th year. The question for the June 2013 list is whether the US can retain its leading position against challengers in Japan and China?

ISC regulars know and appreciate the event. With roughly 2,500 participants from nearly every field – medicine, oil and gas, manufacturing, financial services, and academia and research – ISC’13 will once again offer a friendly and collegial conference and exhibition, with many opportunities for networking.

The ISC exhibition, which runs 17-19 June, will showcase around 160 vendors, government labs and universities that offer HPC systems, services, and research opportunities for all types of users. Although there will be a preponderance of European and US organisations at the event, exhibitors from every continent will be represented.

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Exhibition Opening:

Monday, 17 June: 12noon – 8.30pm
(Welcome party: 6.30pm – 8.30pm

Tuesday, 18 June: 10am – 6pm

Wednesday, 19 June: 10am – 6pm

Related internet links

ISC'13