A meeting of minds at ISC'11

At both the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC), held in Hamburg, Germany, this June and at its US counterpart meeeting held in November, much of the focus is on the speed of numerical calcuations -- reflected in the intense excitement surrounding the publication of the Top500 lists every six months. These lists benchmark supercomputing performance against the speed with which Linpack computations are accomplished.

However, the focus on speed tends to eclipse another development in high-performance computing (HPC) and in the scientific and commercial applications that use all this computational power -- data processing. In addition to numerical computation, there is a growing need to store and to manage huge datasets quickly and efficiently. So it was good to see, as a talking point, that the development of memory technologies featured quite heavily at this year's International Supercomputing Conference (ISC), in Hamburg. 

The initiative taken by DataDirects Networks (DDN), the world's largest privately-held storage provider, in establishing a user-group meeting at the ISC serves as further evidence that the HPC community is beginning to pay closer attention to the issues surrounding storage. For example, one critical topic that has received far less attention in the past, is the issue of recovery from disk failure.

Hosting the four-hour meeting in conjunction with ISC'11, on 20 June, DDN gathered a range of speakers from its partner companies and its customers who shared their own experiences of data management and offered widely appreciated advice on issues such as how best to maintain data integrity.

A further sign of the seriousness with which the community is now taking the issue of data storage was the fact that advocates and users of disparate software solutions had come together in a common forum, both as speakers and attendees, freelly to exchange views as to the merits of the various options and to attempt to find common solutions.

Dr Luigi Brochard, distinguished engineer, deep computing solution architect at IBM, spoke on the topic of GPFS – the next generation; while Whamcloud CTO Eric Barton presented 'Lustre Shines On!'. Further speakers included Jos van Wezel, storage group leader at KIT; Jacques-Charles Lafoucriere, chef de service, CEA; Tommy Minyard, director of advanced computing systems at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC); and senior vice president of HPC worldwide sales at DDN, John Josephakis.

The first video of the user group meeting is now live at


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