SuperComputing (SC11) Conference for College Educators

SuperComputing (SC) conference is the leading international conference on High Performance Computing (HPC), Networking, Storage and Analysis. This year the 24th annual SC conference (SC11) was held in Seattle, WA, in November, 2011. More than 5000 participants were gathered in one place to learn, discuss, and show off cutting-edge technologies in HPC and related areas.

Although the conference is huge in all respects, the beauty of the SC conference is in its specialized sub-community conferences. One of the sub-community conferences called Education Program is very well organized to suit to college educators who teach HPC and Scientific Computing. The main focus of the Education Program is to learn and share better ways of teaching HPC and Scientific Computing (or Computational Sciences) tools to undergraduate faculty and students.

Jeho Park (Scientific Computing Specialist) at CIS attended the SC11 conference, and learned many good practices on HPC education and made relevant connections on behalf of our HMC community. A few of the takeaways worth mentioning are Bootable Cluster CD (BCCD), LittleFe Project, and FutureGrid Project.

BCCD is a turn key solution to build a Beowulf style cluster on the fly. The BCCD boot image comes with a complete parallel computing environment such as network setup, libraries, compilers, benchmarks and applications needed to teach HPC to undergraduate faculty and students. So to teach distributed and parallel computing, you just need BCCD and a couple of networked workstations or a computer with a multicore processor(s). BCCD even runs in virtual machine (VM) environments. This mean that you may boot multiple BCCD VMs on different cores and emulate the cluster environment right in front of your audience. CIS will be testing BCCD on our High Performance Workstations during the winter break. For more information, please visit http://bccd.net/.

LittleFe Build OutLittleFe is an interesting project funded in part by Intel (until this year) to build a portable (< 50 lb) six-node cluster with a relatively small amount of money (< $3,000). The LittleFe portable cluster is a simple and easy way to build a hardware and software resource for teaching  parallel processing speedup, efficiency, and load balancing. CIS will keep an eye on their call for applications for 2012 LittleFe grants. If you are interested in being involved in this project at HMC, please contact Jeho at CIS.

If you are looking for a more serious type of HPC resource, take a good look at the FutureGrid Project. The FutureGrid Project focuses on offering new and dedicated test-bed environments for research challenges on grid-enabled and cloud-enabled computational schemes in sciences and engineering. The FutureGrid also actively supports education and broader outreach activities:

“…. The project will advance education and training in distributed computing at academic institutions with less diverse computational resources. It will do this through the development of instructional resources that include preconfigured environments that provide students with sandboxed virtual clusters….”

So it sounds like the FutureGrid is waiting for your innovative ideas to exploit their new experimental testbed for your research and teaching on HPC, scientific computing, parallel computing, distributed computing and cloud computing. Harvey Mudd College is especially good fit for FutureGrid in terms of its scope. So we encourage faculty members to look at the FutureGrid website and feel free to contact CIS for any assistance to apply for FutureGrid instances.

The next SC12 conference will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah on November 10, 2012.

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