This is one of the most important conferences in our field.
Computer scientist Martin Schulz
Supercomputing Conference (SC16)

Looking Ahead to SC16

Monday, October 31, 2016

The international supercomputing community prepares to gather for the annual Supercomputing Conference (SC16). Now in its twenty-eighth year, the conference will begin on November 13 in Salt Lake City, Utah. More than 100 attendees from Livermore’s Computation Directorate will join industry leaders, application developers, program managers, journalists, and congressional staffers for the 6-day conference centered on high performance computing (HPC).

SC16’s theme is HPC Matters, emphasizing the increasingly important role HPC plays in business, government, transportation, medicine, the environment, and many other aspects of life. With an itinerary that includes invited talks, tutorials, workshops, poster and paper presentations, panel sessions, exhibits, and awards, SC16 is a must-attend event for many Laboratory staff. Livermore computer scientist Martin Schulz will be especially busy as a contributor and co-author of 12 sessions, including 4 technical papers, 3 tutorials, and 2 workshops. “Having a strong presence in the technical program is important for us as well as our students and collaborators,” he explains. “It also demonstrates the Laboratory’s leadership role in this field.”

Among Lawrence Livermore’s contingent is HPC facilities operations manager Anna Maria Bailey, who has attended the conference since 2008. As co-leader of the Energy Efficient HPC Working Group (EEHPCWG), Bailey explains that energy efficiency research is becoming more visible within the HPC community and at events like SC16. She will moderate a panel on power distribution systems, participate in a Birds of a Feather interactive session, and facilitate an all-day workshop. In addition, EEHPCWG members will advocate for energy conservation–based best practices at an exhibition booth and during lunchtime discussion groups. “I hope to broaden our membership every year. We have grown now to nearly 700 members from 20 different countries,” notes Bailey.

Another Laboratory attendee is Jarom Nelson, who with his Livermore colleagues created an application that improves performance of the National Ignition Facility’s Virtual Beamline (VBL) code. Demand for this type of scaling application has increased thanks to the complexity of massively parallel laser physics codes like VBL. The team’s research poster titled Scaling a High Energy Laser Physics Application (VBL) Using MPI and the RAJA Portability Layer will be showcased during a poster session. According to Nelson, this success with VBL and RAJA can lead to advances in portable performance. In the long term, he says, “We’d like to achieve a successful port of the physics algorithms we have in a single-node application and scale it to current and next-generation supercomputers.”

Notably, a Livermore team has made the finals for the ACM Gordon Bell Prize, which recognizes outstanding achievement and innovation in HPC applications. Jean-Luc Fattebert, Daniel Osei-Kuffuor, Erik Draeger, and Liam Krauss from Computation and Tadashi Ogitsu from Physical and Life Sciences brought a range of expertise to the project. Their work on first-principles molecular dynamics (FPMD) produced a new algorithm that enables simulations of over a million atoms—significantly more than traditional FPMD methods and an accomplishment for the Laboratory’s Sequoia supercomputer. “The specific algorithms we describe in our paper were ideas that came to maturity about five years ago,” Fattebert notes. “We had to work very hard to scale the code to use all the nodes of Sequoia and reach this performance level.” The project titled Modeling Dilute Solutions Using First-Principles Molecular Dynamics: Computing More than a Million Atoms with Over a Million Cores is competing with five other finalists for the prize, which will be awarded on November 17.

Each day of SC16 is full of events and activities. For Schulz, the occasion provides opportunities to network and learn about new research. Remarks Bailey, “I look forward to gaining new insight into different energy efficient HPC solutions as well as comparing lessons learned from the prior year.” Second-time attendee Nelson is eager to learn about new supercomputing applications and systems and other participants’ success stories. “It is fascinating to see all the advances across the industry,” he says, adding that poster sessions and vendor exhibits are particularly interesting.

See the SC16 list of LLNL participants and the SC16 Event Calendar for a day-by-day schedule of LLNL’s 36 sessions, Job Fair presence, and interactive posters at the Department of Energy’s exhibition booth. During the conference, follow Computation on Twitter and other social media with hashtags #SC16 and #hpcmatters.