Lawrence Livermore heads to the 32nd annual Supercomputing Conference (SC20) held virtually throughout November 9–19. Be sure to follow LLNL Computing (@Livermore_Comp) on Twitter with these hashtags: #LLNLatSC, #SC20, #MoreThanHPC. The Department of Energy (@NatLabsHPC) will also tweet during the event. Much of the content is pre-recorded and will remain available online for six months. Tutorials will be live-streamed. View our full event calendar.

Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, this year’s 32nd annual Supercomputing Conference (SC20), which begins on Monday, November 9th, will be fully virtual and extend to nine days to maximize attendance and accommodate attendees’ schedules. SC20’s theme, More Than HPC, aims to underscore the increasing impact of high performance computing (HPC) in our daily lives and how scientific advances are the result of teamwork between HPC providers and researchers.

Presentations, Papers, Tutorials, and Workshops

At SC20, LLNL computer scientists will lead dozens of tutorials and workshops, present more than a dozen posters and papers, and contribute to a number of panels, state-of-practice and “birds of a feather” discussions, and sessions on topics including memory centric HPC, user support tools, software correctness, machine learning, and programming and performance visualization tools.

Kevin Griffin, VisIt software developer, scientific visualization researcher and HPCIC innovation executive in the Applications, Simulations & Quality Division of Computing, will present "Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics Modeling of a Jet Penetration Experiment," a best visualization award finalist in SC20’s Scientific Visualization Showcase. For the paper, the team developed an exploratory visualization demonstrating how smoothed particle hydrodynamics (SPH) model jet breakup and fragmentation. Griffin’s presentation will elaborate on the methods and process used to develop the animated visualization, which will play throughout the conference. “SC20 is a great chance to present your work and have it peer-reviewed,” says Griffin. “I’m also hoping to gain insights into the latest research on fine and coarse-grained parallelism and using multi-core CPUs and GPUs. It’s so motivating and inspiring to see other people’s work.” Griffin co-wrote the paper with Computing’s Eric Brugger and Cyrus Harrison and Karen Wang from LLNL’s Weapons and Complex Integration Directorate.

Brugger, project leader and one of the original developers for VisIt, attended his first SC in 1992 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the beginning of his career. “I’ve attended about ten times since then,” says Brugger, who contributed to the SPH animated visualization. “I used to focus on networking, and that’s still a big part of the conference, but now I look forward to the workshops. They are like mini-conferences in a scientific domain, so you learn a lot from experts within a particular area. I always learn something new. This year I’m looking forward to the workshop on in-situ infrastructures for enabling extreme-scale analysis and visualization.”

SC’s First Virtual Student Cluster Competition

Rigo Moreno Delgado, HPC systems engineer and a member of the SC planning committee and the Student Cluster Competition, has played a behind-the-scenes role planning and preparing for the fully virtual competition. “Because the conference is virtual, teams will be creating HPC clusters on Microsoft Azure Cloud infrastructure. Teams will run benchmarks along with specific HPC applications, and leads will grade how the teams perform. With the preparations that have gone into taking the cluster competition virtual, I’m confident it will be a success. It will be different, but it’s still going to be a great experience for the students,” says Moreno Delgado. Traditionally, the Student Cluster Competition involves teams of six undergrads and an advisor who construct a small supercomputer on site that they manage for 48 hours, while running as many applications as possible and staying below a specified power limit.

Stephanie Brink, CASC computer scientist, is also on the Student Cluster Competition committee. In fact, Brink competed in the Student Cluster Competition the first time she attended SC. “My undergrad program’s HPC course offerings were pretty limited. Participating in the student cluster competition and getting that immersive experience helped me decided to pursue a career in HPC. Students competing in the SC cluster competition get a real taste of what working in HPC is like… maintaining a supercomputer, sleeping when they can, and working as a team to solve the problems that come their way,” says Brink.

In addition to the Student Cluster Competition, Brink is on the program committee for the Performance Modeling, Benchmarking, and Simulation of HPC Systems (PMBS) workshop, and will present a paper at the Pro-Tools workshop on Hatchet, an open-source parallel performance analysis tool developed at the Lab that pinpoints bottlenecks in applications. “My background is in power management, and with Hatchet, I’m still learning a lot about the parallel performance space. At SC, I’ll get to check out other tools, see how they work and what they do, and maybe figure out how we can continue to improve Hatchet. SC is unmatched in terms of technical breadth. Going to SC also keeps me in-the-know about the latest HPC developments, so I can take what I learn each year and integrate it into my research,” says Brink.

Virtual Trade-Offs

On the upside, a fully virtual conference means an extended nine-day program schedule, instead of the usual four, so attendees will have more time and flexibility to explore additional conference offerings. “The conference will be more accessible and inclusive because it’s virtual. People who couldn’t travel in the past will be able to participate virtually, so attendance will be up, and presenters’ work will get more visibility,” says Griffin. Also on the plus side, “The virtual nature of the conference will make it possible to see much more because most of the workshops and technical programs will be available on demand for six months after the conference actually ends,” says Brugger.

On the other hand, the “more organic” in-person networking events that allow everyone to catch up will be missed. “It’s funny because SC gives you a chance to reconnect with colleagues that work down the hall but haven’t had a chance to talk with in a year,” says Brink. Moreno Delgado adds, “Networking is a huge part of the reason I attend conferences in general, and at SC20 it’s going to be a little harder since it’s virtual. But this is still the best opportunity to connect with other HPC professionals from around the world.”

– Genevieve Sexton