Passion for HPC

This last week was the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC), one of the times during the year where we all get together and do our community show-and-tell for all things HPC. It’s a time to reconnect and to celebrate the advances made by the community (the Top500, for example).

I was on booth duty. :-)

Now why would I be happy about being “stuck” in a booth all day long? In the booth, I get to interact with many people involved in different parts of supercomputing, from the students experiencing the community for the first time to the corporate executives out for a brief view of the show floor. Every one of them brings something important to our community.

My Other Computer Is A Supercomputer

The t-shirt we gave away at ISC’13

Let me share a story that more or less exactly fails to illustrate my point.

We were giving away a great swag t-shirt. The front read, “My other computer is a supercomputer.” It was much celebrated at the show because, let’s be honest, we’re all really just a bunch of nerds.

At one point, a young man came up to the booth, saw the t-shirt, and stood staring at it. Approaching him, I asked if he’d like one, a question that was usually answered with a strong affirmative.

“I don’t get it.”

“What?” <slight head cock to one side>

“I don’t get the t-shirt.”

Explanations followed. He replied his friends also wouldn’t understand the joke. More awkward discussion. “I don’t like programming languages.” Stunned silence. More awkwardness.

Really… it was awkward.

After this experience, I asked myself why it had been so awkward, and spent some time thinking about it.

It wasn’t that he didn’t fit in; it was more of the fact that he didn’t seem to have any passion for HPC.

The more I thought about it, the more his lack of true passion seemed to stand out. At ISC everyone was passionate about one or more facets of HPC and supercomputing, whether it was hardware, software, networking, cooling, curing cancer or finding the solution to global warming. For some it was all about providing the tools. For others it was solving the actual problems. All had an underlying love of the technology and what it allows the community to do.

Lacking passion, he awkwardly stood out from the crowd.

Whether one is trying to solve the universal problems facing all of us or simply trying to vet the newest consumer product design, HPC is becoming a greater part of the picture. More and more, supercomputing power is becoming commoditized for the masses, lowering the barriers to entry to allow more people access to its benefits.

We are all part of the community bringing these changes to the world. It’s a large community, and each of us plays a different—yet important—role within the ecosystem. The important thing is we are passionate about the part we play, because all parts are needed.

Working in the booth, I saw passion and an apparent lack of passion at ISC. How would you describe your passion for HPC?

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