People - Written by on April 5, 2011

Spring Training Workshop Arms Users with Supercomputing Skills

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Four-day program teaches, examines HPC at OLCF

Attendees of the March 9 XT5 training event held at the OLCF.

ORNL houses two of the fastest supercomputers in the world. The Cray XT5 systems known as Jaguar and Kraken compute at 2.33 and 1.17 petaflops, respectively.

This sounds intimidating to a novice computer user, but the OLCF, partnering with the National Institute for Computational Sciences, helped users tame these machines as part of the 2011 Spring Training event, held March 7-11. HPC specialist Bobby Whitten said the event was, “well-received, and participation was greater than we expected,” with an average of 45 attendees per day.

The four-day workshop had courses for novices and supercomputing veterans alike. Sessions during the early part of the week focused on basic supercomputing skills as part of the High-Performance Computing Crash Course. Monday was devoted to using Linux, and Tuesday focused on the message-passing interface, or MPI, two essential skills for using large parallel processing systems. The OLCF’s Rebecca Hartman-Baker and Arnold Tharrington taught the sessions.

Wednesday and Thursday focused on the Cray XT5 machine particularly, starting with an intermediate course then moving to advanced subjects on Thursday. The last day of the event, Friday, culminated with the annual OLCF Users’ Meeting. The OLCF group leaders and the User Council spoke about ORNL supercomputing over the past year, and ORNL scientific liaisons spoke and fielded questions from users.

Whitten said that the ratio of new users to veterans was pretty even with about eight dozen novices attending throughout the week.

Not all attendees were physically present, though. Users unable to attend in person were able to use WebEx, an online conferencing tool, so they could still take part in seminars. Whitten said that virtual users outnumbered those present some days, and WebEx users averaged 25 per day.

With attendee survey responses such as, “today was fantastic,” and, “found everyone friendly, accessible, and not too put off by my occasional naïve questions,” the OLCF plans to hold these workshops more often. Whitten added that another workshop is being planned for some time in the fall.

by Eric Gedenk