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Event Report: ISC 2015

ISC 2015 - Intel stand

Intel continues to be a dominant force in High Performance Computing and was showing off their latest Knights Landing co-processor and Omni-Path Interconnect technologies.

After (finally) catching up from a few busy days over at the ISC supercomputing conference in Frankfurt I thought it would be worthwhile sharing an update on the conference from a system integrators point of view.

Even though the venue was different to last year (this year it was in the Frankfurt Messe) the format remained the same as in previous years with a large exhibition accompanied by a number of talks and workshops. Myself and Martin Ellis (Senior Pre-Sales Engineer at OCF) spent a lot of time in vendor meetings, customer meetings, as well as enjoying a drop of Weissbeir with both groups in the evenings. Confidential updates with vendors available at the show allow us to keep on top of incoming technologies and offer an opportunity for us to feed back our experiences face to face with the product managers, architects and developers of these technologies under one roof to ensure they will meet our customers’ requirements when released.

It’s not all focused on the exhibition however, with so many vendors in attendance the most difficult decision at events like these is often which social engagement to go to with networking continuing beyond the exhibition hall. One particularly enjoyable evening included a nice BBQ by the river hosted by Lenovo, which gave us a good opportunity to talk to our customers and get their opinion on the event, their pain-points and the future of HPC.

Back to the exhibition centre and all of the biggest names in HPC had stands; with the only notable exception I noticed being NVIDIA, but with a NVIDIA GPU being showcased on almost every major vendor stand you can understand their absence. The densities vendors are squeezing out of GPU’s in servers is impressive, with a number of 4GPU in 1U and 8GPU in 2U machines from the likes of Dell, Supermicro, Gigabyte etc. Although despite how impressive these platforms are from an engineering point of view we aren’t seeing much call for them in our customer base yet (and where customers are interested they can’t cool them).

Intel continues to be a dominant force in High Performance Computing and was showing off their latest Knights Landing co-processor and Omni-Path Interconnect technologies on their stand. Mellanox were also at the event in force – it will be interesting to see which of these two HPC interconnect vendors offers the best balance of application performance, storage performance, cost and manageability our customers are asking for.

On a processor front despite Intel’s dominance a number of new-for-HPC technologies are maturing such to such a degree that some of our customers are beginning to wonder what role ARM and OPENPOWER could play within their environments. The piece of the puzzle I see missing is ‘enablement’, it’s all well and good offering the hardware but who is going to help port codes and test these technologies? I see this as being a potential opportunity for integrators like OCF – if you are interested in these new technologies but don’t know where to start please let me know.

From a storage perspective, the usual suspects were there. DDN were showing their Infinite Memory Engine ‘Buffer Cache’ technology and Seagate recently announced support for SpectrumScale (which many of you may know as GPFS). A lot of server vendors were offering ‘hyper-scale’ storage solutions – low cost, high density storage servers (many of which using small ARM-based motherboards) designed to work with CEPH or other ‘scale out’ file systems. Again interesting technology but nothing we’ve see our customers immediately asking for but we’ll be keeping a close eye on this.

On a software front, like hardware, we saw a lot of evolutionary products with Bright Computing, Univa, Adaptive Computing and NICE all showing new features in their products and using different methods to attract you to their stands. I wonder who won the signed Force India F1 Driving gloves on the Univa Stand?!

Overall the show was really interesting and very enjoyable. Did you attend? If so, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.