SC19: Second time is a charm for this Namibian

By: Anton S. Limbo, HPC System Administrator, University of Namibia

Attending SC19 was an amazing opportunity for me. I also attended SC17, ironically in the same place, Colorado’s Mile-High City. This time around I came all geared-up with a game plan for the tutorials, workshops and birds-of-a-feather (BoF) sessions that will be most relevant to our relatively new high-performance computing (HPC) site and to further my HPC knowledge.

About me

I work for the University of Namibia (UNAM) where I lecture on the topic of Systems Administration. Recently, the university received refurbished HPC racks from South Africa’s Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) and I am the system administrator of those racks. Being new to the HPC field and given the lack of expertise in the field in Namibia, it was challenging to get the hardware into production. However, with continued support from STEM-Trek, SC and CHPC, SADC HPC ecosystems project members have been able to attend SC conferences since 2015. At SC, we have learned the skills we needed to bring the UNAM HPC site to a functional state. We now have a variety of active projects in addition to our HPC awareness and training workshops.

Importance of attending SC

Coming from a country with few experts in the HPC field, attending SC gives me a chance to interact with HPC professionals from all over the world in many different domains. The conference serves as a platform where I can learn from these professionals as much as possible. Having attended, I’m now in a better position to transfer these skills to other Namibians. This has been my approach since SC17, where the main goal was to attend sessions such as educational BoFs, workshops and tutorials aimed at introducing the HPC field, in general, and a range of related topics.

Significance of SC19

SC19 was a special one indeed. Having learned much at SC17, this time I had clearer goals based on challenges faced since then in terms of deploying our HPC racks, promoting HPC awareness, and training users and system administrators.

My timeline at SC19

SC19 began on a Sunday and the first event on my agenda was the Introduction to Quantum Computing tutorial. My reason for attending this tutorial was because next year our University will be hosting a Quantum Camp in collaboration with University of Turku https://ftlab.utu.fi/node/67. We developed this camp for undergraduate students and high school learners so they will receive an introduction to HPC (and the future) earlier than the rest of us have.

Another tutorial I attended was Parallel Computing 101, Education for High Performance Computing.

The second day was as exciting with the line-up including Managing HPC Software Complexity with Spack, Unified Cyber Infrastructure with Kubernetes, and Machine Learning in HPC Environments.

The following days were filled with BoFs and the Exhibition. I attended  the Emerging Technologies and HPC Education, Outreach and Training: Challenges and Opportunities, Community Building for Sustainable and Scalable HPC Outreach BoFs, which was especially interesting with new ways to introduce people to HPC and how resources are shared. I also attended the OpenHPC Community BoF where I met a community of practice who support OpenHPC users un a Google group.

Something interesting happened! I was invited to speak at an SC19 BoF. This was pretty exciting and an amazing opportunity share my experience from where I started as an HPC system admin to where we are today. Everyone shared recommendations for how we can improve systems administration training.

After a couple more BoFs, as SC19 came to end, it was time to leave the High Mile City with my head full of ideas and strategies for Namibia.

After SC19

After SC19 I headed to Cardiff, where I was hosted by Cardiff University’s Advanced Research Computing (ARCCA) for 3 days. This was a great way to wind up SC19 as I learned about the establishment of ARCCA and challenges they faced and continue to face in terms of user training.

Future plans

I’m home in Namibia now, where after four years of drought it’s raining. It is now time to reflect on what I’ve learned and plan for 2020 in terms of how to grow our HPC user community, and train a broader and more diverse community more people on how to use our HPC. The future looks brighter than it did when we started in 2016 with our first HPC rack; we grown significantly and we thank organizations that have enabled this growth by being by our side and offering opportunities such as SC19. STEM-Trek, SC19 and CHPC have Namibia’s gratitude.

Many worked together to make SC19 possible – more than:
780 volunteers, 370 exhibitors, 1,150 presenters, and a record 13,950 attendees.

Comments

  1. Jeff Weingarz

    Congrats, Anton –

    Glad to hear your trip was so successful – hopefully you can use this knowledge and experience to continue to grow your HPC program !!!!

  2. I’m glad our lecturer has gone all the way learn honour behalf, surely the knowledge gained will surely be transferred to us. Looking forward to the Quantum Camp

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