By Henry Simfukwe, HPC Systems Administrator at ZAMREN
The seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, the late Kofi Annan, once said “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” SC19 for me brings to life these words, as it sharpens one’s knowledge about high-performance computing (HPC), provides information, educates on the best practices and new technologies, and fosters new relationships with like-minded professionals from around the world.
My first experience with HPC came when I Joined the Zambian Research and Education Network (ZAMREN) in 2017 as a Systems Administrator. My duties involve managing and providing support to Linux and Windows Servers, managing the HPC systems and ensuring that all ZAMREN services have a 99.9% up time. Additionally, I am involved in managing Eduroam for the Zambian Federation, and facilitate workshops on Network Monitoring and Campus Network Design.
When I received an email from STEM-Trek ‘s Elizabeth Leake that my application to receive one of the registration waivers that were donated by the SC19 General Chair Michela Taufer was approved, I was very excited. In that same week our Chief Technical Officer called me into his office and informed me that ZAMREN will support my airfare and that the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) in South Africa will support my accommodation. I quickly applied for my visa and within a week, it was approved.
My flight to the USA and Denver was ok, but the long-haul flight is 16 hours long coupled with the long waiting hours seated at JFK waiting for the connecting flight to Denver. The trip was exhausting. But that didn’t matter because I was looking forward to SC19. The conference was held at the Colorado Convention Centre and attracted 13,950 attendees.
At SC19, I attended various tutorials, workshops, presentations and vendor product shows. The first tutorial session I attended was “Containers in HPC.” This tutorial was hands-on and showed how containers offer software portability, improved collaboration and data reproducibility. Other tutorials, such as “HPC Data Centre Planning” were very engaging as we were split into various groups and discussed some of the potential issues we could run into when building or managing a data centre. The “Unified Cyber Infrastructure with Kubernetes” session was one of the full-day, hands-on workshops I attended. It showed how Kubernetes can be used to create and manage containers on a broad scale that can serve hundreds of scientific groups. The birds-of-a-feather (BoF) sessions were good places to interact with fellow HPC systems administrators from around the world. We quickly shared contacts and experiences.
Thanks to the efforts of STEM-Trek, SC19 General Chair Michela Taufer, CHPC, ZAMREN for this opportunity to attend SC19. All I can say is that I gained a vast amount of knowledge and information about HPC and emerging technologies. SC19 also gave me the opportunity to meet fellow HPC System Administrators. Also, many thanks to Google whom through STEM-Trek provided a team-building dinner for HPC Systems Administrators and software developers from the U.S. and pan-African HPC Ecosystems sites.