Monday, 29 August 2016

Flying visit to ISC 16

Earlier this year I took a flying visit to ISC in Frankfurt. And I mean a flying visit, I flew out of Birmingham at 6 something, landing into Frankfurt before I'd normally be in work. For some mad reason (OK family commitments), I needed to be back the same day, so ended up getting home just before midnight the same day.

Arriving into the conference centre, I was met by the Lenovo guys and collected my badge. There was a little officiousness getting in as I didn't have a badge, but the collection point was inside the area I needed a badge for! They then didn't want to let me into the show floor, but the Lenovo guys swiftly got past that and I spent some great time talking with a few of the Lenovo engineers. It was great to finally meet Vinod, who works on the design of the water cooled systems and great to see the sample system with a production ConnectX-4 card (unlike our home-brew versions). We talked over changes for the Broadwell design and also kicked around some ideas for future developments. Its great to see companies like Lenovo sending their design engineers out to the shows and not just marketing people. The engineers really want to talk to and meet customers to listen to what they are doing with the systems.

My agenda was pretty packed with exec meetings, people like Michael Kagan, the Mellanox CTO, and one of the Lenovo VPs. I also popped into the Women in HPC event briefly before heading into a planning meeting for the Spectrum Scale user group to plan for the end of 2016 and into 2017.

I also caught up with Intel, John mentioned that by the end of the week, they are seeing the same faces, so having only flown in for the day, it was great to see a fresh face. (Though not sure how fresh faced  I was having been up at silly o'clock)!

A catch up with Ross Keeping, who I knew from the IBM Manchester labs, but is now with ARM. It was great to catch up and find out what ARM is doing to tool the ecosystem for HPC and enterprise computing. There's some interesting stuff coming down the line there!

Finally rounding the day of with a beer with the Mellanox and DDN guys before heading out for dinner with DDN. Overall the day was tiring, but worthwhile making and maintaining some great contacts. My impression was that the show area was smaller than I expected it to be, but maybe I'm just swayed by the sheer scale of SC in the USA!

It was certainly mad in travel terms! Thanks must go to OCF, Lenovo and DDN for supporting my flying visit out to ISC 16!

This is why we choose Mellanox Infiniband

A short while back, Mellanox asked us to make a short video on why we use Mellanox Infiniband. The process of making the video was interesting, it cause a little disruption in our data centre as we had to work out how to switch the lights out to get some of the shots (not easy when they are motion sensor activated!). But it looks good and I'm amazed how fast they turned around the shoot into a fully edited, subtitled and approved video, just goes to show they don't just make fast networks!

If you were at ISC 2016 in Frankfurt, you may have seen the video playing on the Mellanox giant video wall about every 8 minutes!

When they asked, we were more than happy to make a video with them, I like their technology, I like the ConnectX-4 card as it has a lot of acceleration features for the private cloud solutions we are delivering!

Projects projects, so many projects!

Things have been a bit quiet on my blog for the past few months, there's been a lot going on behind the scenes getting a number of projects up and running.

I'm hoping to post in the next few weeks in some more detail on these, but things implementing flash for Spectrum Scale metadata on FlashSystems 900 (which was easy BTW!), we've also been deploying couple of large IBM TS4500 libraries, and I do mean a couple - fitting into on of our data centres was a challenge though. Being the first UK site to implement Lenovo's warm water cooled systems (phase 2 has just gone in and I think we may well be the world's first direct cooled Broadwell system!) has been fun, challenging at times, and coupled with rolling out SwitchIB-2 from Mellanox has kept us on our toes! A couple of DDN storage arrays have gone in to support our life-sciences projects and we've been building a new private cloud, designed from the ground up for research requirements.

I've also had a couple of film crews in for various bits an pieces!

But life would be dull if we didn't have challenges and interesting things to do and its great that we are able to work with some of the world's best technology providers and that they want to work with us! I think it shows how ambitious we are trying to be in Research Computing at Birmingham to push hards to provide outstanding facilities to support our research community!