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PrimeurWeekly 09 July 2007
Hans Meuer in interview: looking back on a successful ISC'07, forging plans for an ever expanding ISC'08
Almere 09 July 2007 Over the past 20 years the Supercomputer conferences, now in Dresden, have grown into a large event, this year with over 1200 attendees and 85 exhibitors. We asked ISC'07 chairman Hans Meuer about the reasons for this success and the highlights of the conference.
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Primeur:What were the highlights of ISC'07 in your vision?

Meuer:I would claim first of all it was a very, very successful event, most likely the best one ever for the following reasons. First, we have passed the 1200 attendance treshold. One year ago we had 915. These attendants are not only for the main conference, but all the attendants together. We had approximately 540 conference attendants and the rest was for the automotive, the scientific sessions, the exhibition people and the visitors with day passes and so on.

Primeur:There were also many more exhibitors?

Meuer:Yes, we had 85 exhibitors, compared to 74 last year.

Primeur:How do you plan to grow in the next years?

Meuer:This is a really good question. It has already been decided that we will be in Dresden next year. ISC'08 will take place in Dresden, June 17-20, 2008. We are then three times in Dresden, we have not yet decided for 2009. We have a variety of options, of course. Dresden is still one of those options. But we do not know how we will grow with the exhibition. We are already almost at the limit of the space for the exhibiton. There are just a few possibilities to expand in Dresden. So, as far as the exhibition is concerned we have to move away from Dresden the latest in 2010. I do not know whether this will already happen in 2009, but in 2010 we probably have to.

Primeur:How many potential exhibitors are there? Because there is, of course, only a limited number of companies active.

Meuer:That is difficult to decide. This year we could easily have given away space for 10 more. But how it will be in the future is not so easy to predict. But we can look for a place where the exhibition can be larger. For example in Berlin or in Hamburg. But the prices are higher there, hence we then need to fill the exhibition. Currently we are in the phase of discussing what to do in 2009.

Primeur:What about the number of different events organised together?

Meuer:We had the feeling that this two-pronged approach with the focus on the industrial people and scientific people was a success and most likely we will stay with this. So we do not plan to do tutorials again like last year before the conference. The benefit of the scientific session is, of course, that also the ISC awards are presented there. We had more than forty contributions submitted from which the scientific committee did select 16 to be presented in two sessions.

The pre-conference programme on Tuesday with these scientific and automotive sessions were very well accepted. We also had some old proven things like birds-of-a-feather sessions. We have had the poster sessions. Also I would mention the Hot Seat sessions. For the first time we had a billionair giving a ten mimute short product overview. Andreas von Bechtolsheim from Sun introduced the new Constellation System, then he was 'grilled' as each speaker by two questions of the selected inquisitors. He was listed recently as the fortiest richest German in the "Manager Magazine" as having 1.9 billion euro. Andreas von Bechtolsheim was born in Germany, you know. I had a nice talk to him in Dresden. My feeling is that Sun is doing well now that he has returned. He is the man behind everything technically. He is the architect behind the new Constellation.

Primeur:I did see him and you on YouTube: there is a movie of the opening of the Constellation.

Meuer:Really? That is interesting. You know not so long ago, Sun was the number two vendor in the TOP500. Now they are nowhere near the top. But I have the feeling they have good chances te get back in the HPC world with von Bechtolsheim at the top.

Primeur:What about the lecture highlights?

Meuer:Burton Smith has been the key note speaker, he gave a great presentation, but perhaps, it was a bit of a complicated lecture. For decision makers it was not so easy to understand.

The most interesting session, at least for me, was the session about processors. This was a session with two talks. One was Thomas Sterling about multi-core and the "Next Moore's Law", and the talk by Dr. Tsugio Makimoto, TechnoVision Consulting, Japan about chip innovations. He now is running his own consulting company, but he has been with Sony as Executive Vice President until a couple of years ago. That was certainly an interesting talk.

We also had a complete session about HPC and financial applications. But of course this was not of interest to everybody.

An intersting session was the one put together by Dr. Andreas Adelmann, about petaflops computing and the software problems with petaflops computing. A great job was done by Dr. John Shalf from LBNL.

Primeur:I had a question about the technological developments. When I see the presentations, everything seems about multi-core here and multi-core there.

Meuer:Multi-core is the hype topic. All are expecting that multi-core is of great importance in the near future already. If you look for instance to Intels's Woodcrest processor. They had about 6% last november. Now they already have 41% of all processors in the TOP500.

There was a very good panel discussion about that in Tampa last November too. Also you remember the Intel announcement of the 80 core chip. They have about 1 Tflop/s - the speed of the former TOP500 number 1, the ASCI Red - on the size of a finger nail. The late Ken Kennedy pointed out in Tampa that the burden of the multi-core is on the compiler writers. I expect that also next year we will have presentations in this direction.

What I am also planning next year is a session on the topic "greening" of HPC. This will also become a real hype. It is a topic with an economical background, but also with an ecological background. And also the topic about climate change is of importance in respect to this question. The fingernail size core of Intel has a dissipation of about 60 Watt. For the ASCI Red you needed a big space and a cooling of half a MegaWatt in addition to a dissipation of half a MegaWatt. I think in the future we will be hearing more from that. Also the politicians are looking at it.

Primeur:I had a question about the TOP500. One of the things is that HP has taken over as leader in number of entries.

Meuer:They are number one in entries, but if you look at the installed performance, IBM is far ahead. If you look at the TOP50 of our list, HP is not represented at all. So HP has the systems in the second half of the TOP500 and we had, by the way, the biggest turnover so far with our list. The current number 500 would have been the number 216 in the previous list.

Primeur:There is a relatively large number of the HP machines that are classified.

Meuer:That is true, but we have been convinced by HP's Frank Baetke that everything is OK. Of course always for classified positions, we are curious: do they exist? But we believe him.

Primeur:Aren't you doing an additional check?

Meuer:That is so difficult to do. We are finishing the list now so late that this is impossible to do. But the advantage of finishing late is that we can include the newest systems. But I agree these types of checks would be desirable.

More information on the International Supercomputer Conference website
Below is the YouTube movie of the opening of the Sun Constellation system at the supercomputer conference in Dresden.
Ad Emmen

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