A Year of Service

I’m sitting in a hotel lobby in Amsterdam catching up on work emails and putting the finishing touches to our latest newsletter which will be out shortly. The newsletter celebrates a year of research on Viper, having gone live on the 28th June 2016. It has been a fantastic journey over the last year, meeting new users, hearing of the impact Viper can have on someones research and seeing research outputs published.

With no previous institutional HPC a team was formed to run the service – a great mix of experience and skills, from those familiar with the university coming in from other roles, to those of us who are new to this part of the world, plus our interns bringing a fresh perspective to the team.

The enthusiasm for HPC of everyone involved here, from the PVC for Research, to the management team in ICTD, from the Viper support team, the academic Steering Group through to all those using Viper amazes me. There is a lot more work to do, but the future of HPC at Hull looks very bright.

As we closed the first year of service on Viper and nearly 14 million core ours of research, we had our busiest month to date, with over 2 million core hours in June alone, hitting over 650k hours in a week (that is the equivalent of over 74 years of compute time!):

One of the many great experiences this year was talking about Viper at the Hull Science Festival, showing off the great resource and great research here at Hull to members of the public. On that day we were joined by one of our most enthusiastic supporters, Christina Roggatz, always happy to talk about her research and how she used Viper. Christina has also contributed a case study which is one of the main features of our upcoming newsletter. At the end of June, Christina successfully defended her PhD thesis!

So why am I writing this in the Urban Lodge hotel in Amsterdam? Three of us from the extended team: Graeme Murphy Director of Research and Enterprise ICT and one of the driving forces behind getting HPC to Hull, David Coulson one of our HPC interns for the year, and myself have come to Amsterdam to meet with our partners ClusterVision for one of our quarterly meetings. Normally held in Hull, the meetings give us chance to review actions and tasks, ensure everything in the partnership is working well, and look at technology roadmaps. On this occasion though we have come to Amsterdam to take a look at their base, have a tour of the impressive warehouse, benchmark and burn-in data rooms and meet the various teams involved in the company.

It has been a great opportunity to meet the extended ClusterVision team and incredibly useful having chance to talk directly with their developers on the HPC software stack and the engineers we email with on a weekly basis to discuss various aspects of the service.

While Graeme and I have said goodbye to ClusterVision, David is staying the week with them, working with various of their technical team, and coming back with some invaluable experience and knowledge which will in turn really benefit the team.

While we are away, others in the team and also taking the opportunity to learn new skills. From the outset of our intern programme we wanted to make sure those involved would get a good exposure to HPC and we wanted to allow them to have chance to learn how commercial HPC companies work. Our other intern Matthew is spending the week with OCF, a HPC integrator based in Sheffield.

One of our HPC software engineers, Craig, is at a Digital Humanities summer school in Oxford. Outside the traditional science and engineering applications of HPC, there is a lot of potential use of HPC which is currently untapped. Craig is spending the week learning about how HPC can be used in non-traditional subject areas, for example for the analysis of large amounts of unstructured data that exists in many disciplines. When we all get back, we are meeting with Colette Conroy, Director of Research for the School of Arts, and some of her colleagues. Hopefully some of the things Craig picks up on his week away will start opening up some new and exciting directions for HPC at Hull! With a couple of musicologists hopefully attending the meeting, it was interesting during our farewell dinner with ClusterVision at a great Latin American restaurant (Salmuera if you find yourself hungry in Amsterdam), to find out our HPC account manager has a degree in music. The combined knowledge of music and HPC may come in handy in the future!

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