Ira and I attended the IEEE Cluster 2007 conference last month. This conference was held at Austin, Texas from September 17-20. This was a technical conference with hands-on tutorials, paper presentations, poster sessions and panel discussions related to cluster computing. Cluster computing means both high-performance cluster computing, and high-availability clustering in this conference.
A poster paper that I co-authored, "CHAF – An Object Oriented Framework for Configuring Applications in a Clustered Environment" was accepted for the conference. This framework was implemented in Sun Cluster 3.2. I gave a live demonstration of this implementation on my laptop with a lab cluster at the back end. My session and demo were well received, to the extent that a Sun customer referred to it in his email to Sun later.
The two main topics that were the focus of the research papers and discussions, were multi-core and virtualization. The panel discussion topic was multi-core computing, and the panelists were from IBM, Intel, UT Austin, nVIDIA and AMD. Prof. Steve Keckler used the phrase "termites, chainsaws and bulldozers" to refer to the different numbers of cores per chip, and it was clear by the end of the panel session that this phrase had caught on among the panelists and the audience!
Ira and I also got an opportunity to visit Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Austin. This center is building a new supercomputer using Sun machines and the new Sun Magnum switch. It will be the largest supercomputer in the world when it becomes operational at the end of this year. It will have about 4000 nodes in the system. The whole site and the system was very impressive.
The conference organizers had arranged a social outing with a barbecue dinner and live music (two live rock bands) at an Austin landmark restaurant, Stubbs. You might have seen their barbecue sauce in a local Safeway.
One thought that stayed with me after the conference was from the closing keynote about "The Challenges and Rewards of Petascale Clusters", by Mark Seager from Lawrence Livermore National Labs. Mark Seager mentioned that different technologies that are in main stream today were present in the research community at least 20 years back. Some examples that he gave were garbage collection, virtual machines, and object oriented design. He stated that parallel programming was a technology that was not mainstream yet. I look forward to seeing Sun playing a big part in this.