Tuesday, November 15, 2005

(Not) Blogging from SC05

I had intended to blog directly from Supercomputing 2005. However, our days ended up being so full, I couldn't find a free 15 minutes to write. So I'm back in Oakland and ready to pour the thoughts out of my head. We had a pretty huge week here at Digipede, so it's been tough to find time to blog.

This was my first trip to Supercomputing. There were some things that struck me as odd, some things that wowed me, and other things that just struck me.

I was amazed at the amount of computing power there. John overheard someone say that they basically loaded as much computing power into the building as the power grid could handle. There were huge racks of servers. There were supercomputers. The vendors brought computers. The national labs brought computers. It was an amazing amount of compute (and networking) power. They put up some pretty good information about the network they built for the show here.

One thing that surprised me about the show was the incredibly large presence of the not-for-profit agencies that do supercomputing. The national laboratories (Argonne, Brookhaven, Idaho, Lawrence-Berkeley, Los Alamos et. al.) were there in force. They had large booths (20x20 or 30x30, with many displays, multi-story structures, etc.). I was surprised to see them because I think of conferences like this (and exhibits, in particular) as a way to attract customers. Clearly these institutions use this conference as a way to keep the industry abreast of what they've done in the last year. It was all very informative, and made the exhibit hall a little a little more tolerable because not everyone there was trying to sell their wares.

One thing that made this show very different than Supercomputings past was Microsoft's large presence. They probably had the most floor space of any exhibitor: one large booth for themselves, and another devoted to Microsoft partners. In addition, Bill Gates gave one of the keynote addresses.

From speaking with other attendees, I gathered that Bill's speech went better than expected. I think a lot of people were expecting him to give a "Rah! Rah! Microsoft!" speech; he didn't. Instead, he talked about the benefits of supercomputing, and the dawning of the "personal supercomputing" era (with many CPUs on each desktop). Kyril Faenov did a demo of Microsoft Compute Cluster Solution in action. I think the things that impressed people the most is that they showed CCS working on a real world problem and interoperating with a Linux cluster.

As with most conferences, the best part for us was meeting with the people who attended. Going to a conference like this saves you 15 business trips because so many people are in the same place at the same time. The place was just full of partners, potential partners, and potential customers. We had meetings nearly all day both days and got some terrific leads out of it.