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HPC 2013-14 | Education


Education and training for the next generation


The hardware and software of HPC are useless without people to operate and improve them, so Tom Wilkie talked to some of the rising starts of the next generation


Airbus, the global aircraſt manufacturer, ‘needs young people who are engaged and have knowledge in the area of high- performance computing’, according to Gerd Buettner, manager of its Functional Design Scientific Computing Solution. Airbus generally uses codes from independent soſtware vendors and tends not to develop its own soſtware. However, it needs people with the computational expertise ‘to put the right questions and right challenges to the soſtware companies, in combination with the right hardware,’ Buettner continued. ‘But we sometimes face challenges in getting good people on board, and their academic knowledge needs to be aligned with the practical demands of our industry.’ Airbus’s computational needs are


exceptional – until recently it ran the fastest commercial supercomputer in the world – but the problems it faces in


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recruiting personnel with expertise in high- performance computing (HPC) are typical of a much wider spectrum of companies, in high technology and in financial services. Te shortage of people with expertise


in parallel programming was noted by Bill Dally, chief scientist at Nvidia, in his keynote address to the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC’13) in Leipzig in June 2013. But concerns were expressed generally that one of the impediments to the wider adoption of HPC is the huge amount of legacy soſtware that needs to be recast into a form that will run efficiently on parallel and heterogeneous (or ‘neo-heterogeneous’) systems. Where are all the people going to come from? Who will carry out this re- writing? Airbus has taken one practical step to


encourage more students to get interested in HPC: on the personal initiative of Guus Dekkers, chief information officer of Airbus and Corporate CIO of EADS, the company


“Te problems Airbus faces in recruiting personnel with expertise in HPC are typical of a much wider spectrum of companies”


sponsors the Student Cluster Challenge at the ISC. One team member, Trevor Johnson from Purdue University in the USA, could not have been more appropriate – he is studying aerospace engineering, wants a career designing aircraſt, and has used high- performance computing in his class-work at Purdue. Te student cluster challenge, however, augments that with practical insights into how tasks run and how to improve setting up the job and installing the soſtware. But, as conversations in Leipzig with the participants and their tutors revealed,


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