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NEWS | Nov. 20, 2016

Naval Research Lab Engineers, Scientists Sharpen their Cutting Edge During SC16

By Michael Hart

For six days, nearly a dozen scientists and engineers from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Wash., DC, joined a conglomerate of even more scientists, engineers, researchers, students, computer programmers, designers, technical professionals and educators here for Supercomputing 2016 (SC16).

SC16, the conference’s 28th annual event, took place Nov. 14-17 at Salt Lake City’s Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center. It is an annual event that connects business, engineering, academia, research and science at an unprecedented scale, according to conference organizers. Denver, New Orleans and Austin, Texas, are previous host cities.

An international affair – 349 exhibits, including 120 organizations from 26 countries, such as Australia, Poland, Singapore, United Kingdom, Japan, France, Italy and Sweden participated – SC16 showcased improvements in high performance computing (HPC), supercomputing, networking, storage and analysis, advanced scientific research, medicine, education, weather forecasting, space exploration and commerce.

SC annual conferences attract more than 11,000 HPC professionals and educators, along with another 2,500-plus attendees. The latest advances in technology development, software techniques, collaborative partnerships, data analytics, computational engineering and computational science achieved during the previous year are discussed during workshops, guest panels, tutorials and keynote speaker presentations.

NRL’s researchers and engineers led discussions on topics such as “refactoring legacy applications to emerging computational technologies, data movement on large SC systems and refactoring computational fluid dynamic codes from shared memory to distributive memory architectures,” according to Dr. Sergio Tafur, a physicist at NRL’s Center for Computational Science (CCS).

Participating in his eighth SC conference, Tafur emphasized the importance of collaboration between government and business organizations and the ability to share improvements in technology and other developments.

During these events “we engage with businesses, universities and government entities,” Tafur said. “This conference is the venue where we share our experience towards advancing the state of the art in computing systems and applications with colleagues and collaborators.”

A researcher at NRL for 27 years, Dr. Robert Rosenberg, also a scientist at the lab’s CCS has participated in countless SC conferences over the years.

“It’s always a great experience,” he said, after giving a brief on the parallelization of biological and chemical defense code. “This year I am catching up with people I haven’t seen in a while and getting their views on SC,” he said.

“Just walking around the exhibit floor is great,” Rosenberg continued. “You get instant access to the top developers, and issues that were so difficult to discuss by e-mail receive an immediate response. I have also attended some of the keynote addresses and it has become very clear that “big data” is transforming our industry,” he concluded.

In addition to these briefings and networking sessions, NRL researchers, collaborating with the Center for Data Intensive Science and Laboratory for Advanced Computing, Univ. of Chicago; the Open Cloud Consortium; the International Center for Advanced Internet Research, Northwestern University; the Computational Imaging and Visualization Analysis Lab, Univ. of Missouri; the Department of Energy's Energy Sciences Network; Mid-Atlantic Crossroads; Metropolitan Research and Education Network; the Large Scale Networking Interagency Working Group of the National Information Technology Research and Development Program and significant industry support, conducted a dynamic remote I/O solution for a distributed computing application demonstration across multiple 100 gigabits per second (100G) network connections into the SC16 computing network.

These demonstrations showed large-scale remote data access, a dynamic, pipelined, distributed processing framework and software defined networking (SDN) enabled automation between operating locations, according to Basil Decina, an electronics engineer at NRL’s CCS.

“Working with a number of government, academic and industry partners who have similar problems and share in our mission of pushing the limits of technology is a clear benefit of participating in these conference,” said Decina.

Decina said testing consisted of complex live 4K UHD video processing workflows rapidly deploying and redeploying to provide for different needs and leveraging available nationally distributed resources. These workflows provided demanding-use cases for the network and compute devices.

One specific demonstration included capturing a live uncompressed 4K Ultra HDTV stream at 12 Gbps originating at the show floor in Salt Lake City and carrying it sequentially to processing locations at NERSC in Oakland, Calif., NRL Wash., DC, the StarLight Exchange in Chicago and back to a display on the conference center floor in Salt Lake City. The total distance of this processing chain was approximately 11,500 miles — roughly halfway around the world. The total round-trip elapsed time was 184 milliseconds – less than two-tenths of a second!

“When designing and developing solutions for complicated global networking and distributed computing problems, one must be able to test extreme ‘corner cases’ to truly understand the limitations, said Decina.

“Participating in the advanced networking environment during the SC Conferences provides an unmatched opportunity to take ideas from the laboratory and apply them to more demanding and dynamic conditions.”

Key participants in this demonstration also included CenturyLink Government, Orange Silicon Valley and Lumenir Innovations.

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