Allocating precious supercomputer time

Mar 17, 2017

Dave Hart is manager of CISL’s User Services Section, where he manages the allocations process for CISL’s high-performance computing (HPC) systems and oversees the CISL Help Desk and Consulting Services Group. In 2016, he also began work as the Director of the XSEDE Resource Allocations Service, where he oversees the team responsible for managing the allocation process for the portfolio of supercomputers and other resources supported by the National Science Foundation. NCAR and XSEDE are similar because they are both funded by the NSF, and they share a common objective: to provide cyberinfrastructure (CI) resources for the nation’s scientific and technical progress. However, XSEDE provides more supercomputers for use by a wider range of researchers, while NCAR’s discipline-specific mission focuses on the atmospheric and related sciences.

Dave Hart at SC16

Dave Hart manages allocations for CISL’s high-performance computing systems, and he is also the Resource Allocations Service Director for the NSF-supported XSEDE program. (Photo by Eliott Foust) 

XSEDE is the NSF’s Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, the world’s most advanced, powerful, and robust collection of integrated advanced digital resources and services. XSEDE serves as a unifying framework for the NSF’s investment in cyberinfrastructure, connecting top researchers to leading resources, facilitating scientific discovery, and enabling transformational science, engineering, scholarship, and innovative educational programs. Supporting nearly two dozen supercomputer, visualization, and storage resources across the country, this project enhances the productivity of scholars, researchers, and engineers by giving them both access to and extensive support for world-class advanced CI resources.

Dave’s roles for both NCAR and XSEDE allow him to leverage some useful synergies that benefit both organizations. One valuable benefit to NCAR is a tool from XSEDE that simplifies NCAR’s process for managing supercomputing resource requests. The XSEDE Resource Allocation System (XRAS) was developed by XSEDE to cope with the increasing volume of its requests for using the nation’s ever-more capable and capacious supercomputers. Deployed as a cloud service, this tool is now being used by NCAR to provide improved interfaces for submission, review, and administration of allocation requests.

Other mutual benefits include sharing information and best practices that allow all of the NSF-funded supercomputing centers to learn from each other and improve their services to researchers. These interactions are becoming more important because of a rising challenge: the research community’s demand for petascale computing resources is strong and growing faster than the supply of HPC systems. This puts a spotlight on Dave’s work to manage equitable and efficient allocation processes that provide the greatest benefit to the nation. XSEDE and NCAR’s allocation processes are well planned and well executed, but hard decisions must still be made about which projects receive computing time and how much of it they can share.

With 12 years of experience managing HPC allocations, Dave Hart is providing world-class service to the nation’s researchers. Prior to starting at NCAR in 2010, he worked for 15 years at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) in a variety of roles and leadership positions, including allocations, user support, and communications. Over the past decade, he also held a number of management positions in the NSF’s TeraGrid program that preceded XSEDE. His professional and research interests include metrics for measuring the performance and impact of cyberinfrastructure systems and activities.