Super Computing Trip Report: Michael Dexter12/11/2014
Michael Dexter has also provided his trip report for Super Computing:
In case you have not heard of the Supercomputing.org conference, it is a meeting of 10,000 researchers, computer scientists, engineers, students, managers, sales engineers and three-letter agency representatives that takes place in a different US city every year. I have hosted a booth at the event since 2009 when it passed through Portland and this year showcased the bhyve Hypervisor and explained all things BSD to brilliant attendees from around the world. I was joined by Patrick Masson, General Manager of the Open Source Initiative, who helped shed light on the pervasive yet unrecognized use of open source software by the universities, organizations and companies at the event. Literally 90% or more of the exhibitors rely on open source but few give it any recognition. For years, GNU/Linux has dominated the Top500 list of supercomputers that is announced at the event each year and I set out to help change that by highlighting bhyve, OpenZFS and other great technologies in FreeBSD.
SC14 could not have started on a better note thanks to the announcement on the first day that the FreeBSD Foundation received a million dollar donation from WhatsApp founder Jan Koum. I heard many people say “I used FreeBSD ten years ago” and the news instantly got their attention and set the tone for the rest of the event. By showcasing ZFS, we drew the attention of ex-Sun Microsystems engineers and executives and even had a visit by UC Berkeley CSRG research assistant Clem Cole. The message that “BSD is back” was loud and clear and I canvased the Student Cluster Competition to help inspire a new generation of users who had never heard of the BSDs.
The bhyve booth was in the heart of the ARM pavilion which made for some enlightening conversations. bhyve and the ARM CPU architecture both stand out for operating without emulation, resulting in simplicity and performance for bhyve and significant power savings for ARM. A roadmap exists for bhyve support on ARM and hopefully this will be something to showcase at SC15. Of the exhibiting ARM partners, the SoftIron team stood out as loud and proud users of FreeBSD and I look forward to seeing them at future BSD events.
FreeBSD vendor iXsystems was also at the event demonstrating FreeNAS and TrueNAS, as were the SaltStack team who received a bhyve demo and expressed a sincere desire to include support for bhyve. A handful of other open source vendors like Red Hat were in attendance plus FreeBSD consumers like Spectra Logic, EMC/Isilon, NetApp and Juniper. Many individual open source users came to the booth and my favorite quotation came from a conversation at a Mellanox event: “Our administrators use FreeNAS at home and come work and ask ‘why the heck aren’t we using ZFS?'” Open source is winning but there is still much work to be done.
Speaking of work, I asked many people, including Navy researchers moving massive uncompressed video streams, what FreeBSD needs to do get back on the Top500 list of supercomputers. The short list of answers I received was: OFED/OpenFabrics Enterprise Distribution support, OpenMPI/Message Passing Interface support and Lustre distributed file system support. Surprisingly, NUMA/Non-Uniform Memory Access did not come up. Interconnect vendor Chelsio Communications stood out as a solid supporter of FreeBSD and dominant player Mellanox expressed interest in expanding their support for FreeBSD given the opportunity it represents. All in all, people were very receptive to giving FreeBSD and other BSDs a try, especially given that it would be a homecoming for so many users.
I wish to thank the FreeBSD Foundation for sponsoring the bhyve booth at SC14 and I am delighted to hear that ARM has just made a generous $50,000 donation to the Foundation. In total I gave out 250 tri-fold brochures and talked to hundreds of people at SC14. Hopefully those seeds will take root and we will start seeing FreeBSD systems in the Student Cluster Competition and on the 2015 Top500 supercomputer list!