HPC RSE March Meetup

On March 14, UK HPC RSEs came together in an online meetup to talk about the HPC RSE community, plan what comes next, and discuss relevant technical topics around High Performance Computing and Research Software Engineering.

We had 42 registrations for the event, with a maximum of 29 people in the room at any one time. This event was a follow-up from the “ExCALIBUR RSEs meet HPC Champions” satellite event after RSECon22 and the HPC RSE BoF at RSECon23. While these events were mainly driven by people involved with the ExCALIBUR Knowledge Exchange Coordinator group and the HPC Champions that started from the ARCHER UK national supercomputing service, the aim was to share what we are working on, reach out to the wider community for input, and to give the opportunity to join in with the organisation of events and shaping of the community. 

The HPC RSE Community

Our first discussion round centred around the HPC-RSE community, with a focus on what those involved wanted most from the community. Further discussion points were raised relating to sharing knowledge and experiences within the community particularly relating to tools, processes as well as sharing key groups and contacts within the community. It was encouraging to see ideas for how those in the community could support each other, such as code review and Q&A sessions with HPC experts, which will certainly be something we try to facilitate in the future.

HPC RSE Events and our RSECon24 Submission

In-person meetups of RSEs with an interest in HPC have been a feature of most major recent HPC conferences (such as Supercomputing and International Supercomputing) as well as the last two RSE Conferences. These events have provided an important opportunity to seed a RSE HPC community (which have been continued by events such as this online meetup) that can share experience and expertise, move forward in a coordinated way and improve the HPC provision and support for researchers. These events are particularly important for RSE who are new to the HPC community and those that are working on their own rather than in larger RSE groups where they do not have the same access to local peer support. During this online meetup we had a short discussion of how these events should be organised at future RSE Conferences (starting with RSECon24 in Newcastle in September 2024). It was clear from the discussion that the community values these events including both presentations of topics of interest to the RSE HPC community (both technical and strategic) and space for discussion. There was also a clear steer that discussion driven in a panel format was preferable to simple open discussion and that we should use online tools to allow people who are not comfortable contributing by speaking up in person. We will design an RSE HPC event at RSECon24 that meets the ideas expressed by the community that is as successful as previous events and look forward to meeting up in Newcastle in September. We have also had a number of people express interest in being involved in organising this meetup and look forward to working with them on this.

Technical Talks and Discussions

An important opportunity provided by these sort of meetups is for members of the community to share what they are working on more widely, and invite comments and suggestions from attendees around specific challenges that they might be sitting with. To this end, we had three technical talks; one from Tuomas Koskela from UCL talking about the ExCALIBUR benchmarking project, Ricky Olivier from Exeter talked about exoplanet science with LFRic, and Justs Zarins from EPCC talked about the CS-2 as part of th ExCALIBUR H&ES PETSc on CS-2 project.

After each presenter had given a 10 minute talk, we then split into three breakout rooms, with each room discussing the topic in more detail and then reporting back. There were some themes identified across the topics, including the importance of benchmarks that are easily deployed on a range of HPC machines, how critical RSE skills are to work with large software applications such as LFRic, and challenges around programming architectures such as the CS-2.

What comes next? 

Two people signed up so far to help with organising the RSECon24 event this year, which is great and will help us to diversify what we are doing!

The next events to look out for are our talk at the Durham HPC days, the HPC RSE workshop at ISC24, potentially another online meet-up in summer, and then of course a yet-to-be-planned event at RSECon24! 

We plan to start work at setting up a SocRSE Special Interest Group in early summer.

There is still the chance to get involved, simply contact us or sign up here: https://bit.ly/hpc-rse-volunteer .