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5 Predictions for HPC from the 2013 PBS Works User Group

, CTO, PBS Works division at Altair

For me, what makes the PBS Works User Group fun is the really great group of people that come together across a broad spectrum of the HPC community.  I thought this was an excellent forum in which to get real insights from the real community.  So, this year, we closed the event with a general customer feedback session, during which, I asked:  Where is HPC headed in the next 5 Years?

In short, there was consensus in 5 areas — from the real experts:

1. Most end users will not be supercomputing savvy:  the number of end users will double in the next 5 years, but most of the new users will be new to HPC and even new to Linux (e.g., when you mention MPI or ssh, they won’t know what you’re talking about).

2. Capacity will triple and power constraints will drive GPU adoption:  more cores, more memory, more bandwidth, …, and a lot more systems will have 1 or 2 or 3 GPUs due to power constraints.

3. Big organizations will consolidate HPC centers, making clusters bigger and driving adoption of remote visualization:  multiple organizations have plans to consolidate HPC sites spread around the world into a handful of larger sites, also merging smaller clusters into larger clusters.  Six of the larger organizations said this means they will heavily depend on Remote Visualization.

4. Microsoft Windows use will increase in HPC, entirely driven by software:  among the larger organizations who must support a wide variety of ISV applications, Microsoft Windows support is required, as certain ISV applications only work on Windows

5. Adoption of public clouds for HPC is still an open question:  despite “expert” pronouncements that public HPC clouds are the future (and I would sheepishly include myself in this category), the general consensus of the actual HPC community is that, even 5 years from now, less than 10% of HPC cycles will be delivered via public clouds.

I was both surprised and gratified that 4 out of the 5 predictions were nicely lined up with the vision we have been pursuing at Altair for HPC.  As for the 5th, we are investing in public HPC Clouds too :-) .  If you are attending the SC13 conference in Denver, CO later this month (, please stop by the Altair booth and say “Hi” — you can also get a demo of how Altair is addressing the future of HPC.





Recently, the team and I spoke with Digital Manufacturing Report to discuss the ways manufacturers’ growing reliance on CAE is challenging the industry to continue to evolve its software offerings. Driving factors like innovations in HPC and cloud technology are paving the way for technology advancements that enable manufacturers to solve more complex problems and deliver better usability across the enterprise. We discussed how the recent release of HyperWorks 12.0 addresses this evolution in “Altair Takes HyperWorks to the Cloud.”

Here’s an excerpt: Read More




Category: Aerospace

Improving Aircraft Seating

, Executive Director - Global Aerospace

In September I spoke in Seattle, Wash., at the High Performance Composites in Aircraft Interiors Conference, sponsored by CompositesWorld.  It was an excellent conference, with representatives from the OEMs and suppliers from the interiors, seating, component and materials industries.  My presentation focused on Altair’s efforts in the design of aircraft seating to reduce weight and insure safety.  You can read a short summary of my talk in High Performance Composites.  You can also view my presentation on the Altair HyperWorks website.


Driving Design towards a lighter solution Read More





If you’ve been keeping up with the latest trends in PBS Works, you’ve probably heard of the PBS Application Services (PAS). PAS is a piece of software that sits on top of your PBS Professional complex, exposing a collection of web services that allow front-end products such as Compute Manager and PBS Desktop to submit, monitor and manage jobs on your remote PBS Professional complex. In addition to all of these cool web services is an extremely powerful feature that PAS provides called Application Definitions (app-defs). App-defs are, put simply, a well structured mark-up language for describing your application (i.e. OptiStruct, RADIOSS, AcuSolve, LS-Dyna) to both PBS Professional and front-end products wanting to provide a cohesive interface to submitting users.

Although Compute Manager, PBS Desktop and PAS give rise to an amazing leap forward in end-user job submission, these technologies *could* add an additional maintenance burden to PBS Professional administrators. One major culprit here is the fact that now there are two or possibly even three entry points to your PBS Professional complex, and potentially two or three different variants of the same application (e.g. let’s say OptiStruct in this case). Many organizations do not want to remove the well proven and established command-line interface to their complexes, yet still want to take advantage of the more cutting edge approach of graphical submission, specifically for the younger generation of engineers and scientists. A common mind set might be, “I’ll leave my existing OptiStruct job scripts for the command-line, and author a new OptiStruct app-def” for say, Compute Manager.

Here’s a short list of possible issues people face with this mind set…

1.) In many cases the OptiStruct application available through Compute Manager is not consistent with the OptiStruct job script people are using via the command-line.

2.) Jobs submitted via the command-line don’t display properly via the Compute Manager monitoring page.

3.) Job files available in the job execution directory are not exposed to Compute Manager, essentially removing any remote file browsing functionality while the job is running.

It’s very important to keep in mind that all of the above issues in this approach could be solved with additional effort and changes to both variants of OptiStruct. And there may be some site-specifc requirements which encourage you to maintain two OptiStruct applications scripts/app-defs. But why go through all of this effort to maintain two OptiStruct applications and manage how they interoperate with one another if you don’t need to? The first step in walking away from this mindset is re-visiting a few notions that you may already have in your mind, and that is; PAS and app-defs aren’t just for graphical front-end products, they can be leveraged via the command-line interfaces as well.

The PAS team recently introduced a set of command-line tools that bridge the gap between GUI and CLI, opening up an entirely new way of approaching the authoring and maintenance of applications ran on PBS Professional complexes. Put simply, the very same OptiStruct app-def that is used in your installation of Compute Manager, can also be used by your command-line users who are more comfortable submitting their simulations via the command-line, removing the need for submitting via ‘qsub’ entirely. This is achieved by submitting an OptiStruct job using the ‘pas-submit’ command. Now submitting engineers and scientists have a common experience to submitting OptiStruct, regardless of which entry point to PBS Professional they are using.







This year Altair held it’s first annual PBS Works User Group October 2 & 3, 2013, in the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, CA, a great background for the event. During breaks from discussing the next generation of HPC computing attendees were able to wander around and see some of the cool exhibits showing technical milestones of the past. One of the things I was surprised by was the effect of having all the school aged children there in the museum while the conference was going on. Rather than being a distraction, their curiosity and energy helped get me get excited about what the future would bring.

The presenters at conference were drawn from a wide range of backgrounds, from academic to industry to government. Martin Nichols came all the way from the University of Queensland in Australia to talk about how he’s using PBS Professional hooks to make sure their various departments and groups have access to the compute resources they need. Simon Burbidge from the Imperial College of London made the long trip to talk about his vision of where HPC was going. Jim Glidewell from Boeing Corp from up the coast in Seattle, Washington, was there to talk about his 12 years of experience using PBS Pro on their ever changing HPC infrastructure. Jun Iyama came from Nissan Motor Co in Japan to tell us about how PBS Pro was being used in their engineering environment to optimize running their incredibly complex crash simulations. Dale Talcott and Greg Matthews came down the street from NASA-Ames to talk about how their rocket scientists are using PBS Professional on one of the largest computer systems in the world. And many more incredibly talented individuals from all over the world, it really was a global event. Presentations from the conference can be found at

In addition to the great presentations there were also several opportunities for attendees to participate in highly interactive sessions with Altair engineers and developers. A core group of PBS Professional developers held a Q&A discussion with the entire audience. Separate optional tracks were offered for advanced PBS Pro hook writers as well as a workshop for creating application definitions (AppDefs) for Compute Manager, Altair’s cool new graphical front end to PBS Pro. It was a great opportunity for those using our technology to learn something new and for Altair to hear what improvements could make it easier to implement.

Finally I’d like to say thank you to Rich Bruekner of insideHPC for being there live and allowing us the share the proceedings real time. He’s got some great additional interviews and articles on their site: PBS on inside HPC

Next years PBSWorks UG will be held in conjunction with the Altair ATC in Irvine, CA, on Oct 1-3 2013, hope to see you there!

Sam Goosen

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