Five Skills Needed to Master Your Role in HPC
New to a role in High Performance Computing (HPC)? Find out the top five skills that you’ll need to succeed.
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High Performance Computing (HPC) touches our daily lives in countless ways and comprises a multi-billion dollar market that’s growing every year. As access to massive amounts of computing power become more mainstream and cost-effective, we’re seeing that competencies around HPC technologies are increasingly being shared with many more across industries.
Across organizations, an HPC platform is being used by a growing number of data scientists to handle substantial workloads with large datasets and advanced clustering and parallel computing requirements. Nearly 600 data science programs now exist in universities worldwide to support the growing market. Amidst this popularity, it is crucial that current HPC professionals start to advise these soon-to-be data scientists entering the workforce with specific skills, such as configuring and coding AI technology to manage data sets. While this type of mentorship can help foster a career, there are important skills that are essential to master when working specifically in HPC. You can start by exploring the skills highlighted below:
Develop Hands-on Technical Skills With Linux
Linux is known as the cluster operating system of choice, thanks to its scalability, performance capabilities, and the wide variety of open-source software and development tools available for it. Having a theoretical understanding of the current hands-on technical skills in computer programming is very useful for HPC. As it relates to programming and scripting languages, a good overall knowledge of script such as “Python,” and open-source tools such as “OPENMPI” can be quite handy. Many day-to-day activities come down to writing shell scripts to support HPC tasks, creating queue monitoring maintenance scripts, and writing operating system and application monitoring scripts – all in order to extend and monitor open-source applications.
Have a Problem-Solver Mentality
Operating system issues, application errors, crashes, and the like are instances that can happen in an HPC environment on a daily basis. Computer programmers who have the ability to work through frustration and come up with innovative solutions to complex problems will be highly valued. Although Linux is a widely praised operating system for its stability, the probability of system or application crashes can be higher in an HPC system. Users will often try to get as much performance from compute nodes as possible. Hardware issues can quickly become apparent and cause jobs to fail. The ability to investigate system and application crashes and implement workarounds or solutions which may sometimes involve hardware removal or replacement will be required.
Understand the Fundamentals of Science
In general, the historic users of HPC systems are scientific researchers, engineers, academic institutions, and government agencies. They are all looking to run advanced application programs efficiently, reliably, and quickly in a parallel fashion. There are some very important system applications which are used in HPC that a system administrator really needs to have a good working and theoretical understanding of. These include tools for workload and cluster management like Slurm, workload monitoring such as Ganglia, job scheduling and queuing, MPI (message passing interface), open accelerators, and more.
Most successful HPC projects are often completed in groups. Taking a collaborative approach to HPC will allow you to learn from your peers and work more efficiently. However, with any group work, having a clear and concise documentation strategy is also a key tool when sharing ideas and project directions with others.
Identify Bottlenecks and Move On
It’s critical to identify where bottlenecks occur. In the same vein, it’s just as important to take action when changes need to happen sooner rather than later. Take storage for instance — HPC systems come with storage, however, storage is often a bottleneck with the avalanche of data pouring in. It’s important to ask yourself: what is this system’s limit? How can we maintain or improve the performance of data storage? With an understanding of software-defined storage and Ceph-based storage, it may be possible to define virtually infinite storage for HPC-related data archives and backup.
The opportunities in HPC are ripe as the market continues to mature. Learning the new skills and understanding the fundamentals will allow for even faster growth. Take these skills with you to start making a difference in HPC and our daily lives.
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