Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek

South Africa’s Kruger National Park was the perfect setting for the conservation-themed, Ninth Annual Center for High Performance Computing’s (CHPC) National Meeting titled “Towards an Energy-Efficient HPC System.” Additional meetings were co-located Dec. 1-5, 2014, including the Southern African Development Community (SADC) HPC Forum, HPC Advisory Council, and the Industrial HPC Advisory Forum.

CHPC Director Happy Sithole opened the conference by thanking conference sponsors, especially its diamond sponsor, Intel, and welcoming 305 HPC enthusiasts from 19 countries and 12 research arenas, including SADC delegates, system administrators, researchers, computational scientists, and industry affiliates. Ninety-two South African students presented posters, or competed for a chance to represent South Africa in July at the HPC Advisory Council International Supercomputing Conference (HPCAC-ISC) Student Cluster Competition in Frankfurt, Germany.

Kruger is one of South Africa’s largest national parks, and home to 336 native trees, 49 fish, 34 amphibians, 114 reptiles, 507 birds, and more than 140 mammalian species that roam freely in a sanctuary the size of Slovenia (or New Jersey-U.S.). Summer had just begun and Kruger’s “Big Five” were active, including rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion, and leopard. The most dangerous animal in South Africa isn’t among the Big Five. Hippos are responsible for the most human deaths and are consequently killed by people who feel threatened, or poached for their tusks, fat and meat.

The Skukuza rest camp features an elegant airport with daily Airlink service from Johannesburg. Its Cattle Baron restaurant serves a Madagascar Peppercorn Steak that would impress the most discerning human carnivore. Additional amenities include a new conference center, air-conditioned bungalows, and paved roads where guests view wildlife from the safety of ranger-driven safari trucks.


Wildlife photos by Filippo Spiga (University of Cambridge-UK)

Pre-conference workshops, tutorials, plenary talks by international experts, and breakaway sessions spoke to the very heart of HPC. The program was thoughtfully selected to explore energy-efficient HPC architectural concepts, strategies for software optimization, advances in middleware, international cyberinfrastructure (CI) policy, industry expectations, and a road map for pan-African human capital development (HCD). A conference help desk was available for attendees with questions about CHPC resources. Students engaged in collegial competition, and a less friendly, but highly entertaining, HPC Vendor Crossfire was chaired by Addison Snell (Intersect360 Research).