What to look out for at SC18

Insights HPC


SC: The big show with an international HPC audience celebrates its 30th year in 2018. It’s the World Cup of supercomputing and now it’s more than “just” supercomputing. Advancements in data analytics have topics like artificial intelligence (AI), including machine learning and deep learning, as stars of the show.


So, what should you look out for at SC18? Everything! No, really — there is sooooo much that you can see, learn, and share. It is a sea of opportunity that can also be overwhelming if you allow it to be. To avoid being overwhelmed, do your research ahead of the conference.

First, go to the conference website, and get your arms around everything that is available to you. Second, think about what you want and need, and focus your efforts in those areas. Anything you are able to gather in addition to that is a bonus. Don’t be overwhelmed. SC is a veritable playground — an opportunity to return with much more than that with which you arrived. It will take effort but there is no other time during the year that will be so worth it.

Here are several possibilities for how to maximise your time at SC18:

Networking! - It will seem like there are tens of thousands in attendance and, well, that’s true, and when will you have all of these experts and participants in one place again? At SC19 next year, that’s when, so make the most of this opportunity to network this year with with like-minded peers, providers, vendors, consultants, and more. Building your network and your personal and organisational brand all matters to the growth of our supercomputing movement.

Oh, and don't forget your business cards - it's crucial to share your contact information and receive others’ contacts as well. As we all know, the key to good networking is follow-up. You are going to leave SC18 with information in your head or in your conference bag that you will have to follow up, which is the real way to make attending something like SC worth the trip.

Keynote - Tuesday, November 13, 8:30 – 10:00 am, Erik Brynjolfsson, Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, will keynote Explore How to Deploy the Unruly Power of Machine, Platform, and Crowd. More people will attend this single session than any other, and it promises to be at the very least informational and beyond that inspirational. Keynotes, including at SC, are not chosen randomly. This one will be worth seeing.

The Program - Look at all the choices in the program online! Our technical team attends the technical talks while other non-technical staff spread out and attend topics of specific interest. Hearing from experts on panels can be very helpful as can attending paper and poster presentations. The showcases are just that — showcasing areas of HPC interest in, typically, interesting and stimulating ways. The Birds of a Feather session is a terrific way to network with like-minded and like-challenged peers.

This program has something for everyone and is worth reviewing on the SC18 website prior to arriving in Dallas so that you can be targeted and efficient with your time with so many options available to you.

Exhibitors - For a networker like me, this is where I have the most conversations and make the most connections — all in one place. I can visit with, hear talks from, or receive demonstrations from software and hardware vendors, supercomputing centers, institutions of higher education, start-ups with a singular focus (product or service), and trade associations. If you are somewhat of an introvert, the exhibitor hall is a safe and easy place to network and learn specific elements. If you are an extrovert, it’s hard to know where to start!

Many organisations unveil their biggest news of the year at SC. Being on the mailing lists or engaged in the social media channels for those with which you see yourself engaging is a great way to know ahead of time if big announcements are planned. Being at those in the exhibitor hall is a great way to take new information home with you after the conference.

Meetings - SC is your chance to have one-on-one or small group meetings with vendors, supercomputing centers, and experts to learn about what’s hot, what’s next, what’s working, and what’s not. Many vendors save SC as a time to show their latest and, hopefully, greatest. Maximise these opportunities to meet so that you will know what you might want or need to keep you at the forefront in the coming year.

Summary - To get the most of this huge and broad conference, do your homework ahead of time, strategise on what you want to see, populate your calendar so you know when and where you’re going, and be ready to network and have fun. See you in Dallas!


Written by Brendan McGinty (Guest)

See Brendan McGinty (Guest)'s blog

Brendan McGinty is Director of Industry for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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