Our approach to HPC training and education
Meet Emre Sahin, a Quantum Software Engineer at the Hartree Centre alongside his colleague Stefano Mensa, a HPC and Quantum Applications Specialist and Nia Alexandrova, our Training and Events Manager as they share more about the Hartree Centre’s approach to HPC Training and Education.
We caught up with the team following their successful contributions to the Supercomputing 2022 Best Practice in HPC Training and Education workshop. The team wanted to provide their three stage education plan and perspectives on how to effectively train industry users, raise awareness of digital technologies and innovation and our specialist HNCDI EXPLAIN training programme.
Supercomputing 2022 is the international conference for high performance computing (HPC), networking storage and analysis. Taking place this year in Dallas, Texas the conference theme was “HPC accelerates” designed to acknowledge our changing world with complex challenges and an urgent demand for answers. A global community of delegates met to harness the power of HPC, skilled minds and innovative technologies to responds to the call for simulating possibilities and unlocking new solutions at an unprecedented pace.
In your workshop presentation, you talked about commonalities between training needs of large, multinational corporations and SMEs. Could you tell us more about this?
In our experience, regardless of the size of the company we work with at the Hartree Centre, we find that both SMEs and large corporations have extremely skilled staff in their specialist domain subjects. Skills can range from materials chemistry to engineering and everything in between, however we find that although many of our collaborators use HPC to support large portions of their business, this isn’t their main area of expertise so often, working with the end users of our systems can present some unique challenges that we’re keen to address through our training and education programme.
An example being that sometimes there is a gap in operational knowledge of how large HPC facilities like ours might be able to help benefit their day-to-day work. This gap grows particularly when it comes to awareness of how hybrid technologies like AI, machine learning, cloud computing and GPU acceleration could help enhance their business processes.
This lack of knowledge can impact time, cost and environmental resource efficiency in several key organisational areas, including:
- Productivity and efficiency | Lack of awareness of the available technologies leads to less efficient processes
- Finances | Less energy efficient use of large HPC systems or cloud infrastructures Data centre operations | It can become more time-intensive for example, if inexperienced users raise tickets and incidents that take time to solve, diverting staff time into non-critical troubleshooting.
How is the Hartree Centre working to address these challenges?
The paper we presented at Supercomputing 2022 describes our three-stage education plan, or what we like to refer to as ‘The Hartree Centre’ Solution.
- Building a confident and self-sufficient user cohort of our HPC systems
Although HPC systems across the world operate with the same principles and use similar operating systems, each data centre is different and rarely do our systems have fully identical features. They’re effectively the “same-same, but different.” This means that even the most experienced users will have an element of re-learning and adaptation to undergo when moving on to a new supercomputer.
Customer onboarding plays a crucial role in a business’ journey towards making the most of available infrastructure and successful commercial projects that integrate hybrid technologies.
Our Hartree Centre Driving Licence teaches users everything they need to know to become fully self-sufficient on our Scafell Pike supercomputer. By covering topics such as the file system, job scheduler and the hardware and software stack, our training guarantees a consistency and minimum working knowledge across users accessing our system.
This maximises productivity, makes the most of our available hardware and software and reduces our machine downtime as users are provided with basic diagnostic skills. Trained users also raise less support tickets which reduces time spent on troubleshooting basic issues.
- Raising awareness of digital innovation
Here, we’re effectively “putting the human back in the loop” by helping users understand when and how digital technologies can enhance business productivity and profits and help them achieve critical business objectives. Learning this on a purely theoretical basis is hard, so we use practical examples and track record to illustrate digital transformation. Our visual computing suite is a key educational tool for us, bringing an unquestionable advantage by visually showcasing the breadth of applications for HPC – from virtual wind tunnels helping Formula 1 design teams to advancing disease mapping techniques with visualisation.
“The understanding and savvy integration of emerging technologies into businesses, including #quantumcomputing, is key to enable customer success.”– Stefano Mensa, HPC Applications Specialist
- Specialist training and education
We believe that digital innovation takes place when businesses can take full advantage of technologies like HPC and AI to enhance processes in their organisation. A fundamental part of this is equipping organisations and individuals with the skills needed to thrive in a digital economy.
Our EXPLAIN training programme, delivered through the Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation, is an enabler for this. Our training is designed to be flexible and built with industry in mind. From learning the basics with our introductory courses to those suited towards advanced practitioners who are looking for new tools and techniques to apply, we offer a range of self-directed and online learning with live practical sessions that each come with certification, allowing companies to remain competitive and building the workforce of tomorrow.
The Hartree Centre is home of digital innovation, and as such, we also are promoters of emerging technologies. We want businesses to get to grips with novelties such as quantum computers, we want them to understand how early adoption of such technology can push their research to the next level. Our EXPLAIN program provides structured and rigorous training for quantum computing; we provide training for the basics of quantum computing with respect to introductory applied quantum mechanics, and, afterwards, for specific hardware (e.g., quantum annealing, universal gate-based etc.) and various vendor-specific software development kits.
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