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Visualization at Supercomputing Centers: The Tale of Little Big Iron and the Three Skinny Guys
January/February 2011 (vol. 31 no. 1)
pp. 90-95
E. Wes Bethel, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
John van Rosendale, College of William and Mary
Dale Southard, Nvidia
Kelly Gaither, University of Texas at Austin
Hank Childs, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Eric Brugger, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Sean Ahern, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Supercomputing centers are unique resources that aim to enable scientific knowledge discovery by employing large computational resources—the "Big Iron." Design, acquisition, installation, and management of the Big Iron are carefully planned and monitored. Because these Big Iron systems produce a tsunami of data, it's natural to colocate the visualization and analysis infrastructure. This infrastructure consists of hardware (Little Iron) and staff (Skinny Guys). Our collective experience suggests that design, acquisition, installation, and management of the Little Iron and Skinny Guys doesn't receive the same level of treatment as that of the Big Iron. This article explores the following questions about the Little Iron: How should we size the Little Iron to adequately support visualization and analysis of data coming off the Big Iron? What sort of capabilities must it have? Related questions concern the size of visualization support staff: How big should a visualization program be—that is, how many Skinny Guys should it have? What should the staff do? How much of the visualization should be provided as a support service, and how much should applications scientists be expected to do on their own?

1. B. Hamann et al., "The NERSC Visualization Green-book: Future Visualization Needs of the DOE Com-putational Science Community Hosted at NERSC," Int'l J. High Performance Computing Applications, vol. 17, no. 2, 2002, pp. 97–124.

Index Terms:
supercomputing centers, visualization, data visualization and analysis, computer graphics, graphics and multimedia
Citation:
E. Wes Bethel, John van Rosendale, Dale Southard, Kelly Gaither, Hank Childs, Eric Brugger, Sean Ahern, "Visualization at Supercomputing Centers: The Tale of Little Big Iron and the Three Skinny Guys," IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 90-95, Jan.-Feb. 2011, doi:10.1109/MCG.2011.13
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