Vojtech Nikl

First Impressions

Firstly, I would like to thank everybody involved in the Summer of HPC 2014 program! I have had a great time so far and I have learnt a lot about data visualization and HPC in general.

I am working at CINECA Supercomputing Center, located in Bologna, Italy. My main goal is to visualize the results of scientific experiments and measurements, namely coronal loops and wind tunnel turbulences. The visualization process consists of data filtering, data representation, animation over each time step and video editing. The first three steps are done by ParaView, a multi-platform application for scientific visualization. The video editing is done in Blender.

I work on the PLX cluster and its RVN nodes, which support remote visualization through remote displays. This is very useful because it is possible to work from home over the internet. But most of the time I work directly at CINECA since there is a great working environment and a team of HPC professionals who are ready and happy to help anytime. I work 5 days a week, 7-8 hours a day on average. Another great thing is that there are flexible working hours; I can come to work whenever I want, as long as the work gets done.

After the first month, I am almost done visualizing the coronal loop data. Together I have made over an hour of fullHD video animations and I have consumed almost a thousand core hours. Currently I am working on the final video, which should present the coronal loop phenomenon to the public in the most simple and understandable form. The process of converting more than 60GB of scientific data into a 40s animation is soon to be finished!

Besides the visualization itself, CINECA allowed me to use their biggest cluster, Fermi (160k cores), to test my master’s thesis program, which deals with the hybrid implementation of the FFT in the k-Wave project. All the support from CINECA to young scientists like myself is really invaluable.

I am accommodated in one of the CINECA’s apartments for international guests. Both the apartment and the location are very beautiful; about 15 minutes walk from CINECA. There are also some downsides unfortunately. The biggest one for me is that CINECA does not provide an internet connection in the apartment, which is a little strange considering most of the guests are IT students and specialists. I had to buy my own mobile internet connection, which has very strict data limits and rather high latencies. But the scholarship should cover it hopefully. I am also missing a microwave, but I got used to it by now.

So far I am very satisfied and I have learnt a lot. Data visualization is a very rewarding IT field, although it is very time and performance demanding. I am confident enough to say that this is a life changing experience for me. I am definitely planning to use these gained skills during my PhD. studies, where I would like to focus on ultrasound visualizations and HPC on low power devices.  I am looking forward to what the second month has to offer!


The SoHPC Experience

The two months passed by very quickly. Even though I had been a little bit afraid before coming to a foreign country completely on my own, it was the best summer I have ever experienced. Again, I would like to thank everyone involved in the Summer of HPC. Keep it up for the upcoming years!

My goal was to visualize the results of two scientific experiments: coronal loops and wind turbines. I managed to finish the work on time, although the very last few days were very long. As a perfectionist I am never satisfied until the result is nice and smooth. Finally, I am very happy with my final outputs and I am sure I am not the only one. Sometimes, I even surprise myself!

The whole two months I worked at CINECA. I already miss their supercomputers and passing by them every morning and afternoon. CINECA even allowed me to visit the server room and take a look at the clusters up close – another unforgettable moment. All together, I have converted over 250GB of data into a single 20 min FullHD video using over 70 thousand core hours. It was very time demanding and sometimes exhausting work, yet it was well worth it. One of the CINECA’s universal instructions „In the case of panic, keep calm and use the default“ always cheered me up. However, the most helpful were the people themselves, who were ready and happy to help any time. I would like to thank especially my supervisor and tutor, Dr. Massimiliano Guarassi, without whom the final result would not have been possible to achieve. He was constantly pushing me forward, giving me great tips and tricks, helping with any problem I had and he allowed me to use some extra resources of Fermi for my personal master’s thesis project. And for all that I thank him very much and wish to stay in touch.

The Summer of HPC was definitely a life changing experience for me and I wish I could repeat this every year. I gained a lot of insight about how the whole HPC infrastructure works, how to use the resources properly and responsibly and how to visualize a set of scientific data using ParaView and Blender. I thank PRACE again for this awesome opportunity and I hope this is not the last time we cooperate.

Italy is a great country to spend a summer in. Nice people who mostly communicate in English, overall very good weather and impressive city architectures. Except Bologna, I visited Florence, Rimini and Venice. I was in Venice once when I was 7 and it hasn’t changed a bit, I still remembered Piazza San Marco, gondolas and the sea city channels like the first time. Impressive experience once again. It almost scares me that I can start a sentence by „17 years ago…“ :). Aside from that I loved Italian ice-cream and the pizza from our local pizzeria.

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