Apple Siri, or how to make HPC as easy to use as Google or Dropbox

Chris Dagdigian  - a founding partner at Bioteam - specializes in research computing and infrastructure technology issues in the life sciences. He is multilateral and produced the best training courses for AWS, Cluster Administration Sun Grid Engine and LSF. His work is very creative, like for example Vertex Pharmaceutical VAMPIRE cluster, which replaced an existing Top500 supercomputer. He inspires.

In the article The "Knows" and the "Know-Nots" I quote:
Unfortunately, there is no one type of tech consumer. Someone winds up unhappy. If the design and interface are too technical, novices feel incompetent, shut out and stupid; if the experience is too simple, tech geeks feel insulted and talked down to.
Probably there is no other field as affected by the disarmingly simple discovery that "there is no one type of tech consumer" as the high performance computing . I detected Bioteam messages for the two audiences.

 For Knows-Not: Using Siri Voice for High Performance Computing  BioWorld'12

I happen to learn recently  that Apple Siri team is actively looking for engineers experienced in Grid Engine and other technical performance computing application. The screen cast below, is from Biotem exhibit at BioWorld'12. As stated on the web page,
BioTeam has had this cooking in the lab for a while now but now we can discuss it publicly! We’ve been working with our partners Accelrys (now Biovia) ... to demonstrate what we think is a really cool concept – using Apple Siri on iOS devices to interact directly with a cloud platform (BT Compute) and scientific analysis software 


If you are too technical, you may find this insulting. But surveys shows that at least 95% of all scientists hate the idea of command line, and never worked with clusters and supercomputers.
What is astonishing - and relevant -  is Apple interest in performance computing as their Siri team expands with super-computing developers.

Biovia 's Pipeline Pilot  "rapidly create, test and publish scientific-based services that automate the ability to access, analyze, report and share scientific data". Everything is "rapid", except the access for any trained scientist who is not a programmer or system administrator at the same time

For Knows: 2014 BioIT World - Trends from the trenches - 

I am providing the link to this slides presentation as it has 105 slides and lasts one hour. These are the most recent ideas that Chris presents to an admiring audience of top geeks.

Going through the slides,  some disturbing conclusions are impossible to ignore. The preso is intended for members of tightly knit core of experts, which are above 99%  know-how level of IT literate scientists today.

Every one needs to learn orchestration

So if you are  scientist, a sysadmin, is no longer sufficient. To survive you must learn orchestration. If not your job is in danger. But who wants to learn a such complex and un-delightful skill?

Sysadmin and IT staff need to retrain (if not...)


These skills are NOT widely available. Forcing people to re-train is against the human nature and it creates grief and resistance. Currently these skills are provided by outside companies, like Bioteam or Cycle Computing (who uses Chef with Cycle Server, where all orchestrations are taken care for). The kind of engineers with these skills can not be hired via HR Probably they need an acqui-hire. Food for thought. 
.
Or see this slide


As if we did not hear that in all other slides, that "sysadmins (Windows and Linux) who can't code will have career issues" Ouch!

My take

Using portable devices to access high performance clusters is the one way to make scientific applications accessible for the estimated 12 million scientists worldwide. 

We want in theory to reach them all, in the same way that laptops and desktops reached to every single one scientist and engineer.

We don't want to create another ivory tower made up of a new breed of super-humans, the so-called "Scientist/Sysadmin/Programmer" species, and make performance computing IaaS and platforms even more difficult to reach. We do not want to sent all IT people to take a Ph.D in orchestration. There is a limited, very limited supply of scientists comparable to Chris Dagdigian or Jason Stowe (from Cycle)

What I prefer

What we want is to create an access platform for high performance application which will be as easy to use as Google or Dropbox. Is this possible? Yes it is. Keep reading this blog.

I know Chris presented equally the options and I thank him for inspiring these thoughts

Post Scriptum

Nobel Prize winner Peter Higgs - calls numerical mathematics, one of the ugliest part of mathematics. See below his interview from Nobel Prize ceremony. We do not want to torture the IT people telling them to learn something even a Nobel Prize (and what Nobel Prize!) detests. There are many people who love numerical maths, let them do it, make money, because this not part of core IT skills.

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