Monday, May 12, 2008

HPC Considered Harmful

I'm really looking forward to Greg Wilson's talk called "HPC Considered Harmful" at Scientific Software Days at TACC, for which I am a co-organizer. Also Eric Jones will be talking about "New Directions in Scientific Workflow" which sounds great too.

I'm not sure what these guys will say, but I think this (Carriero et al 2004) is relevant:
The goal of [our] approach is not to reap the maximum efficiency benefits in making changes to a program. Rather the goal is to remove compute time as a rate-limiting step.
Anyway, come on down if you're in the neighborhood!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Life in the Trenches, Generalized

A really good description of the problem is here.

It's only exacerbated when both the producers and the consumers of the software are scientists who don't think software principles are interesting and/or whose mentors don't believe in time for training on such principles. Invariably we are targetting weird platforms, too.

I recently heard someone say that about 30% of professional programmers' time is spent on build issues. If scientists are as much as half as good as full-timers, that means they spend 60% of their time on build issues, but they also have to spend 50% of their time on reading and writing discipline-related stuff. That means we get negative 10% of our time for actual productive coding. If we're lucky.