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SHPCP 2015 Annual Technical Meeting Recap

04 Feb 2016 12:02 PM | The Society of HPC Professionals (Administrator)
SHPCP 2015 Annual Technical Meeting Recap


Keynote Address-- As is an SHPCP tradition, Addison Snell, CEO of Intersect360 Research, kicked off the day’s events with an overview of the HPC market. Snell noted that despite sluggish economics worldwide, the HPC market grew 2.8% year over year in 2014 to USD $29.4 billion in revenues. With signs of money loosening somewhat in coming years, Intersect360 Research forecasts a 4.2% compound annual growth rate of 4.2% with the market reaching USD $36.1 billion by 2019.

The growth-rate leader in the HPC market is now cloud/utility computing, but the lion’s share of revenue continues to come from server sales. Dell, IBM and HP each account for about one quarter of the HPC server market, with the remainder split among several vendors. However, these percentages will change due to IBM’s sale of its x86 business to Lenovo.

Overall, High Performance Technical Computing (HPTC) comprises about two thirds of the HPC market, while High Performance Business Computing (HPBC) accounts for the other third. Intersect360 Research defines HPTC as including applications in science and engineering with vertical sectors such as manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, and oil & gas. HPBC refers to the non-scientific business applications, including financial services, online gaming, and entertainment.

Morning Panel– Earl Dodd moderated the morning panel on the topic of “How are HPC Resources Used in Cybersecurity.” His questions focused on getting the panelists to discuss their perspectives on the cyberthreats.

Among the highlights, Dr. Shawana Johnson, President of Global Marketing Insights, offered a sobering assessment of just how complex cyberthreats are in the geospatial industry. With regard to earth imaging satellites, the challenge is data authentication, i.e., have image pixels been compromised? She noted that “sniffer capabilities exist and it is well-documented” satellites have been known to park in orbit near existing satellites and capture unencrypted and unprotected communications downlinks.

The question is always - does this result in interception of  image data, and/or corruption of the image pixels before they reach the ground station? In addition, there are many other potential satellite-hacking interferences related to cyberthreats in the geospatial realm. These could involve listening, interacting, using (the payload or transmission), scanning, breaking and jamming.

Sean Fitzgerald, Senior VP at X-ISS Inc., reiterated the complex nature of cyberattacks and their growing intensity. Fitzgerald’s teams provide end-to-end ManagedHPC services to clients in numerous industries, and protecting HPC clusters from malicious attacks is becoming increasingly difficult. X-ISS is constantly enhancing its efforts to stay on top of security vulnerabilities. For most computer operators, Fitzgerald noted, incoming email could pose the most serious threat, with up to 90% of emails worldwide carrying malware or viruses.

Dr. James McFarland, Executive Director of the Tulane Energy Institute, reminded the audience that 60% of security breaches come from inside the organization. Some are accidental – requiring better training – but many occur on purpose. McFarland encouraged attendees to create ethical environments within their organizations to make it clear that unethical behavior will not be tolerated. In addition, executives may need to be trained in how to ensure they are hiring ethical people in the first place.


The Cyberthreats Landscape – FBI Special Agent Angela Haun delivered the afternoon keynote giving attendees valuable advice on how to protect their personal and professional information from cyber hackers. Haun’s presentation was chilling at times as she laid out the full extent of the cyberthreats everyone faces online every day.

Not only are the threats complex, but they come from many sources, according to Haun. The bad actors in the cyber scene include foreign intelligence services, terrorists, organized criminals, hacktivists, and inside threats. She noted that FBI Director James B. Comey has not been shy about calling out China as a major perpetrator of cyberattacks targeting U.S. companies.

To become more fully aware of the current threat level, Haun invited attendees to watch a video called “The Company Man” on the FBI website ( and to join the FBI’s InfraGard program ( for regular updates on the latest threats. InfraGard also provides a quick and easy avenue for reporting cyberthreats to the FBI. She noted that internet crimes can also be reported at

In closing, Special Agent Haun offered some quick advice to shore up computers at home and in the office.

  • Hover your mouse over a link to see where it goes before clicking on it
  • Keep anti-virus software up to date
  • Do not share your geo-location information on mobile devices
  • Check your financial accounts regularly for odd charges
  • Use complex phrases as your passwords
  • Avoid using ‘free’ WiFi

Managing Security Unknowns – Marcus Sachs, Chief Security Officer at the North American Electric Reliability Corp., walked attendees through the plethora of ‘known’ and ‘unknown’ factors related to cyberthreats. Sachs’ bottom line message was that no organization can eliminate risks entirely, but it can lower cyber risk through aggressive management of the knowns and unknowns.

Specifically, Sachs encourages organizations to maximize what they know about their computer networks, users and potential threats. This lowers overall risk by converting as many of the unknowns as possible into knowns. And it’s what organizations don’t know that hurts them. He outlined four commonalities among organizations that experience cyber breaches, and all involve something unknown.

These organizations have unknown assets, data, network connections and/or user accounts. By taking inventory of these items, organizations can greatly reduce their risk of incursions. But the fact remains, he warned, that cyber risks can never be eliminated.

Afternoon Crossfire – Addison Snell of Intersect360 Research returned to the microphone in the afternoon to moderate a rapid-fire discourse among industry experts on a variety of topics raised during the day. The panel included Earl Dodd, Dr. Shawana Johnson, Franz Deimbacher of GeoScale, Scott Denham of Cray, and Dr. Gregory Rodgers of AMD.

To get the debate started, Snell asked the panelists to offer their overall thoughts on HPC in Cybersecurity. Scott Denham noted that some cyberthreats can be predicted using big data analytics in the HPC domain. Franz Dembacher observed that security of HPC clusters will improve as more move into the cloud. And Earl Dodd suggested HPC technology has the potential to be used offensively to launch retaliatory attacks on the hackers.

In response to other questions, the panelists sparred over which country is best at developing HPC technology and which is best at using HPC for national security purposes. The USA, China, UK and Japan were mentioned as answers to the first question, while Israel was singled out for its security prowess in deploying HPC.

Wrapping up the afternoon, Snell asked how HPC systems can be best be protected from cyberattacks. Earl Dodd got in the last word, saying this can be accomplished by getting the OT, IT and HPC staffs working together in recognizing and fixing gaps in their existing security infrastructure. This will involve educating everyone in the workplace to be sure they understand the threat and the value of the algorithms, workflows and intellectual property they handle.

After the conclusion of the panel, Dodd brought the SHPCP Annual Technical Meeting to a close by observing there are two kinds of companies – those that have HPC technology and those that wish they had HPC technology.









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