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HPC gets its own society - E&P Magazine

27 Sep 2010 9:20 PM | The Society of HPC Professionals (Administrator) February 2010 | E&P | 19

HPC gets its own society:

A user group is being formed to acknowledge the huge impact highperformance
computing is having on the oil and gas industry.

By RHONDA DUEY, Senior Editor 

Science and technology experts have always needed a place and time to meet and share their ideas. That need has not changed. But the science and technology have.

As trade organizations like the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) increasingly showcased high-performance computing (HPC) during their annual conventions, it became apparent to a few folks that the needs of the HPC community within the oil and gas industry were not being adequately met. So recently six organizers got together to discuss the concept of creating a user group for this underserved population.

Ebb Pye, now secretary-treasurer of this budding organization, said that several attempts had been made previously to gauge the interest in such a group. In each case attendance far outweighed expectations. However, often the workshops covered such a broad range of topics that many of the specialists were disappointed with the outcome.

“We’re trying to find those people, find out how many there are, and then have special interest groups (SIGs) for them,” Pye said.

So recently the founders met to form the group, called the Society of HPC Professionals. In addition to Pye, current officers include Bill Menger as president, Nicolas McClean as vice-president, and Gary Crouse as executive director. Scott Morton and Herb Riley serve as board members. Crouse has agreed to fulfill his role gratis for the first year.

Working from the ground up

The group is starting small, soliciting opinions on its Web site ( and planning an initial users meeting to be held in late April. But its ambitions are large.

So far early activities include:

  • Establishing an organization that will focus on the interests of the HPC user;
  • Developing a Web page to provide society plans and meeting activities;
  • Recruiting companies to be founders and sponsors of the society;
  • Establishing a strong membership program;
  • Identifying strong areas of interest;
  • Conducting HPC workshops in conjunction with major industry conferences;
  • Arranging and coordinating

HPC workshops/seminars at

major universities;

  • Conducting SIGs to present/discuss topics of special interest; and
  • Conducting round table discussion meetings to provide direction for the society.

Pye added that he hopes the group will eventually expand beyond the Houston area and even beyond the boundaries of E&P.

Early participation has been good. Many major universities have expressed an interest in being involved, and already two companies have committed to sponsor the April meeting. “We think getting early sponsor money isn’t going to be that difficult, although when we start talking about long-term larger funding, it might get difficult,” Pye said. “But I think we’ll have plenty of vendors and operating companies that want to sponsor this.”

Included in the list of potential sponsors is a pool of new entrants to the oil and gas industry such as Data Direct Networks, which focuses on data storage, and Q Associates, which makes a product that reduces vibration in the racks where the storage devices are housed.

“These are little companies that you just don’t hear much about, but they play some pretty significant roles in the industry,” he said.

The main input for the future of the society, however, will come from the members, and Pye said the April meeting will have five presenters who will discuss how they want to be a part of the group and then open up a discussion about its future. Pye said a similar session on 3-D interpretation at a recent SEG meeting had hit-or-miss participation until the end, when the organizers scheduled a panel discussion where they asked the audience what they thought of the session and what they’d like to hear more about.

“The room filled up,” he said. “I thought we were dead in the water, but the closer it got to that last session, the more people flowed in.” He hopes to do a similar session on HPC at this year’s annual meeting.

Overall, interest in the group seems to be strong, and funding may indeed prove to be the sticking point. Several international organizations have asked the group to do a workshop outside the US. “I don’t know whether we’ll have the funding to do that early on; we’ll have to wait and see how successful we are raising funds in the near term,” he said. “It may take a couple of years to get the momentum that we need to raise the funding to a level where we can support international meetings.”

A new trade organization?

Pye hopes that eventually the society will be a “mini-SEG,” with different levels of sponsorship, paid membership, a board of directors, paid staff, etc. As a non-profit 501(c).6 corporation, the group can also do its own publications.

But there are no plans to compete with SEG or any of the other societies.  In fact, the Society of HPC Professionals would prefer to be a partner with existing organizations. Right now the burning question being posed to potential members is, “What do you want?” Pye hopes to reach not only the operations people, those who offer ways to lower cooling and power costs, but also the people who generate and build the algorithms that drive software improvements, and the end-users in the operating companies.

“There are maybe 20 different areas that these guys work in,” he said. “So not only is it a reduced area of interest, but within that reduced area of interest it’s even more specific. We’re trying to find out how to get to those people and make sure they’re getting what they want out of this society.”

The round tables will be another source of information, he added. The format here will be to bring three or four presenters together and have a question-and-answer session from the audience following the presentations.

“It’s always amazed me the information that will come out of something like that,” he said. “You would think it would be confidential information within a corporation. But people will say, ‘This is a problem in our organization. How do you handle it?”

For now Pye and the other organizers are dipping into their own financial reserves to pay for things like legal fees and promotional materials. He expects that to change. But he doesn’t regret the time he’s put into the program.

“This is something I enjoy doing,” he said. “It keeps me in the industry, and it keeps me talking to people that I like to talk to.

“I can see the benefits of it. When 200 people come out of a room and they’re happy with the presentations, that’s pretty rewarding to me. As soon as the society is up and running and someone else wants to take my place on the board, I’ll probably retire. Again.”









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