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GPFSUG @Computing Insight UK

This week was Computing Insight UK (CIUK) (formerly MEW), which is an annual HPC conference organised by STFC. For those not familiar, its like ISC or SC. Just on a much smaller scale - its a very different show to the major international events and I like being able to walk across the show floor (in 2 minutes) and also knowing ~60-70% of the people there... (and playing which sales person has changed vendor this year is a fun game).

As part of the programme for CIUK, we got a 2 hour "UG@" meeting in, but still we had a packed agenda. Although I've been chair of the group for a while, this is the first proper UK general meeting that I've been involved in organising so it was with a little trepidation that I took on booking the agenda! Luckily I have Claire to help - organising telecons, chasing me and others to help make sure it works on the day.

We opened the meeting with a quick UG update and summary of the past year's activities (4 meet the devs, 1 major meeting in York with SPXXL and working with the USA based people to get the UG up and running over there).

Patrick Byrne and Cameron McAllister from IBM's UK Spectrum Scale dev teams opened the talks - with 4.2 having been GA for just a few weeks, it was an opportunity to give a whistle-stop tour of the GUI, QoS and compression features of the new release. A quick canvas showed a few people have upgraded (and I'm hoping its going to be a stable build and plan to upgrade my clusters in the next week). Cameron moved on to talk about the Analytics integration (Hadoop, Spark etc) work which is going on to help GPFS support these types of workloads. Handing back to Patrick, we heard about what the 2016 focus is for Spectrum Scale, which includes a heavy focus on both documentation and problem determination - or more what's going wrong, and why it might be going on. As Patrick pointed out, these aren't "sexy", but a absolutely key to improving stability, ease of use and for operators to be able to work out what might be contributing when things are going wrong.

We then moved on to our second talk - I'd invited Vic Cornell from DDN to do a talk, I originally asked him something technical about RAID, erasure encoding, but Vic thought it might be too technical and instead gave us a tour of "How to ruin a perfectly good GPFS file-system". Vic's comment was "looking at my GPFS notes, they were mostly about what not to do", and he gave a good talk on his experience of working with Spectrum Scale over the years and things people do which break it or kill performance. I think people appreciated the candid nature of the talk, and it was good to see that my view on how we setup access to multipath controllers is held with others as well.

Our final talk was given by Marc Roscow from Seagate (he formerly worked on products like GSS). For those who missed it at SC, Seagate announced a Seagate branded Spectrum Scale appliance - ClusterStor G200. Marc talked on why an engineered, tested solution is a good thing. Seagate have implemented their own de-clustered RAID for the solution, but equally Marc talked about how they will support it with the global namespace features of Spectrum Scale so that the appliance will co-exist in a hybrid deployment including roll-your-own, ESS, DDN etc. (Which I take as good thing that accept deployment in hybrid environments ... which is sorta the point of software defined storage right?).

At the end of the meeting we opened the floor for general discussion, we had a few items we wanted to talk about - what people would like to see in the May breakout sessions was the main one. I'm amazed, but enthused that people really want to have a whole session on licensing and models ... I'm not sure I want to chair that session (on one side commercials and on the other academic sites who don't want to pay anything ;-) ), but it could be an interesting discussion nevertheless!

Finally a bit of canvassing of opinion in what people want to see in general. The group was originally intended as a technical forum, but with increasing numbers of vendors entering the Spectrum Scale appliance market and Spectrum Scale value-add services, I wanted to see how people felt about this - I'm easy either way, but the general consensus is that we should stay technical focussed, and whilst people aren't necessarily averse to a marketing slot, it should be on a level playing field.

What people were happy to see though, would be vendors (with customers?) talking about problems they've seen and how they've solved it, and I think Vic from DDN's talk was good at fitting into that sort of role.

The slides from the speakers are on the presentations page. Thanks to Patrick, Cameron, Vic and Marc for agreeing to speak and also to those people who came along to hear what we are talking about.

And finally, I'd like to thank the people at OCF and Mellanox who provided a bottle of Spectrum (sc)ale for everyone coming to the group meeting! And also to STFC for agreeing to give us a breakout slot on the CIUK agenda.

2015 has been a busy year for the user group, and I'm hoping 2016 will be another successful year for the group as well!

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