International HPC Certification Forum and AU-NZ Contributions

High Performance Computing (HPC) is the most effective method to process increasingly large and complex datasets, making them increasingly critical for research organisations. Researchers wanting to use HPC resources often start with low levels of skills in using those systems. Despite this situation, educational programmes coming out of well-informed user needs analysis and/or a widely acknowledged set of required skills, capabilities and knowledge are rare. As a result, the training of researchers typically left to individual HPC sites, such as the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, National Compute Infrastructure Australia, and the University of Melbourne.

With different sites providing their own training with varied content and delivery there is a lack of consistency in skills and knowledge among HPC users, despite the fact that there is a recognised high level of homogeneity in HPC skills (e.g., UNIX-like environments, cluster architecture, job submission principles, parallel programming techniques).

One group trying to address this challenge on an international level is the International HPC Certification Forum ("the Forum"). The Forum was established by a global collection of individuals committed to identifying competency areas, skills and measurable outcomes per identified HPC user roles. The Forum plans to provide examination and certification of users in fine-grained competencies. The Forum has purposefully not taken ownership for training content, separating the definition of skills and certificates from education content and delivery, but allows for the option of delivery agents to be recognized as including examinable content. Australia has been involved from the start of this effort toward a global curriculum with two members of the governing Board.

For Australia and New Zealand HPC educators and trainers in the HPC environment there is a desire for a collaborative development of course content. This is a rational allocation of scarce temporal and financial resources. This has generated ongoing interest in establishing collaboration among HPC educators to develop a programme suitable for Forum Certification. With a lead from the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, the University of Melbourne, Adelaide University, and NCI, national coordination of HPC educators in Australia and New Zealand are developing a repository of knowledge for content, delivery, and assessment, with the objective of increasing regional research output.

This is a presentation initially given at the ARDC eResearch Skilled Workforce Summit, 29-30 July, 2019, in Sydney then in an expanded version at the HPC-AI Advisory Council, August 29, 2019, in Perth, and finally in a reduced version for a ARDC Tech-Talk, 6 Sept, 2019.