In this recent IT Conversations interview, Jon Udell discusses topics from Greg Wilson’s recent talk “High-Performance Computing Considered Dangerous”. Wilson places a new emphasis on testing and usability over more power and speed.

The interview focused on the difficulties of learning techniques in High-Performance Computing and, in general, about the split between scientific computing and “commercial” software development. Tools have to improve because there is no more time in the science curriculum to teach science graduate students more about software engineering practices. In particular, I thought the comments about version control aiding in the reproducibility of computations were interesting (version control as a “software lab notebook”). He also mentions that tools like “Matlab, IDL, and Mathematica” are scoffed at by the HPC gurus, but are the tools that many scientists are using to solve their problems (he put Excel in a category of popularity above these). Our focus should be adding easy to use HPC techniques to these platforms.