Hot Interconnects (HOTI’09) in New York

I attended the Hot Interconnects conference for the second time and it was as great as last year! This conference is rather convincing because it is a single-track conference with only a small number of highly interesting papers. And still, the attendance is huge, unlike on some other conferences where people only come when they have to present a paper and the audience is often sparse.

I gave a talk on static oblivious InfiniBand routing which was well received (I received a lot of questions and had very interesting discussions, especially during the breaks). Other highlights of the conference (in my opinion) were:

  • Fulcrum’s impressive 10 GiB FocalPoint switch design (the switch has full bandwidth at 10 GiB/s line-rate, real 10 GiB/s not 8 ;) )
  • A paper about the implementation of collective communication on BG/P (I was hoping for a bit more theoretical background and a precise model of the BG/P network)
  • Some talks on optical networking were rather interesting
  • The panel about remote memory access over converged Ethernet was rather funny. Some people are seriously trying to implement the <irony> simple and intuitive </irony> OFED interface to Ethernet. I am wondering which real application (not MPI) uses OFED as communication API?

Here are some commented pictures:
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View from the Empire State Building (credits go to Patrick!).

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Another view from Empire State, the red arrow points at the conference location (the Credit Suisse Palace).

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Times square (I think).

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The Empire State “tip”.

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Another downtown view.

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The Empire State foyer.

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I feel like in Paris ;) .

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We saw this scary building without windows as we walked from The Empire State down to the World Trade Center Site (weird).
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*yeah* (seen next to the WTC site).

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All we could see from the WTC site. It was not worth the long walk … but we talked anyway most of the time so this paid off.

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The Wall Street (should be closed immediately!).

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The subway is rather scary … seriously, New York!? Why do they have such a bad subway …

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View from my (extremely cheap) hotel room. It was awesome, really!

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The Credit Suisse Palace from the inside. Somebody has too much money (still).

The computer science publication system revisited

Sometimes I get to hear that computer science is not a real science, and sometimes I believe it myself. Science has many definitions and often refers to the scientific method that is used to systematically acquire and disseminate new facts about nature. I think in this sense, computer science has to be split in an applied part (engineering) and a theoretical part (mathematics). I worked on the engineering side for several years and reached the point where I am disappointed about its state. It seems to be less systematical than it needs to be, often focusing on mere implementation details in system xyz while forgetting about generality and nature. I think the main problems are missing reproducibility, the importance of conferences, the current review system, and the self-imposed pressure on the number of publications. This often leads to rushed publications only containing the “least publishable increment” or even wrong results. I also see many conference presentations that don’t present anything new but merely implemented something that is clear to work in theory. Rather than “uh, that’s a nice idea”, I feel more like “oh yes, they’ve implemented xyz with technology zyx”. I am also following the mathematical side of computer science and I have to say that there are different issues. It is good that the general state of the publication system in computer science is being discussed. I agree to most of the points from Lance Fortnow and Moshe Vardi. Both reports are worth a read! The usenix collected wisdom on the review system are also interesting! The last very relevant link deals with the evaluation of individuals in computer science. I’ll close by citing a note on double-blind reviews.

[Update] An excellent paper: “Stop the Numbers Game” by David Lorge Parnas