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A Brief Q&A With SC 14 Exhibits Chair Christine E. Cuicchi, DoD HPCMP

SC14: How did you get started as a volunteer with SC?
Christine Cuicchi: I started small!  For SC01 I assisted my coworker, Eleanor Schroeder, with Student Volunteers which was an absolute treat. The enthusiasm the students had for the opportunity was a nice reminder of how their inclusion in SC was, and continues to be, mutually beneficial.

SC14: What past positions have you held and what keeps you coming back as a volunteer?|
Christine Cuicchi:
After that I held a few positions on the Technical Program committee (HPC Challenge Co-Chair, Birds of a Feather Co-Chair), another with Student Volunteers, and then moved into the Infrastructure committee for several years before serving as Infrastructure Chair last year.  Each position has had its particular challenges which have provided a sort of on-the-job training, some of which were of a scope or scale that I don’t typically find in my day job.  It’s also been beneficial in that the committee volunteers have become some of my dearest friends—these are high-caliber individuals in the HPC arena, and I’m lucky to work with and learn from them both professionally and personally.

SC14: How many exhibitors this year/or total exhibit space?
Christine Cuicchi: We are expecting more than 325 exhibitors occupying about 140,000 net square feet.

SC14: How does this compare to previous years at this point in the calendar year?|
Christine Cuicchi:
In terms of the quantity of exhibitors and the amount of square feet being reserved, we are running ahead of last year. This appears to be a reflection of the industry being strong and the excellent reputation the SC Conference has in attracting the HPC industry leaders to the exhibits each year. SC14 is the most important event in the industry.

SC14: What is the country breakdown? 
Christine Cuicchi: 25 countries, 114 companies.

SC14: How many first-time exhibitors?
Christine Cuicchi: 33

SC14: How many did we have last year?
Christine Cuicchi: 59, so we are running inline for a similar number.

SC14: Which exhibitors have the biggest booths?

Intel Corporation 3600
HP 2500
Micron Technology, Inc. 2500
Dell 2000
Department of Energy 2000
Indiana University 2000
DataDirect Networks 1600
Mellanox Technologies 1600
Texas Advanced Computing Center 1600
Cray, Inc. 1500
Penguin Computing 1500
CIENA 1400
Virginia Tech 1400
Xyratex 1400
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology 1200
IBM 1200
NASA 1200
Purdue University 1200
SGI 1200

SC14: Any trends this year?
Christine Cuicchi: Let us get back to you on this topic.

SC14: How difficult is it to juggle such a mixed exhibit space between universities/education/SCinet and for-profit companies?
Christine Cuicchi: It is the only event that balances corporate exhibits with a showcase for innovative applications of high-performance computing, networking, and storage from research institutions, universities, national laboratories, and nonprofit research centers on five continents. These scientists and engineers display the latest advances in computational modeling, imaging, visual analysis, and data technologies, often partnering with industry exhibitors to showcase how particular products can achieve new research discoveries.

SC14: Any tips on how to best to tackle the exhibit floor?
Christine Cuicchi: One of the main benefits of attending SC14 is that you can meet large numbers of people in one place. Attendees to SC14, like exhibitors, need to plan ahead to make the most of these opportunities. It's worth setting up appointments in advance so that you don't waste too much time browsing and talking to people you already know. For a list of who is attending, SC14 promotes a link to all the exhibiting companies: SC14 Exhibitor List.

Make time to attend relevant events that occur at SC14. One key event is the Exhibitor Forum, which offers an opportunity to learn about the latest advances in the supercomputing marketplace. Manufacturers, vendors and HPC service providers will present new products, services and roadmaps. Industry leaders will share their insights into customer needs, market drivers, product strategies and technology trends. Case studies will illustrate how their current and future solutions can be used effectively.

To get the most out of exhibition attendance, it is worth setting specific targets so you can measure the success of the exhibition after the event.

SC14: What challenges have you experienced as a woman in the field of HPC?
Christine Cuicchi: There are of course the typical challenges that women face in any technical, or even non-technical, professional environment—preconceptions about your proficiency, expertise, and competency.  However I’ve found that those were less pervasive when I was working on the technical side of HPC, and I think that’s largely due to how computing started leveling the playing field when I was in college in the mid-1990s. As we all moved into the workforce together there were fewer preconceptions about women in computing, and it’s my hope that trend continues with the younger workforce entrants.  Now that I’m in a largely managerial position I find stronger negative preconceptions must be overcome, but it’s not insurmountable.  I’m grateful to work in a program that is very aware of the unique contributions women can make in technical work and strategic planning and, as such, strives to incorporate them into our team in higher numbers.

SC14: On a personal level, you have a deep connection with Mississippi – what makes that area of the United States so special?
Christine Cuicchi: Growing up in Mississippi has made me keenly aware that all regions of the country have so much to offer that often goes unseen.  The fact that there are multiple supercomputing centers in Mississippi—with systems that fall high on the Top500 list—would probably blow the average American’s mind.  Today, finding those sorts of hidden gems, while telling others about the surprising features of Mississippi, has become a priority of mine when traveling.  And New Orleans!  It is the king of hidden delights; even the usual street sights are just a little off-kilter.   Working and living in coastal Mississippi gives me the opportunity to visit New Orleans often, which has made me a pro at finding the odd and unusual, the colorful and the joyous.  I can’t wait for our attendees to experience the city that I treasure.