In Memory of Dr. Allan Snavely

By Henry Newman

There was a flurry of email in the HPC community this weekend about the loss of one of HPC's current pre-eminent computational scientists. I have worked with and around Allan occasionally during the past 10 or so years and have seen the impact he has had on the industry. More than 10 years ago, Allan made some bold statements about performance of applications, stating in effect that you could determine the performance of an application by understanding the memory references and bandwidth required, as memory bandwidth was the limiting factor for application performance on a local CPU.

Allan took this idea and developed a performance prediction framework, and with the help of Dr. Laura Carrington and others, the Performance Modeling and Characterization Laboratory (PMac) lab was born at San Diego Super Computer Center. Allan also realized that SDSC, which was one of the pre-eminent high performance computing universities in the late 1980s and early 1990s, had lost its way. He boldly proposed a new HPC architecture during a National Science Foundation HPC grant competition, and with the SSD-based Gordon system won the competition and put SDSC back on the map after years of neglect. Allan had just moved to a new job earlier this month, helping set the direction for Livermore National Laboratory, which as one of its critical responsibilities ensures the safety and quality of our nuclear stockpile.

Allan and his team have worked with all of the major CPU vendors to look at potential performance improvements based on applications requirements. Therefore, the performance improvements you see today are likely a result of some of the basic research Allan did. He will be missed not only by his family and friends but also by the industry.

This article was originally published on July 17, 2012