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Humans of SCinet: Q&A with SC20 DevOps Team Volunteer Greg Veldman

humans of scinet

greg veldmanGreg Veldman, senior storage administrator at Purdue University, is this year’s chair of the SCinet DevOps team, and a member of the SCinet power team. Due to the virtual nature of SC20, we will not be building the cutting-edge SCinet infrastructure that our attendees have to come to expect as part of their SC experience. This feature aims to spotlight the dedicated volunteers and generous contributors whose tireless efforts and enthusiasm have helped shape the SC experience over the last 30 years.

  • Years as a SCinet Volunteer: 7
  • SCinet Team(s) with which you’ve participated: Network Security, DevOps (formerly IT Services), and Power
  • If you could be a superhero, what power would you possess? The ability to see the future.

How would you explain SCinet and what you do as a SCinet volunteer to a family member or friend?

SCinet is the world’s fastest temporary network, existing only for a brief period each November to help the SC Conference demonstrate what is state-of-the-art in the fields of high-performance computing and networking. I am part of a behind-the-scenes team that spends “a year planning, a month building, a week operating, and a day tearing down” this network, as the SCinet adage goes.


What was your path to start volunteering with SCinet? What keeps you coming back as a SCinet volunteer each year?

I attended my first SC Conference 15 years ago and was a participant in a friendly HPC competition known as the Bandwidth Challenge. The competition utilized SCinet and that is how I came to know of the network. My curiosity about just what was involved in building such a world-class network each year led to a conversation with a work colleague who was volunteering with SCinet at the time. He suggested I should volunteer with the team behind building SCinet and introduced me to my first volunteer role with the network security team.

For my second year volunteering with SCinet, I transferred to the IT services team, which was later combined with the measurement team, and became known as the DevOps team.

The best part of SCinet is getting to work with a team of extremely talented and dedicated engineers to solve some very complex technical challenges and expand my technical skills, and the spirit of camaraderie and friendship that exists within the SCinet team.

Tell us about your SCinet team this year and what you are responsible for.

I like to say that the DevOps team is essentially three teams merged into one. We’re part software development, part general IT services, and part measurement and monitoring. Most of our year is spent wrangling the software and infrastructure tools other teams need to be successful, including the SCinet intranet which is the main network planning tool that we’ve designed and written completely in-house. Exhibitors may know this tool as the connection request system (CRS), but that’s only one user experience of a much larger and more complex entity. The DevOps team also manages SCinet’s year-round IT presence, including our websites, mailing lists, accounts, and various other services that SCinet uses.

Immediately prior to the start of the SC Conference, specifically during SCinet’s staging and setup periods, our focus turns toward network services such as domain name system (DNS), dynamic host configuration protocol (DHCP), and network time protocol (NTP), all of which we install and manage for SCinet. Finally, when the conference swings into full gear, we transition to monitoring the production network, deploying tools that can alert SCinet engineers to potential problems, and generating the various network graphics and charts that are displayed all around the show floor.

In addition to being a DevOps team lead this year, I’m also a member of the SCinet power team which is responsible for making sure all physical SCinet locations at the conference have appropriate electrical connections, and sufficient capacity, to power all the gear deployed.

The SCinet DevOps team has been working hard since January in preparation for SC20. What is one accomplishment that you are proud of?

One of our big efforts this year, which is new for SC20, is the addition of centrally-supported cloud services to the list of tools available to SCinet and the SC Conference planners. I’ve personally been hard at work behind the scenes to help deploy these services, including making sure appropriate security settings are in place, appropriate access is provisioned for new people who join the team, and integrating the services with our existing accounts management and automation processes. It’s rewarding to see all that work come together to provide a new service, one which has proved particularly useful this year as we’ve all had to collaborate online much more.

In addition to volunteering with SCinet, what do you do for fun?

I’ve always enjoyed fixing and making things, and most weekends you can find me at work doing some sort of repair or enhancement to our house or yard. I’ve been into woodworking since I was in high school, and in the last couple of years have been getting into metalworking, including teaching myself how to weld. I also enjoy teaching my kids how to do some basic tasks with me in my workshop.

Learn more about SCinet.

Sara Aly, SC20 Communications, SCinet Liaison

Sara Aly is a communications manager at Internet2. This is her third year volunteering with the SCinet communications team.

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