Software News

Meet Joe B. from the CHTC

October 3, 2022

What do you do at the CHTC?

As an infrastructure administrator, I operate the various computers that provide the services required by the CHTC. The CHTC Infrastructure Services team handles the behind-the-scenes technology so that researchers can focus on what matters: their research! And, of course, leveraging various technologies to meet their research computing needs. For high throughput computing (HTC), we run HTCondor, developed right here at UW-Madison. For high-performance computing (HPC) needs, we offer a Slurm cluster. It is a great privilege to work down the hall from the development team of HTCondor.

Can you talk about the new hardware refresh that just occurred?

As you might imagine, part of being responsible for running an HTCondor pool is providing a place for the research computing to happen – we call such computers “execute points.” Our newest and most powerful execute points came from the recent “Technology Refresh,” an effort made possible through the generous support of the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education with funding from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. These 207 new computers provide substantially more capacity for researchers across campus to do science with the CHTC. Recently, much of my time and effort has gone into taking these devices from new-in-box machines and turning them into fully functioning execute points. It has been quite a challenge, but it also has been very rewarding.

What’s been your favorite part about working at the CHTC?

I really like the people I work with! Everyone is very friendly and helpful; one can cry for help in the hallway, and team members will almost certainly stop by to lend a hand. Don’t get me wrong – the hardware, the technology, and supporting research are all highlights of being a part of the CHTC, but it is the people around me that I appreciate the most.

What challenges do you face in your position, and how do you overcome them?

Research computing, despite its name, lends itself to a fast-paced environment. It is engaging (sometimes even fun!) but also quite the challenge. Priorities change rapidly, and it takes a good deal of flexibility to keep up. Most often, my days do not go as I plan – and that’s okay! Keeping an eye on the big picture, going with the “flow” of each new day, and working closely with my colleagues is how I overcome the many challenges of being a SysAdmin in the research computing world.

What’s been one of the most exciting changes that have happened recently at the CHTC?

I don’t mean to bang on the Tech Refresh drum, but then, I absolutely do – the tech refresh is an exciting and “refreshing” change. It’s a huge deal to us. The quantity and quality of the new hardware really make a massive difference from my perspective, and I hope that the researchers leveraging CHTC will notice it too. Even more exciting is the hope that the CHTC and research computing are becoming more well-known on campus. For me, the Tech Refresh is evidence that we are moving in the right direction toward that goal.

What’s your favorite flavor of Babcock ice cream?

Blue Moon is always my go-to flavor. Nostalgia may influence my choice, as that’s the flavor we would have while visiting the beach when I was very young.

What’s your favorite fall activity to do in Madison?

My favorite fall activity is going apple picking; the sheer number of apple varieties always impresses me. There are a few local orchards that I particularly enjoy.

You famously came up with “Caturday,” where people post pictures of their cats every Saturday in our CHTC social chat; can you tell us a little about yours?

I’m not sure about “famously,” but who doesn’t like cat pictures? CHTC, as it turns out, is made possible by the many cats that allow their humans to work here. I have two cats named Lilac and Peony. They’re both female orange tabbies, which is interesting because most orange tabbies are males. I adopted them upon moving to Madison. They are a bonded pair, meaning they had to be adopted together, and I am so glad to have two! They keep each other company, play together, and cause trouble together. I wouldn’t have it any other way! I often joke that I work to put food on their plates.