Consultants and Account Support staff are available to assist users from 8 AM to 5 PM Pacific time, Monday through Friday (except Berkeley Lab holidays). Questions and problems submitted through the On-Line Help Desk are immediately sent to the consulting staff and this is the preferred method of communication.
NERSC staff can be reached at 1-800-66-NERSC (USA) or 510-486-8600 (local and international); or email firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with a consultant and email@example.com to speak with Account Support staff. Users may sometimes contact specific User Services staff members directly by phone or email, but in that case there is no guarantee of a timely response. Staff members are often involved with other time-critical assignments and may not be available.
After contacting the NERSC help desk, users can expect an initial response within 4 business hours. The problem will not necessarily be solved, but receipt of the report will be acknowledged within that time period.
Consultants provide expert advice for code debugging and optimization. Collaborations with NERSC users typically last days or weeks, but there is no formal limit to the duration of consultations.
Typical issues that are handled by consultants are
- efficient use of math, graphics and message passing libraries
- algorithmic code restructuring to increase performance
- debugging code that causes error conditions
- I/O optimization
- effective use of compilers
- advising on best strategies for porting code
User Services staff members work closely with vendors to report and resolve problems with the vendors' products. Staff members collect these bug reports from users and coworkers, isolate and reproduce the problem before sending it directly to the vendor analysts.
What information should you include in your questions to consultants?
The 8 NERSC consultants handle roughly 6000 user requests per year. Including certain information in your questions will allow us to serve you better. Here are some suggestions:
- Report which system you are using. NERSC has numerous systems and user support can be delayed unnecessarily when basic information is not in the initial ticket.
- Give us some background about your problem. For example, have you run this code before at NERSC? When was the last time it ran successfully? Is this a new version of your code? Has it run successfully on other platforms? Have you changed compilers?
- Send us the specific error message you are seeing and what command you used to get it. Often times the consultants receive emails which say, "My job crashed", which doesn't give us enough information. We will likely need to see error message, your job submission script and possibly your compile line and application configuration. You can point consultants to a path in your directory or include this information in the ticket.
- Tell us what you've tried already. If you've already tried to solve your problem in a few different ways, let us know so we don't waste time trying the same things.
- Report any problem that affects your productivity. Our users are our best system testers and we rely on your reports to improve the systems.
Documentation and the Web
The consultants maintain the technical documentation on the NERSC website. NERSC's goal is to provide timely, accurate and thorough information for its users. If you find a section of the NERSC website confusing or unclear please let us know so we can improve our site. We welcome comments and suggestions pertaining to any documentation: just click on the button to send us feedback about the page you are reading.
Training and Tutorials
User Services provides training to help users transition to new technologies and use resources effectively. The primary focus is on good web documentation and online tutorials. NERSC also holds monthly training classes online and in-person training sessions a few times per year, most often at our facility in Oakland, CA. Training classes, both at LBNL and offsite, can be arranged upon request. See the NERSC Training Web Page for further details.
Software installation and support
The consultants are responsible for installing, maintaining and supporting third-party and public domain software at NERSC. This includes applications, libraries, tools and utilities. Our goal is to keep software up-to-date, understand our users' needs and evaluate and acquire new software.
There are different defined levels of support for each software product or package. See NERSC Software.