NERSCPowering Scientific Discovery for 50 Years

2001 User Survey Results




SatisfactionAverage Score
Very Satisfied 6.5 - 7
Mostly Satisfied 5.5 - 6.4
Somewhat Satisfied 4.5 - 5.4
Significance of Change
significant increase
significant decrease
not significant


Satisfaction with Software:


TopicNo. of
 Std. Dev.Change
from 2000
T3E Fortran Compilers 59 6.53 0.57 0.13
PVP Fortran Compilers 54 6.48 0.61 -0.18
PVP Libraries 36 6.47 0.77 0.66
PVP User Environment 57 6.28 0.88 0.03
SP Fortran Compilers 65 6.26 0.99 0.30
SP Libraries 53 6.15 0.99 0.15
PVP Local Documentation 44 6.09 1.03 -0.29
PVP Applications 33 6.06 0.97 0.23
T3E Libraries 53 6.04 1.07 -0.14
SP User Environment 71 6.00 1.08 -0.07
T3E User Environment 73 6.00 1.14 -0.18
PVP General Tools and Utilities 37 5.97 1.04 0.04
SP C/C++ Compilers 35 5.97 1.10 0.25
SP Local Documentation 59 5.97 1.00 -0.08
PVP Bug Resolution 30 5.93 1.28 0.83
T3E Local Documentation 57 5.88 0.87 -0.12
PVP C/C++ Compilers 23 5.87 1.22 -0.13
T3E C/C++ Compilers 36 5.86 1.22 -0.07
PVP Performance and Debugging Tools 36 5.78 1.05 -0.28
T3E Performance and Debugging Tools 52 5.63 1.31 0.07
PVP Vendor Documentation 32 5.62 1.21 -0.07
T3E General Tools and Utilities 47 5.55 1.10 -0.10
SP Applications 38 5.55 1.25 -0.12
SP General Tools and Utilities 46 5.52 1.13 -0.20
T3E Bug Resolution 29 5.52 1.33 -0.18
SP Bug Resolution 34 5.44 1.21 -0.01
T3E Vendor Documentation 37 5.41 1.32 -0.18
T3E Applications 31 5.39 1.43 -0.39
SP Vendor Documentation 47 5.32 1.20 -0.18
SP Performance and Debugging Tools 53 5.00 1.69 0.31




Comments about Software:   13 responses


17   Tools, utilities, and bug resolution
6   Compilers
5   Libraries
4   General software comments




Tools, utilities, and debugging:

It would be nice to have some info on debugging on the web site (not sure this is the case at the moment).

  Need a good debugger on the Cray - totalview sucks (very flaky, gives wrong answers, crashes frequently, etc) [...]

The totalview debugger is great when it works, but it is unreliable (at least on the T3E and PVP).

better debuggers for Seaborg needed!!!!!!

NERSC response:  We try to maintain the best debuggers available.  Totalview is, despite its failings, the best debugger we have.  Software requests may be made via our online form. NERSC consultants try to keep abreast of the latest software developments,  including new debuggers. Feel free to contact us with suggestions for new debuggers or bug reports  for our current ones.

The lack of an interactive queue on seaborg makes debugging, via, for instance, totalview, impossible.  

NERSC response:   Indeed, this was a problem until recently. We have expanded the resources directed at debug and interactive needs. There are now resources dedicated to interactive/debug work during the day.  See    NERSC Queue Policies on the SP    for more information.  


bug resolution usually requires help from consultants

I want to learn to use more performance analysis tools, but just haven't had the chance. The debugging has been fairly straightforward, at least for the simple things I ask it to do.

All of my dissatisfaction is due to the lack of proactive acquisition, user training, and the availability of a suitable partition for the in-depth performance analysis of large production codes on seaborg. I would like to learn and be able to get hardware performance counter information and MPI performance information for PCM. I have tried to do this at the NCAR site using the available IBM documentation. It has been an extremely frustrating and daunting task. I think that NERSC has the resources to provide this capability and training......


NERSC response:  Hardware performance monitoring on the SP is somewhat underdeveloped.  Two API's exists for gathering HPM,  PAPI and  PMAPI.  Neither of these APIs provide HPM  data for parallel applications without code modification and recompiling.  Also, neither provides a mechanism for aggregating HPM data  from all of the tasks in the parallel application.  We will continue to search for ways to make instrumenting code for HPM easier.

A tar with the -z option (like GNU\'s) would be good. Some of the GNU tools seem to run (extremely* slowly for no apparent reason. [...] Using Xwindows from here is so slow as to be nearly useless. I really need a tool that will run anywhere to translate Cray binary files into more conventional formats.


NERSC response:    The GNU version of tar is available in the GNU module.  NERSC is working with IBM's xlf compiler group to enable reading of Cray unformatted binary data on the SP.  When this functionality is available it will be announced to users.

    NERSC supports a lot of neat DOE software, and also serves the function of identifying what part of that software is ready to be supported big-time.

The support work you do is outstanding. Some improvements could be made in how quickly new releases of supported software are installed, e.g. petsc.

The default SP account configuration leaves all customization *and usability creation* to the user. Please, give users default shells/configurations with command line histories etc. This is the 21st century. NERSC also appears to be continuing its unofficial shell war - no/little bash support - and while there are many technical reasons for not liking it, the shell is the primary interface through which users use the machines. Please, at least provide some example "comfortable" configurations on the web page. Keeping load on interactive nodes down is presumably a consideration, but this should not be at the expense of usability. Sorry for the rant - but by default the SP has an interface from the 1980s.

NERSC response:   Good suggestions! Sorry if it seems like we are playing favorites with shells, but the issue is really software support. We have recently allowed users to choose tcsh (and soon bash!) as their default login shell. While there is still no official software support available, we will make our best effort to accommodate shells requested by users.
We try to make the default configurations for all shells reasonably comfortable. Specific suggestions are welcome. Realize also that we prefer to use modules to provide functionalities which not everyone might be interested in. E.g., the GNU module provides color ls under bash, something that not all bash users might want.


More general tools could be helpful. Compression utility on IBMSP would allow large file transfer faster.

It would be very useful for me to have some simple visualization software on the IBM SP (seaborg), for example, gnuplot, because it is very helpful for me to be able to take a quick look at the data, without having to transfer large files out.

NERSC response:  A gnuplot module has been added.  

I would love to see vim installed. It's the best programming editor around.


NERSC response:  The vim and gvim editors have been on  seaborg for some time.  Everyone should have these in their path.  NERSC has added a vim  module as well to increase its visibility. Likewise you can alias  vi to vim.  

I need some support when there are Python problems.


NERSC response:  Feel free to contact NERSC consultants with Python questions.

update emacs to xemacs.

NERSC response:    Looking into this.




[...] Cray cc also has many annoying quirks (e.g. no support for 16-bit data types) - it would be nice to have other options gcc has just been ported to the T3E - put it on mcurie!!!

The Cray C++ compiler is not very good, and KCC is too slow. The IBM xlC compiler seems to be better.

I wish some vendor had a compiling Common Lisp for either of the useful machines. sigh... Other high-level languages would be useful (Haskell, OCaml, etc), as well.

The only thing that really matters to me is ANSI C++ compiler with KAI preprocessor. NERSC does reasonable well in this regard. My group my have specific comments.  

[...] linking my F90 code seems to take a very, very long time (up to 8 min.); linking the same code here takes ~8 seconds The Cray f90's compilers idiosyncrasies are such that having the GNU gcc/g77 compiler would be handy. [...]

NERSC response:  We have not been able to compile gcc under unicos, but will investigate the tip above about a recent port. We agree that having multiple sets of compilers is  useful. Requests for new languages can be made through the online software request form. Python was made available by such a request.  




Well... IBM is known for its great hardware, not software. 64-bit MPI has been part of SGI software for several years by now and it works very well. Same thing for the profiling tools. Why can't IBM figure it out? NERSC should be more daring at getting beta-level software that the users could try out... as long as that software doesn't crash the computer though.

I will like to do compiling with 64-bit addressing for my high resolution simulation of climate. I hope it will be available on IBM SP soon


NERSC response:  NERSC has added the mpi64 module which provides this beta software.  Sorry for the delay, our highly unique dual adapter switch topology conflicted  with this software.  This conflict was recently resolved and the module is now available.  We look forward to the non-beta release of this software.  

more documentation online about fortran libraries ..

NERSC response:    NERSC maintains local copies of most IBM documentation Fortran, C,  SP related subjects from  . Our main site provides a great deal of  information and where appropriate links to usgibm. Please make the most of  these resources and feel free to  request additions or changes.

I'm using all the time the BSP library and the ARPACK package. It would be nice if they were installed at NERSC


NERSC response:  We are looking into this. It would help us to have more details a  written into a software request.

It would be nice to install LAPACK95 on the Cray PVP. Right now there is only the ancient LAPACK77. Because we like to have PORTABLE codes, we had to install and compile LAPACK95 ourselves in our user directory. The consultants did not seem to understand why we did not want to make calls to LAPACK77 directly (which would destroy code PORTABILITY).

NCAR/NCL never adequately replaced DISSPLA, after several years of bad experience  


General software comments:

Again, I would like to be directly informed when a bug I report is resolved. It usually doesn't happen or I have to crawl through a long doc to see if it is addressed

Again, my postdoc has had to grapple with software problems.

Documentation lags reality.

I need training! I am mostly learning from the previous user, but I feel I could be a lot more productive with better training

NERSC response:  We try our best to maintain both software and documentation.  Please  let us know    if you are have trouble or find out of date information.  Look for announcements regarding NERSC training coming soon!





I use PDSF. Software maintenance is excellent, we have what we need and upgrades and bug fixes are done intelligently, carefully, and in a timely way.

Never used! Is PDSF a part of NERSC or not!

PDSF isn't even included in this portion of the survey. By now PDSF has a fairly large user community; it should at least be on the survey.


NERSC response:  PDSF is part of NERSC. User support for PDSF and HPCF are in the  process of being integrated. PDSF is being considered for next year's survey.

Keep the SV's around. Find a suitable replacement soon


NERSC response:  We are carefully looking into our forward direction in regard to the PVPs.  The NERSC PVP roadmap is aiming towards as smooth a transition as possible to appropriate hardware when the PVPs are retired.  




Adequate software resources for my purpose

I don't use too many. I am satisfied.  


Don't use:

I have only used software services to a bare minimum.

  not using the resources; just plugging away!