NERSCPowering Scientific Discovery Since 1974

2003 User Survey Results

Web, NIM, and Communications

  • Legend
  • Satisfaction with the Web
  • How useful are these methods for keeping you informed?
  • Are you well informed of changes?
  • Summary of Information Technology Comments
  • Comments concerning the HPCF web site:   22 responses
  • Comments concerning the PDSF web site:   6 responses
  • Comments concerning NIM:   20 responses
  • Comments concerning how NERSC keeps you informed of changes:   19 responses



SatisfactionAverage Score
Mostly Satisfied 5.5 - 6.4
Somewhat Satisfied 4.5 - 5.4
UsefulnessAverage Score
Somewhat Useful 1.50 - 2.49
Not Useful / Not Used 0.50 - 1.49
Significance of Change
significant increase
significant decrease
not significant


Satisfaction with the Web

QuestionNo. of ResponsesAverageStd. Dev.Change from 2002Change from 2001
Accuracy 181 6.25 0.93 0.00 0.10
NIM 132 6.08 1.18 0.08 NA
Seaborg job displays 157 6.07 1.06 NA NA
Timeliness of info 172 6.05 1.09 -0.15 -0.03
SP Pages 159 6.00 1.04 0.04 0.22
Help section 163 5.93 1.11 NA NA
General programming info 162 5.91 1.02 0.06 0.19
Software Section 160 5.87 1.04 -0.09 NA
PDSF 84 5.83 0.99 0.02 NA
Ease of finding info on web 216 5.80 1.10 -0.00 -0.08
File Storage Pages 125 5.74 1.14 -0.10 -0.05
IBM docs 142 5.70 1.18 NA NA
Search facilities 164 5.44 1.19 -0.12 -0.11


How useful are these methods for keeping you informed?

QuestionNo. of ResponsesAverageStd. Dev.Change from 2002Change from 2001
Email 186 2.46 0.66 -0.00 0.02
Announcement web archive 174 2.40 0.65 0.06 0.35
MOTD 165 2.18 0.77 0.09 -0.09
Phone calls 142 1.77 0.90 0.09 -0.04


Are you well informed of changes?

QuestionNo. of Yes ResponsesNo. of No ResponsesPercent Who Said YesPercent Who Said Yes in 2002Percent Who Said Yes in 2001
Do you feel you are adequately informed? 208 12 95 96 94
Are you aware of major changes at least 1 month in advance? 162 25 87 91 81
Are you aware of software changes at least 7 days in advance? 165 22 88 86 81
Are you aware of planned outages 24 hours in advance? 170 20 89 87 91


Summary of Information Technology Comments

Comments concerning the HPCF web site

[Read all 32 responses]

9   Improve navigation / organization / presentation
8   Good website
5   Provide additional or clearer information
5   Keep info up-to-date / correct errors
4   Improve searching
4   Other

Comments concerning the PDSF web site

[Read all 12 responses]

5   Improve navigation / organization / presentation
4   Keep info up-to-date / correct errors
4   Good website
1   Provide additional or clearer information
1   Other (certificates)

Comments concerning NIM

[Read all 26 responses]

8   Issues with ERCAP or the allocations process
8   Good interface
3   Problems with reliability
1   Difficult to use
1   Violates privacy

Comments concerning how NERSC keeps you informed of changes

[Read all 22 responses]

8   Satisfied / well informed
6   Comments on system outages
5   Comments on using email
2   Comments on the MOTD
1   Software changes


Comments concerning the HPCF web site:   32 responses

Improve navigation / organization / presentation:

I feel like I'm going through a gigantic maze to find things that should be simple to find, such as keywords that appear in load leveler submit scripts, or clear and concise descriptions of the specific capabilities of the different available software libraries. There is a lot of information on the site, however.

Probably very good for amount of information but some times it takes me a while to find what I am looking for.

sometimes it takes a fair amount of searching to find the information that I am looking for

Make the structure more transparent, currently one often has to guess where the required information may be found.

Very often, the same information is spread over several web pages with slightly different content.

Needs lots of improvement. Most pages cram lots of info in a single page, hard to find what you want, etc. Beyond the home page, the website has an 80's look, Just compare it to Ohio, San Diego, or Pittsburg supercomputing centers web sites.

more compact, to-the-point info

There should be a condensed section with the basic commands, such as Fortran compiling (64 bit), starting/stopping/listing batch jobs, the location of scratch disks, the tape archive, queue info, and usage info.

I think that the PDSF website in particular could use an overhaul, more accurate info on the status of machines, how to optimize the batch queues and common pitfalls etc could be included. ...

Good website:

It's absolutely perfect. :-))

... The NIM and HPSS websites are quite useful.

The Web site improved significantly during the years.

It is the best site, and have been very helpful.

This site is very important and is a greater helper to my work.

One of the best aspects of NERSC - your useful web site.

I've found it very useful - certainly better than those have used at other supercomputing centers.

Keep up the good work.

Provide additional or clearer information:

The only part I do not like about the NERSC web pages is the HSI and HPSS documentation. My first reaction when I access the HPSS page is ... ah crap ... look at all this stuff. I'm never going to find what I need. (note: on the left hand side "summary", the back ground is blue and so are the links ... they can be easy to miss when reading.) Then I go to HSI ... same thing. Go to the "tricks and tips" section ... hmmm. It all looks kind of complicated. Now I know what to do ... but I remember the first time looking at this crap and, well, after reading is all I felt very nervous that I was going to wipe out everything! What would have been nice was a simple command: backup /scratch/mywork and it makes mywork.tar and dumps it on HPSS. done that's it. (I don't care if it uses hsi commands pftp or whatever, it just makes a tar file of mywork and dumps in on HPSS. I guess I could write my own shell script for this ... :) Anyway, I don't want to sound like I'm complaining ... I just remember my first time using HSI and HPSS as being well .... scary.

On the examples for the MPI tutorial, please define $EXAMPLES.

... I think that there should be more examples of how to use commands, particularly with respect to HPSS/HSI where only one not particularly general example is given for each command (get, cfget, etc...).

An archive of some more example loadleveler scripts might be useful. There are a few in the IBM manuals, but more would be nice for beginners like myself. (Maybe I just haven't found them, in which case I would suggest a more prominent link to them.)

The web site does not necessarily have relevant information to fix problems one might be having, i.e. a change in compiler causes a job not to run anymore: where does one go to the web site to get hints on what the differences might be and on how to go about fixing the problem?

Keep info up-to-date / correct errors:

Pretty user friendly but some of the tables seemed out of date such as the classes of running DL-POLY (this was in July).

Some information is quite out of date. While the web pages can still exist and be useful to some, a note should be on the page indicating that it is out of date.

keep it better updated with downtimes [PDSF user]

The MOTD is sometimes out of date with the current systems status on PDSF.

... I've also found that some examples of batch queue use are incorrect or at least misleading.

Improve searching:

I've had trouble finding straightforward information about some NERSC functionality. Often, the information pulled up by a search is either far too technical or too basic. ...

Search facilities are so bad. It seldom shows what I want to find out from the website.

It will be better if search facilities can be improved. Every time, I use search to get help with some topic, I got the news, and email notes about the topic.

I still find it difficult to find exactly the information I want, but I have no suggestions on how to improve it. I often find a google search with "" to be more useful than NERSC's own search engine.


I preferred when such information was kept on line on the platforms where I need to use it.

I don't really use the web sites. When I need information I ask someone in my group who already knows.

I seem to get along in a relative state of ignorance by consulting with code gurus rather than prowling around in the web site. Does this make me lazy?

Can't log in to get realtime status of the machine I use.


Comments concerning the PDSF web site:   12 responses

Improve navigation / organization / presentation:

It takes a little practice to find things.

... I find that some items on the PDSF website are quite hard to find.

It is organized probably as well as I can imagine something like this being and yet I occasionally find it hard to navigate and find what I need. Since I don't have any specific suggestions, I don't propose changing it. It works well enough for my purposes.

The front page looks a bit confusing if you want to find your way through the items you are looking for.

The inconsistencies between and, specifically for (but not, are a little irritating.

Keep info up-to-date / correct errors:

Include more accurate info on the status of machines, ...

FAQ could use updating.

The system configuration web pages sometimes get a bit old. When we talk to new projects about using PDSF, it would be nice to know what the projections are for future CPU/network/storage. I know this is hard to predict, but it would be nice.

I think the software section is a little out of date. ...

Good website:

I use PDSF and the web site is pretty good, I think. It does seem to get updated regularly and has what people need.

I have always been able to find what I needed to know in a timely manner.

no complaints, very well run facility

Things are easy to find and it is easy to submit trouble tickets -good site!

Provide additional or clearer information:

... how to optimize the batch queues and common pitfalls. I think that the details of optimizing HPSS<->PDSF communication could be included, particular in a batch queue setting. ...


... It is very good that users can submit trouble tickets without having to login. I suggest that move toward X509 to eliminate the login problem, same comment below for NIM.


Comments concerning NIM:   26 responses

Issues with ERCAP or the allocations process:

ERCAP continues to get more complicated and demanding each year. Some Dilbertian manager must be in charge of this process at NERSC!

As I have indicated ever since NERSC went over to a web-based ERCAP, I felt that it was a great leap backwards. If you want a web-based ERCAP, let the PI prepare it in a format of his/her own liking, place it on his/her own web site, and point you at it.

For ERCAP review, show last year's allocation and actual usage (percentage).

It would be very helpful to have available a place to print the questions on ERCAP before starting on the web site. This year, it would have been nice to know that poe+ was strongly encouraged --- this was just buried somewhere in the application process.

Good interface:

I find NIM straightforward to use.

It worked well and was easy to use.

NIM has been improved in last couple years and serves me acceptably well.

A excellent resource!

The interface is very convenient.

Excellent tool for PI's!

In my role of PI and account manager I really appreciate having access to NIM. It is very convenient to monitor the use of our allocation, especially having so many accounts for my students. The NIM site is really useful.

This is wonderful - it makes submitting allocation requests easy and managing our account equally as easy.

Excellent. I found it extremely useful.

overall, pretty slick

Problems with reliability:
Difficult to use:

I have never been able to get it to work

A bit cumbersome. The new accounts procedure is ridiculous. The new user fills out a web page, which then generates an email with all the information and mails it to me to set up the new account. I then have to re-enter all the information into another web page. Why can't it be set up for me to just go to a web page with all the information entered so I just have to sign off on it? [PDSF user]

I have rarely used nim and I don't have basis to compare, my impression was that it is not very straightforward.

I usually find it somewhat difficult to find what I need and navigate through the various pages...

A little hard to navigate and find out which buttons do what without going back to the NIM manual.

Authentication issues:

difficult to get a password from Europe

The NIM login is a problem. I suggest that you move toward X509 to automatically authenticate users with NIM based on their X509 certificate.

Difficult to access


A job-by-job report option would be nice.

Every once in a while there is a bug or glitch in NIM. NERSC is very responsive in helping with work arounds and fixes.

I would like to get my account information directly from my account. The current commend getnim -u gives too little information.

Sometimes it's a little slow, but that's not a big deal.


Comments concerning how NERSC keeps you informed of changes:   22 responses

Satisfied / well informed:

This is one area where NERSC beats all others. I always know when changes are coming. At least I think I know ...

I have been very pleased with the efforts of NERSC staff to keep me informed of changes and to explain things when I misunderstand the nature/effect of a change.

That's nice.

Current system provides enough information, and it seems ok. It is user's responsibility to check the status from available resources.

It has been adequate so far.

The planned outage announcements are very important and should be stated as they are now. It allows good planning around them.

Excellent communication service!

It seems to me that NERSC is doing the right thing already.

Comments on system outages:

Given the typical turnaround time of longer jobs, 24 hours advance notice for planned outages is really not enough advance notice.

Maybe NERSC should send an email 12 hr in advance of the regular maintenance shutdowns to remind users.

I haven't made enough use of the system to have any problems with outages. In the case of a sudden major failure what do you do ? Is there some other site which monitors if you are up ?

sometimes when the sp is down the motd is talked about but has no information about why computer is down or for how long

I would like immediate email when PDSF experiences trouble that affects running jobs or goes down for any reason.

setup an email list (optional subscription) with notifications of planned and unplanned seaborg downtime

Comments on using email:

Email is fine

There are too many mass e-mails sent for help sessions and tutorials. There should be an option to not receive e-mails of this sort.

E-mail messages (or 'phone calls) are best. I consult the web site only infrequently.

I've never been able to successfully join announcement lists at NERSC. Generally, I have to ask colleagues about outages and software changes. Most likely, I've neglected to do something but information on how to sign up should be a little bit clearer.

Many lesser announcements not directly affecting usage are unnecessary.

Comments on the MOTD:

Due to its length, the MOTD is not useful at all. Some of the information is the standard federal notice, other is information pertaining to the cluster, then there is contact information, more cluster information etc. The standard federal notice probably has to be included, but the contact information can be dropped - people can see on the website where to get information if necessary. The cluster status should stay. Why is there Seaborg info on the PDSF MOTD?

There is so much information on the message of the day, it scrolls by so fast I NEVER read it. Except when something goes really wrong, and then I occasionally remember to read it. It's worth having there as a reference but I don't think NERSC personnel can or should assume that users read it every day.

Software changes:

When software changes are made, someone should make sure that what was running before is running o.k. again before releasing this new software to the general population.