NERSCPowering Scientific Discovery for 50 Years

2007/2008 User Survey Results

HPC Consulting


SatisfactionAverage Score
Very Satisfied 6.50 - 7.00
Mostly Satisfied - High 6.00 - 6.49
Significance of Change
not significant

Satisfaction with HPC Consulting

7=Very satisfied, 6=Mostly satisfied, 5=Somewhat satisfied, 4=Neutral, 3=Somewhat dissatisfied, 2=Mostly dissatisfied, 1=Very dissatisfied

ItemNum who rated this item as:Total ResponsesAverage ScoreStd. Dev.Change from 2006
CONSULT: overall     4 8 7 102 240 361 6.57 0.74 0.10
CONSULT: Timely initial response to consulting questions 1 1 2 4 11 107 228 354 6.55 0.77 -0.02
CONSULT: Quality of technical advice   1 1 11 16 103 211 343 6.48 0.79 0.03
CONSULT: Follow-up to initial consulting questions 1   3 13 10 99 211 337 6.48 0.86 -0.01
CONSULT: Amount of time to resolve your issue 2 1 7 10 21 108 198 347 6.35 1.00 0.09
CONSULT: Software bug resolution     5 29 20 67 100 221 6.03 1.13 -0.11


Comments about Consulting:   39 responses

  • Good service: 26 responses
  • Mixed evaluation: 3 responses
  • Unhappy: 10 responses


Good service:   26 responses

amazing consulting and technical support. Every issue was resolved quickly.

Staff is cheerful and "customer-oriented".

NERSC consulting is AWESOME!!!

We got a lot of help from NERSC consulting, especially in the area of material science simulation. We like to express our thanks for that. Please keep up the good work.

I had two occasions to contact support and received very prompt and helpful replies.

The consulting at NERSC has been excellent. I recently had cause to use a different supercomputer at a different facility, and the tech support there has been atrocious. I often lament that the other facility is not anywhere near as good as NERSC consulting. Keep up the good work!

The NERSC staff has always been extremely helpful

Thank you for another year of excellent support.

I should praise all the staffs there for their previous support on my job.

We have superb consultants as well as technical staff who are really most helpful in resolving problems promptly . Congratulations to you the best job done. Thanks for your timely help and advice.

Whoo hoo Katie Antypas!

They are always very helpful, prompt, and accurate.

Extremely helpful and eager to help the users. They follow up on making sure that the problem is resolved.

very important and helpful.

I always happy with the speedy response from NERSC consultants and their willingness to help.

I am very grateful all the people in the consulting services. They are so helpful whenever I need them. Thank you all.

Great job!

I have found the NERSC consulting services to be very timely and effective.

The consulting group has been very responsive to every inquiry. Very friendly too.

First class!

Excellent! Many thanks in particular to Zhengji.

Consulting services at NERSC are first-rate.

I have been very pleased with the consulting and support I've experienced.

The consultants are always very helpful.

have had very good service from the NERSC consulting staff.

Very nice. It couldn't be better.

he consulting services are very good, especially in comparison to other computing sites.


Mixed evaluation:   3 responses

The consulting staff does excellent job addressing all issues. The transition to Franklin has been difficult, though, with the consultant's expertise clearly developing as time progresses. When one is doing an excellent job, it is difficult to improve. But, with additional experience and education on the Franklin system, I think that the consulting support will be even better.

On nearly all NERSC general problems, your consulting staff has been outstanding. However when our model fails, we have a difficult time convincing your consultants that the problem lies with franklin rather than with our model.

I am very happy overall with the responsiveness and expertise of the NERSC consulting staff. I rated myself "somewhat dissatisfied" with the amount of time to resolve my issue only because of a particular yet-to-be-resolved issue with parallel HDF5 on Franklin, though I appreciate the diligence of the consultants in pursuing the issue and suspect that it may ultimately turn out to be a low-level I/O or hardware problem.


Unhappy / Would like additional services:   10 responses

Because there are multiple machines at NERSC, I suspect the consultants have a harder job than at other facilities, but my experiences with other facilities are noticeable different. At other facilities, the consultants know the machines like they built them (true in some cases) and ALWAYS have the right answer on the first try. At NERSC, getting the right answer is an iterative process which is not always convergent. There are times it would be good if machine-specific support could be provided by the companies responsible for them. I've had to go directly to Intel, etc. for support in the past, but it has always turned out well because I was talking directly to the people who built the thing that was not working.

Weekend support! Weekend support! Weekend support!

No satisfactory answer was obtained related to the XT_SYMMETRIC_HEAP_SIZE and XT_LINUX_SHMEM_HEAP_SIZE necessary for NWChem, leading to a relatively ineffective use of NWChem. NERSC Consulting should work together with the NWChem developers and the Cray software developers to get a fundamental, full, and comprehensive understanding of the issues related to memory management. I tried to run 1 core/node, effectively giving me twice as much memory, but there is no way to fully utilize the memory (about 3-3.5 Gbyte), only a max of 2 Gbyte can be accomplished.

In general response times are good for an initial query, but often if the consultant doesn't know the answer right away resolving the problem takes a lot of time. For example, I requested code compilation help on Franklin (code compiles fine on Bassi). Exchanges by email with the consultant were not overly helpful. It was necessary to go in person to LBL to get the needed assistance.

As mentioned in my other comment, I was dissatisfied with the Jacquard low-priority batch queue. It was answered to my request ticket, that other clusters have more to offer. However, I was not being told what cluster I should specifically use and how many processors I will have available. Also, because the answer was not emailed but instead stored in the request ticket requiring to log in, I though for many days that my request is being ignored.
1) Not only tell users what they do wrong, but also tell them specifically what to do instead.
2) Send a copy of the answered request via email. Many of us organize any electronic communication using their email inbox (which allows to for example to store letters in folders) and not some request tracking system that requires to log in.

Quality is a bit hit and miss. Often we notice things broken or incorrect on the system, and we are given a workaround instead of actual repairs/corrections being made.

A response of 'You may want to change this environment variable' is fine. But if you don't know what value to set it to its not as helpful as it could be.

Sometimes consultants did not follow up promptly. There have also been issues that were not resolved.

Sometimes, responses were sent very quickly without really understanding the problem. It almost seemed as if some staff were too worried about their statistics for issues resolved / time.