NERSCPowering Scientific Discovery Since 1974

2010/2011 User Survey Results


379 of the 411 respondents answered questions in this section.

Satisfaction with NERSC Services

The average score was 6.37 / 7.




Satisfaction Ratings: 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:Num RespAverage ScoreStd. Dev.Change from 2010
SERVICES: Account support   1   9 13 56 262 341 6.67 0.72 0.06
CONSULT: Overall   2 1 8 12 62 212 297 6.58 0.81 -0.06
CONSULT: Response time     1 8 14 72 200 295 6.57 0.74 -0.03
OVERALL: Security 1   1 9 14 70 215 310 6.56 0.80 0.01
CONSULT: Quality of technical advice 1   2 10 14 66 201 294 6.53 0.86 -0.04
WEB SERVICES: Accuracy of information   1 2 6 14 98 171 292 6.46 0.79 0.09
CONSULT: Special requests (e.g. disk quota increases, etc.)       18 10 31 129 188 6.44 0.97 0.16
WEB: System Status Info 2 2 2 8 14 86 184 298 6.44 0.96 -0.08
CONSULT: Time to solution   2 1 13 20 80 171 287 6.40 0.91 0.00
SERVICES: Allocations process 1     17 21 89 163 291 6.35 0.91 0.09
WEB SERVICES: NIM web interface 1   1 12 30 111 177 332 6.35 0.87 -0.03
WEB SERVICES: overall     4 7 20 129 155 315 6.35 0.80 -0.01
WEB SERVICES: Timeliness of information   1 1 9 21 112 145 289 6.34 0.82 0.06
CONSULT: On-line help desk   3   17 8 31 101 160 6.29 1.15 -0.03
TRAINING: Web tutorials       9 19 54 74 156 6.24 0.88 0.18
TRAINING: New User's Guide     2 6 27 71 90 196 6.23 0.87 0.06
SERVICES: Ability to perform data analysis   1   8 11 52 46 118 6.13 0.94 0.40
WEB SERVICES: Ease of finding information 1 1 10 12 35 126 120 305 6.07 1.05 -0.03
SERVICES: Data analysis and visualization assistance       12 7 35 37 91 6.07 1.01 0.40
TRAINING: NERSC classes   1   18 10 29 40 98 5.90 1.19 0.51
WEB SERVICES: Searching   1 2 28 41 61 65 198 5.79 1.11 0.02

How Useful Are These Services To You?

Usefulness Ratings: 3=Very useful, 2=Somewhat useful, 1=Not useful

ItemNum who rated this item as:Total ResponsesAverage ScoreStd. Dev.
WEB: System Status Info 5 84 225 2.70 0.49
SERVICES: E-mail lists 6 92 227 2.68 0.51
TRAINING: New User's Guide 8 51 136 2.66 0.56
TRAINING: Web tutorials 17 55 110 2.51 0.66
MOTD (Message of the Day) 21 111 179 2.51 0.62
TRAINING: NERSC classes 30 61 52 2.15 0.74

Are You Adequately Informed About NERSC Changes?

Yes 273 97.8%
No 6 2.2%

How Important Are Analytics Services?

Importance Ratings: 3=Very important, 2=Somewhat important, 1=Not important

ItemNum who rated this item as:Total ResponsesAverage ScoreStd. Dev.
SERVICES: Ability to perform data analysis 28 40 86 154 2.38 0.78
SERVICES: Data analysis and visualization assistance 38 44 60 142 2.15 0.82

Where Do You Perform Data Analysis and Visualization of Data Produced at NERSC?

All at NERSC 20 5.7%
Most at NERSC 50 14.4%
Half at NERSC, half elsewhere 58 16.7%
Most elsewhere 96 27.6%
All elsewhere 105 30.2%
I don't need data analysis or visualization 19 5.5%

Analytics Comments

Software Comments

It would be very useful to have better interactive access to data on local $SCRATCH systems for VisIt use. I create large data sets on Hopper and Franklin local scratch space. I'd like to perform VisIt analysis in place, so I don't need to move several TB of data to global scratch. But I can only get 30 minutes of interactive time on the large systems, and even then my job might not start promptly -- not useful if I'm not available to use it when it does start. It would be very useful to allow Euclid or some other interactive system to access Hopper and Franklin $SCRATCH, or perhaps have special interactive queues with high priority and a wall-clock limit of at least several hours, limiting the number of cores if necessary.

I'd like to be able to use VisIt with data on Hopper, but when I start a job, I cannot see my job in the queue. So instead I move my data to global scratch & use VisIt on Euclid w/ NX. NX works great, but it could be better (faster) to use Hopper's multiple processors to render images.

I have only just begin to use VisIt software, and haven't used the distributed computing features yet. As I get familiar with it I will have a better understanding just what my needs are and how well they will be met.

Not a complaint; I very much like the new NX server and use it all the time. I don't mind that I can only use FVWM2 as my window manager. But I am a pretty light-weight visualizer (mostly 2D graphs).

The connection via X or NX is just too slow.

More matlab licenses would be nice.

NERSC doubled the number of Matlab licenses this summer (2011). 

I think it is good to have Mathematica and IDL available, though I used python locally in the recent time for visualization. If I should have to deal with mathematically more tricky issues than right now, I would use Mathematica again. IDL is my backup solution if I get too frustrated with the nesting structure and confusing documentation of python's matplotlib.

t would be nice if the (python library + ) gui software p4vasp was installed on carver & hopper. This + the new NX would be fantastic and save me a lot of time transferring large files.

would like to have ParaView running in client/server mode on Hopper

I use homegrown data analysis software written in IDL. For a short period during the earlier part of this year, there seemed to be too few IDL licenses and I was waiting quite some time to use it, but the problem seemed to clear up. It's fine now.

My main concerns have been:
1) I use R and some specific R packages and a couple of times in the past years I haven't been able to access either R or a package that at one point was available and then became unavailable when I tried to go back to a project a couple months later. Daniela has been very helpful in resolving these issues, but it's not clear to me why the system setup is not stable.
2) For jobs requiring more than about 8 nodes, wait times for batch jobs can be fairly long (a day or more)

My data is trivial to analyze or I use gnuplot. I'm high-tech :-)

Other Comments

I feel like the I/O performance isn't good enough to process my huge datasets, or maybe I haven't found the correct machine to do this on. Euclid is way over subscribed...

I am usually over my quota for scratch and have to spend most of my time moving data from scratch to analyze/visualize with my local tools so that I can submit new jobs to the queue. I probably need to begin using HPSS.

My work involves porting and benchmarking. So my use of NERSC machines doesn't require data analysis or visualization tools.

We could use some more interactive nodes on PDSF. Right now there are only 4 nodes and they are often very loaded.

Not enough available time on PDSF.

My need is being met but I want to explain why anyway. I write my own post-processing tools. Because of the size of the data that needs to be in memory and problems with transferring hundreds of TB off-site, I analyze them at NERSC, typically at lower concurrency than the runs themselves. The post-processing is io and memory intensive while the computation is cpu intensive. The post-processing is developed iteratively (there is no canned analysis). The debug queue is excellent for developing the required tools on a reduced set of data. It would be difficult to imagine doing this work without the debug queue. Then later, when everything is ready, I will process a whole data set in the normal queue.

Have not done much visualization yet. Expect to do this in future.

I need more help getting software up and running (but I just got a nersc account, so I plan on contacting people to get help).

NERSC supercomputers are the best computers I have used. I most used Hopper to run my VASP jobs this year. It would be perfect if Hopper has a queue with 48-hour walltime limit. Or even 36-hour limit. Because some of my jobs could not finish in 24 hours (reg_small) with 1 node. Using 2 nodes for a VASP job is waste of resource because VASP does not perform very well with 48 cores. Anyway, job well done you guys.

I think I am use to work with my local tools and I am satisfied at the moment. More information about the potentialities of working on the NERSC machines could be beneficial. I honestly cannot say that these information is not available since I did not feel the need to look at this possibility.

I'm not really aware of what is available to me, but that is probably my fault. I should check out what NERSC has in this avenue.

Can't reliably read long, broad time series data from netCDF files, which is bizarre. No problem after copying same files to Mac.

Mine is a simple preference to analyze my data on my home system.

I do use compute nodes to produce that intermediate gaussian cube files I use for much of my analysis, these are then used for analysis of multipole moments and visualization in xcrysden. If you could come up with something that could to fast direct from plane wave based wavefunction visualization that would be awesome. Right now a great deal of disk grinding is necessary to go from reciprical space (10's of gigs) to a realspace grid of voxel based density data (100's megs) that is then pretty trivial to display (but still slow with tools like xcrysden).

Due to the large size and amount of data generated from my computation, I have to perform most post-processing, data analysis and visualization in my account at NERSC. Unfortunately, transferring data from the scratch space of the computing machines such as Franklin and Hopper to the analysis/visualization machine such as Euclid has become increasingly inconvenient and inefficient. The ability to perform data analysis/visualization at NERSC has been strongly comprised. It would be highly desirable to have a shared, global scratch file system that allows simultaneous accesses from both the computing machines and the analysis/visualization machine, just as the way the $HOME directory has been setup.

I have no problems with the data analysis and visuaslization facilities at NERSC; since I am not using visualization techniques at present. My data analysis is either built in our codes or it is very simple and can be done easily without using data analysis available at NERSC. Thanks for asking.

What Additional Services or Information should be on the NERSC Web Site?

Suggestions for New Services

- Mobile optimized webpage/MyNersc
- Portal like ability to see files, run/manage jobs - backup to hpss etc...
- Detailed Usage Statistics and Analytics (i.e. google analytics type info)

NERSC is working to create a mobile portal where users can see remaining balance, check the queues and view the MOTD.  Stay tuned.

I would like the message of the day to be available as an RSS feed, at least when there is a situation other than normal. Currently I must log in or check the website to know if there is a problem.

Just for fun - it would be cool to make a javascript widget with a message like "I have used x hours at NERSC". HPC people could add it to their websites to advertise NERSC usage.

Twitter feed for machine status/downtimes/uptimes?

Status Information

For the system availability page, more accuracy in when Franklin is up or down would be helpful, as would a projection as to when it is likely to come back up.

It would be more convenient if having an extra column "Idle Cores" on NERSC webpage "For Users" --> "System Status". There are four columns in the present page: System, Status, Jobs Running, and Cores in Use. Currently, "idle cores" can only be obtained after logged in.

My biggest complaint with the NERSC website is that the machine status page is often out of date. Also it is missing two important pieces of info:
1) If the machine is up, when is the next scheduled downtime? It helps me to plan backfill jobs.
2) If the machine is down, when is the estimated up time? That helps me manage workflow around the downtime.

I find that the amount of time that elapses between, say, a login session becoming unresponsive and the webpage telling me that, yes, something is wrong with the machine I'm on, can take longer than I would like. I understand it takes time to detect a problem, but sometimes it can take 10-20 minutes before I understand that yes, that machine will be down for a while.

Overall the web pages are kept up to date very well, but I have noticed a significant lag between when systems become unexpectedly unavailable and when that information is propagated onto the system status page, the MOTD etc. I find this frustrating.

We aim to update the MOTD as soon as we can confirm a problem.  With large systems such as Hopper, one component of the system can get jammed, such as the file system or scheduler, but the system will often recover on its own.  Other times we notice a system is showing signs of trouble and we are actively working to make sure it stays up.  We will try to make notes on the status page when we are experiencing system trouble, but aren't in a clear downtime.


Job Information

A more straightforward access to the queues. It always seems buried in "For Users". There should be an option under "For Users" that says "Global Queue Look". This is just my opinion.

The structure of the website makes it hard to quickly find some essential info, such as queue policies on each system.

A number of users gave us the same feedback.  Queues can now be easily found under "For Users".  Thanks for the feedback.

Accurate showstart information for my jobs

In general, I think the website has enough services (although I think a link to NERSC Information Management may be absent or very difficult to find), but some commonly used features are difficult to navigate to. In particular, the queue information page (which I frequently use) is very well designed, but the link to it is small and not prominent. Also, the login sequence to see this and other secure pages is strange:
1) Click original link.
2) "You must login" page with "login" button appears. Press button.
3) Login page
4) Final page.
Step (2) seems unnecessary.


More vendor documentation.

I really like the fact that the "Training and Tutorials" section gives a link to an HPC course given outside of NERSC. It would be great if more links to external resources were included. It would make NERSC a "one-stop-shop" for HPC resources and training. The downside is the difficulty in maintaining those links though...

I would like the software documentation to be current.

- A simple and clean summary of all resources much like the Teragrid would be great:
- I know the system status page ( provides some of that information, but knowing how many jobs remain in the queue helps gauge the wait time.

- More links to web resources for the novice programmer.
- Additionally, while available software is clearly listed, it would help to be able to sort by the kinds of mathematical/visualization tools provided by the different software packages.

I would like to have some documentation on POSIX access control lists, and which NERSC systems they're available for -- even if the documentation is only a set of links to online man pages. I've been using UNIX for nearly 20 years but didn't know that these existed.

When running batch jobs, it is best to give the shell which is able to run program on.

Even though I have scripts and generators for them that work on Franklin the docs for Hopper have been insufficient for me to port them successfully. More detail on the PBS configuration on the machines would be helpful. But that's what consult is for.

probably a bit easier navigation on the site and more homogeneous description of software at different platforms, and links to external sources and publications would be useful

More information about cloud computing resources and how one can access them would be useful as well.

Searching / Finding Information

Searches on the website yield many hits before what I was looking for. When using google for general searches I get what I want easier. Still the search is better than in other institutions I worked with.

I haven't checked the web site in a month or two, but it used to be hard to find things on it.

The NIM portal link should be more "up front"

Other Comments

A few months ago I missed more information or a link to further resources about NX. I had a problem and it took me quite some time to find out how to start the administrator mode. There was a discrepancy between information on the website and the actual state. I didn't check if this changed by now.

I was quite happy with the previous organization of the web site and interface. I am not sure it was necessary to monkey with this.

It is honestly a bit less user-friendly and hard to navigate than the previous version.

I liked the old NERSC website better than the new one. The new interface is more convoluted than the old one and what bothers me the most is that it's difficult (if not impossible) to access my usage statistics.

Plots of repository and my usage vs time seem to have disappeared in the new format. ?

I think the web site is very satisfying.

It is great!

If possible turnaround time for Carver should be improved for batch jobs.