The Belgian Triad: Easybuild, Git Merge, And Fosdem

By Staff

Feb 7, 2019 | Blog

Last week in Belgium, Sylabs’ software engineer Eduardo Arango achieved a personal best: he presented three talks at two of the three events he participated in. Even for Eduardo, who spends a significant fraction of his time evangelizing Singularity, this is quite an achievement! Fortunately, for those of us who weren’t able to globetrot with Eduardo, all three presentations were captured and are shared here.

4th EasyBuild User Meeting

First up was a single presentation at the 4th EasyBuild User Meeting held at the university in Louvain-la-Neuve – a ‘planned city’ situated some 30 km (~18.6 miles) southeast of Brussels, built to house UCLouvain. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, and according to the framework’s documentation:

EasyBuild is a software build and installation framework that allows you to manage (scientific) software on High Performance Computing (HPC) systems in an efficient way.

Given that Singularity is software often used by scientists in their HPC environments, it’s not surprising that it be managed by EasyBuild. In a presentation that runs just shy of 50 minutes, Eduardo provides a comprehensive, technical update on version 3.0 of Singularity that includes demonstrations. Amongst other topics, he emphasizes in this presentation the reimplementation of the Singularity core in a combination of Go and C, as well as the Sylabs Cloud service – a portal that incorporates building plus key signing/verifying capabilities, alongside a library for hosting Singularity containers. Eduardo’s EasyBuild presentation and slides are available here and here, respectively.

Git Merge 2019

Next up, Git Merge 2019:

… a one-day conference (with an add-on Workshop Day) dedicated to the version control tool that started it all—and the people who use it every day. Through technical sessions and hands-on workshops, developers and teams of all experience levels will find new ways to use, build on, and scale Git.

Although Eduardo did not present at this event, he was actively engaged. Specifically, owing to his involvement as a key member of the Sylabs team that provides Quality Assurance for each release of Singularity, Eduardo acquired knowledge and skills that will ultimately benefit our testing infrastructure.

This turns out to be a much more interesting pursuit than you might imagine, as the practice of testing complex CGO projects like Singularity is in its early stages. Eduardo will be speaking about testing specifically at the inaugural meeting of the Singularity User Group next month – and at a few other events, if he can swing it …


Finally, there was FOSDEM’19 – “… a free event for software developers to meet, share ideas and collaborate.” In the urban setting provided by the Solbosch Campus of the Université libre de Bruxelles, Eduardo made two more presentations in two, different devrooms – “… a place for teams to discuss, hack and publicly present latest directions, lightning talks, news and discussions.”

In the HPC, Big Data and Data Science devroom, Eduardo emphasized the value delivered to scientists through containers as vehicles that ensure the reproducibility of results obtained from their applications and workflows. This talk can be found here.

Later that same day, Eduardo needed to shift gears to introduce the need to support compute-driven workloads in the Containers devroom – in other words, to an audience familiar with containerization, but not the interest from compute-driven use cases. This second talk can be found here.  

Net Takeaways

Singularity is a global phenomenon, and if nothing else, two of these three events resoundingly confirmed that takeaway. However, as enterprises seek to further embrace and intensify uptake of the solution for containerizing their compute-intensive workloads, one point continues to resonate clearly: security is key. Cryptographically signable and verifiable containers are well received, yet enterprise customers happily convey additional requirements aimed at ensuring the security of their intellectual property – unmet requirements that aren’t well addressed by today’s hosted-in-public services.

The open source Singularity Container Runtime Interface (CRI) project for Kubernetes continues to be well received; and now, as that project progresses towards early stage release, Eduardo perceived interest in how this enabler will factor into other initiatives in the Kubernetes ecosystem. Last, but certainly not least, Eduardo related considerable interest in juxtaposing distributed computing with Deep Learning frameworks. In other words, use of Singularity with distributed implementations of TensorFlow, PyTorch, and the like. In use cases like these, Singularity is well validated, as it was developed originally with requirements for distributed parallel computing via the Message Passing Interface already baked in.

To say that Eduardo delivered a lot of value in spreading the word about Singularity while he was in Belgium is an understatement. Fortunately, he extracted equally, if not more, value in terms of actionable items relating to Sylabs’ QA infrastructure, various takeaways, and more. Because we know it’s important to speak to different stakeholder groups from a familiar perspective, we encourage listening to one or more of the three talks Eduardo delivered on his conference triad through Belgium.

[Featured image credit: Etterbeek Railway Station, Eduardo Arango]

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