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Summer 2020 Internship at Harvard High Performance Computing

High Level Overview

I intered at Harvard HPC for 12 weeks (High Performance Computing) the summer of 2020.

Due to Covid, the internship was virtual. I was working from my families home in Cambridge, MA.

My work focused on improvements to the Harvard academic cluster. I was lucky to work alongside lots of awesome and brilliant colleagues. :)

What Did I Learn

Skills

  • I learned a lot about performance testing software. Previously i’ve relied on services like Firebase Hosting which remove some responsibility for performance testing and coding scalability.
  • I got very familiar with linux monitoring tools.
  • I learned “locust”, a python performance testing framework.

Lessons

  • Make sure to design tests based on what information you are trying to learn from them.
  • It’s not always worth it to analyze the results of performance tests that assume a higher load than you would ever expect in practice.
  • Watch out for threading problems in third party packages.

What Did I Get Done

The technical details of my work is pretty well summarized by this presentation I gave at the end of the internship (I didn’t record it unfortunately).

Here is an overview of the things I was most proud of accomplishing:

  • After using performance testing to identify bottlenecks in the user account creation pipeline backend, I was able to modify it and improve processing speed by 15 times (Python, Bash).
  • I coded web server performance tests which exposed unexpectedly high load averages on web server hosts, and found a way to reduce that load by 70% (Locust).
  • I built a dashboard that enables non technical users to understand the complex Harvard super computer status (React, Passenger).
  • Shared my load testing script and findings with the OSC OnDemand community: post.

Thanks

This experience would not have been possible without the many awesome colleagues I got to work alongside.

  • Special thanks Francesco for being such a great mentor this past summer and instilling me with a sense of confidence and responsibility. I wouldn’t have grown and learned as much as I did without your constant feedback.
  • Special thanks Raminder for having me back to intern this past summer and believing in me.