King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST) is a world-leading graduate research university based in Saudi Arabia. During 2014, it undertook the Shaheen II project to purchase a new $60m supercomputer – the most powerful HPC in the Middle East. The Numerical Algorithms Group (NAG) was the lead contractor providing HPC procurement services on this project and Red Oak brought substantial experience to the team expertise.
However, shortly after the contract with the hardware supplier was signed, KAUST’s head of HPC left at short notice. Shaheen II was a high-profile procurement with aggressive timescales and the project was now without a key executive at a key stage.
This event had the potential to completely derail the project.
Owen Thomas, partner at Red Oak Consulting, was already on site with NAG to provide procurement support, focusing on the development of requirements and to provide assurance and guidance to the acceptance testing.
Owen realized that the customer needed a highly experienced HPC project manager quickly to keep the project on track. He arranged for Mark, Red Oak’s senior project manager, to work on site at KAUST as the acting director for the supercomputer procurement.
Mark took responsibility for all aspects of the project, from benchmarking to acceptance testing to facilities. He built a true rainbow team comprising members from all areas: the hardware supplier, facilities, users, computational science, support and technical assurance. He managed the inevitable issues that cropped up during delivery and commissioning, ensuring that all parties were engaged and working towards the success of the project. Most importantly of all, Mark facilitated the establishment of a partnership between the supplier and the customer.
During this time, Owen’s role expanded to provide increased support and advice to the senior executives at the University.
The result was that the project was successfully delivered, resulting in the seventh most powerful supercomputer in the world!
The procurement was highly successful. Owen was highly professional and highly knowledgeable. And Mark really saved the day for us. Both Owen and Mark smoothly integrated into the KAUST team but more importantly, believed in our mission to deliver this computer in order to support the global ambitions of KAUST and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Dr Justin Mynar, Director of Core Labs & Major Facilities