Seven Days, Eight Airports

I had not originally planned to pack in LAX-SFO-FRA-PNQ-BOM-SIN-CDG-ORD-LAX in one week, but thanks to modern air travel I was able to make all of last week's important customer events. Everyone I talked to was quite excited about Sun's new HPC specific blade products which along with our new QDR (quad data rate - 40 Gb/sec) InfiniBand and Lustre powered open storage products are bringing great new levels of performance to the Sun Constellation System. We have had our first customer Linpack runs on both 3D Torus and fat tree IB configs, and while we are not quite ready to publicly discuss results, they are pretty amazing. It should make for some interesting Top500 announcements at ISC this June.

Well, since I can't talk about our latest Linpack results, I though I would share my world airport tips.

SFO is simply the best for international connections, now that the walkway from Terminal 3 (United) to the International terminal is complete. Now if only the United flight attendants would update their script to not confuse people with, "please take the shuttle to the international terminal". Due to a late departure from LAX, I had only 30 minutes to make my first connection, luckily my plane pulled up to SFO gate 75, less than a five minute walk to my international gate.

United to Lufthansa connections can require quite a bit longer walk in Frankfurt, and for some reason the airlines are determined to make it just plain hard to get to India. Well, I guess it might have something to do with geography too. Six hours in Frankfurt was plenty of time to sample both the United Red Carpet Club lounge as well as the Lufthansa lounge. But six hours is a long time to spend in an airport, no matter how many lounges you visit.

Pune, India, is an interesting city, especially when you arrive at 3:30 am, one of the few times the streets are uncrowded. With 600 new car registrations every day, and no new roads, well, you get the picture. Tata Motors is based in Pune as I am sure will be thousands of Tata's new Nanos before long. Officially the Nano is a 4 passenger vehicle, but given that I've seen more passengers on an Indian motercycle, I expect the occasional Nano will be found with 5 or more passengers.

Mumbai (Bombay) was destined to be another six hour layover on my way out of the country. Privatization is greatly improving service at India's airports. Sometimes too much. The Jet Airways staff seemed so proud to provide a modern "kneeling" airport bus to transport us no more than 20 yards from our plane's parking spot to the terminal. Then came the dreaded domestic to international terminal transfer bus. Just a few years ago, said "bus" resembled a pre WWII relic of engineering. While today its a modern bus with air conditioning, it was still nearly an hour wait followed by a slow 45 minute crawl across the airfield including what seemed like a 10 minute standoff with an Airbus A320 before the driver finally went around what appeared to be an illegal shortcut.

No surprise given its history near the center of the SARS and Avian (H5N1) flu, Singapore already had their thermal imaging monitors out scanning all incoming travelers for telltale signs of the new H1N1 flu. While definitely my shortest visit to Singapore at less than 24 hours, the Sun Singapore team was as efficient as ever, having organized a great HPC Symposium for about fifty customers from across Asia South.

Singapore Airlines deserves special mention for making my 11 hour flight to Paris as restful as an 11 hour flight can be. I stepped off the plane at 6:30 am and about half a dozen customer meetings later stepped into my hotel room at about 9 pm and collapsed. Luckily I had a late start the next morning and felt recovered after my first full night of sleep of the week. I sincerely thank Europe's PRACE Project for extending their vendor briefings an additional day to meet with me.

Having enjoyed favorable tail winds most of the week, it was now time for payback and my flight back to Chicago, at over 9 hours, was considerably late. At the risk of spreading one of the best kept secrets of international travel, the US Global Entry program got me past a huge line of several hundred travelers and through immigration and customs, and despite United's txt msg that I was rebooked I had glimmers of making my final flight home. Alas, the train from Chicago's terminal 5 to terminal 2 was even more crowded, as was the security line, and I missed my connection. Luckily, United had already rebooked me on a flight only 90 minutes later, and I was soon home.

Next week, I'm staying in California. Maybe even for two weeks :)

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