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Inria Awards 2012

Isabelle Bellin -

David Margery: Support for Research and Innovation Award 2012

© Inria / Photo Candice Bachelet

David Margery has worked at the Experimentation and Development Department (SED) of Inria’s Rennes-Bretagne Atlantique centre for eight years. He has been the Technical Director of the GRID’5000 platform for four years. He is the equipment and software architect for this exemplary experimentation platform. This award is a token of Inria’s appreciation, and of that of the entire French distributed computing community, for this outstanding engineer’s technical, scientific and human qualities.

“I have often been an appreciated ‘second’ officer,” David Margery says. He is not comfortable in the role as pioneer, which he rather leaves to the scientists in their respective domains. “The role I do like, is being ‘in the service of’, being ‘a man of confidence’.” This strong personality trait has influenced his entire career with the Rennes centre. Since achieving his doctorate in 1998, which constituted his first contact with an Inria team, namely Siames, this university-trained computer specialist has been developing a tool for the benefit of other scientists: he is formalising and implementing a runtime software tool adapted to a cluster (group of computing units) for their research in 3D virtual reality environments.

“I became aware that I particularly liked to develop tools to be used by scientists, thereby helping them advance with their research,” he notes. “My idea then was to become an engineer in an innovative company to develop new products and approaches.” He accepted an industrial post-doctoral position with IWI, a SME interested in his doctoral work to generate their 3D digital city models for urban planning projects. At the same time, he contributed to the work of Renaud Lottiaux within the Paris project team, which created the Kerrighed technology, an operating system which provides the illusion that a cluster of computers is in fact one machine.

In late 2002, Inria offered him an engineer contract to pursue this path and to implement the results of doctoral students in the field of industrial codes. He accepted the offer and greatly enjoyed developing innovative technologies, now for distributed systems. At this time, the SED was in need of filling a position for which he was perfectly suited: support engineer for the experimentation and development of the scientific teams. “This was exactly what I was looking for: to contribute my expertise to scientists developing technologies; to be part of the process upstream of industrialisation. I was very happy to pass the examination for the position,” he recalls. He was also glad to be free of the uncertainties of temporary contract employment.

Recruited at the end of 2004, he spent three years as the main operational manager of Inria Forge, a collaborative working environment used to facilitate the development of software by Inria scientists and their collaborators. He also became the Rennes centre’s coordinator for GRID’5000, a platform enabling computer specialists to deploy protocols, algorithms and distributed software, to develop software, and to carry out full-scale experimentation which otherwise would generally have been impossible. Initiated in 2003 under the leadership of Michel Cosnard, this infrastructure, which at the time was unique in the world, now allows for the use of the computing power of 8,140 core processors spread over nine Inria, university and CNRS sites in France (Bordeaux, Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Nancy, Rennes, Sophia-Antipolis, Toulouse, Reims) and two sites abroad (Porto Alegre, Brazil, and Luxembourg) with over 550 users. GRID’5000 has inspired the US FutureGrid project, for which David Margery is regularly consulted.

“At the time, although the fundamental choices regarding the architecture of the platform had already been made, one was hesitant about the actual implementation,” he explains. “Having participated since 2004, I was familiar with almost all the people that had worked on GRID’5000.” He therefore knew the platform down to its smallest details. When in mid-2007 the decision was taken to speed up the project and create a technical directorate, he was the ideal candidate. “I set up a four-year project, part of the first wave of technology development actions (TDA), and a functional organisation that was coherent with the various sites.” Being the true architect of GRID’5000, both in terms of equipment and software, he unites and leads some twenty-odd top-notch engineers spread over the sites, whose job it is to install the new equipment, troubleshoot incidents, carry out software updates, etc.

“The key to this job is understanding the scientific approach in order to be able to foresee the needs,” he concludes. In other words: make the platform available to scientists. His ambition remains the same, now doubled with his unrivalled organisational skills. Furthermore, his involvement with the scientists offers him scientific knowledge enabling him to interact with all the technical and scientific teams of GRID’5000, as well as to defend projects before European bodies.

Modestly, he acknowledges that people are happy with his work. As to whether or not he deserves this award, he points out that all the actors of GRID’5000 have partaken in the key decisions, and that he has merely contributed to clarifying them. One thing is certain: this young father of two is as happy in his work as he is in his pastoral duties ‘in the service of’ an evangelical protestant church. We do not doubt for an instance that he is a committed and appreciated volunteer.


Frédéric Desprez, Inria researcher at the Ecole normale supérieure in Lyon, scientific director of GRID’5000, member of the Avalon team at Inria Grenoble-Rhône-Alpes

  “I deal with the scientific aspects of the GRID’5000 instrument. Without David Margery, I would not have accepted this responsibility. I rely on him entirely for all the technical aspects, always complex issues, often with unique functionalities. David knows everything about the platform, both as regards its equipment and software. He is the key person for GRID’5000. He manages the platform’s entire organisation, its architecture, and the software used for initiating experiments. He also has scientific skills: On behalf of Inria, he manages the European BonFire project which involves GRID’5000, for instance. He also handles discussions with scientists from partner organisations as regards deployment of their software on the platform. Thanks to his human qualities, he is remarkably successful at leading his team of engineers, despite it being spread over several sites. He coordinates and apportions the work, motivates his staff, and makes the best possible use of everybody’s skills, ensuring that the overall infrastructure is homogenous and effective. It is a real pleasure working with him.”

Stéphane Ubeda, Inria’s director of technological development

“All who have dealt with David Margery agree that he is one of a kind. He is very competent, both technically and scientifically, well beyond what one would expect of a research engineer of his seniority. His leadership, listening and communication skills, and his high availability, were quickly noted when he worked on Inria Forge. He knows how to quickly build bridges between scientists and engineers, two groups that often differ in terms of their analytical approaches. He therefore could shoulder both a strategic role concerning the technical choices needed to develop the GRID’5000 infrastructure, in accordance with the needs of the scientists, and responsibility for the management thereof in collaboration with all the partners. For other ambitious projects, he acts as the technical advisor for the researchers, drafting the technical part of projects or tenders based on the grid. He is unanimously appreciated by the engineers in his team and by all the researchers working with him.”

Keywords: Innovation David Margery Research Inria Awards Support for research and innovation