Random Notes from the IDC HPC Breakfast Briefing

I went to the IDC HPC Breakfast briefing yesterday morning because they are usually pretty interesting. This one felt mostly like a rehash of earlier material and was somewhat disappointing as a result. I did hear a few things I thought were worth passing on and here they are.

I made the above graph based on a table that was flashed quickly on the screen during the briefing. If N was specified, I didn't catch it. It is amazing (depressing?) to see how few ISV applications actually scale beyond 32 processors, even after all these years. I showed the graph to Dave Teszler, US Practice Manager for HPC, and he confirmed that he sees lots of commercial HPC customers who buy large clusters, but who really use them as throughput machines where the unit of throughput might be a 32-process job or smaller. In other words, just because a customer buys a 1024-node cluster and is known to use MPI, one cannot assume they are running 1024-process MPI jobs as one can with other kinds of customers like the National Labs or other large supercomputing centers.

Other notes jotted during the meeting:

  • Over the last four years HPC has shown a yearly growth rate of 19%
  • Blades are making inroads into all segments, driven largely by concerns about power, cooling, and density
  • HPC is growing partly because "live engineering" and "live science" costs continue to escalate, making simulation much more effective for delivering faster "time to solution."
  • Global competitiveness continues to drive HPC growth by offering businesses ways to differentiation through better R&D and product design using HPC techniques
  • x86 was described as being a weak architecture for HPC due to the very wide range of application requirements seen in HPC. this and poor delivered performance on multicore is causing customers to buy more more processors for technical computing than they would otherwise.
  • The power issue is not the for enterprise and HPC. For enterprise challenge is how to reduce their power consumption whereas for HPC it is a constraint on growth.
  • Software is still seen as the #1 roadblock for HPC
  • Better management software is needed because HPC clusters are hard to set up and operation and because new buyers need "ease of everything."
  • Current economic uncertainty has delayed IDC forecasting, but do see real weakness in CAE. By contrast Oil/Gas, Climate/Weather, University, and DCC (Digital Content Creation) all still appear healthy. The outlook for Finance, Government, Bio/Life, and EDA is unknown at this point.

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