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October 9, 2008

The Week in Review

by John E. West

Here’s a collection of highlights, selected totally subjectively, from this week’s HPC news stream as reported at and HPCwire.

>>10 words and a link

IBM puts 14 TFLOPS BlueGene in Africa;

MPI.NET 1.0 release;

UMass Unveils Microway Cluster;

JRT announces line of Tesla-based scientific workstations;

IBM doubles cores in Power line;

Balmer: Windows cloud OS release in “four weeks”;

SC08 advance registration ends Wednesday October 15;

Voltaire’s financial performance falls in response to troubled Wall Street;

Marc Hamilton tapped for global HPC sales job at Sun;

Platform and Fermat partner on risk management;

Evergrid’s evolving value proposition;

>>The InsideTrack: Graybill’s hosted HPC services company gearing up for 2009

John Leidel recently spoke with Robert Graybill about his new venture, Nimbis Services. Those of you closely following the HPC news know that Nimbis recently announced a partnership with the Ohio Supercomputing Center (OSC) to broker computational cycles and services. Before you immediately discount Nimbis as just another cycle house, I suggest you read on.

Nimbis was founded by Robert Graybill and Brian Schott. Those in HPC management might remember Robert from his days at DARPA and the US Council on Competitivenes. He spent the previous few years doing studies on the efficacy and utilization of computational resources around the US. He quickly learned that there is a significant gap in what Nimbis terms Digital Analysis Computing (DAC). DAC is essentially a broader term for high performance computing. Any problem requiring computational and storage resources larger than a desktop is DAC.

Enter Nimbis, stage right. Nimbis has a created an environment and infrastructure in order to provide access to all aspects of Digital Access Computing resources. They’re essentially a clearing house for compute, storage, software (licensing) and consulting resources. Nimbis will provide access to anything from cycles on a cluster, to ad-hoc access to commercial software, to warm-body consulting resources in the form of domain experts. They’re targeting users that don’t typically require access to resources 365 days a year. One may need cycles for a specific project, customer or academic study. In these instances, the initial purchase and maintenance of HPC resources is simply not cost effective.

Business ventures such as this would typically require a huge capital investment for compute, storage and software. Not at Nimbis. Rather than hosting everything locally, Nimbis has ascertained partnerships with the likes of IBM, Amazon Web Services, R-Systems, OSC and Wolfram Research (and the list is growing). This allows Nimbis to remain agile and agnostic to the compute architecture and software payload for which they provide access.

So, how exactly does one get access to these resources? Nimbis has architected a mixture of custom developed software and currently available software packages in order to provide a more fluid user experience. According to Graybill, they will “rely heavily on virtual machine technology.” Nimbis is currently soliciting beta customers in anticipation of a production release in early 2009. For those who would like to see more, Nimbis will be holding demos at SC08 in Austin.

If you would like to read more about Nimbis Services or signup as a beta customer, head over to their Web site.

>>Bull acquires science + computing ag in bid to dominate Euro HPC

Bull has announced that it has acquired German high performance computing company science + computing ag. science + computing has been especially strong with the automotive and aeronautical customers. They’ve previously done business with the likes of Audi, BMW, Bosch, Daimler and Porsche. The move marks another important investment by Bull to further its push into high performance computing. With the help of this acquisition, Bull hopes to become one of the HPC leaders in Europe. From the press release:

Didier Lamouche, Chairman and CEO of Bull declared: “The acquisition of s+c is one of the most important investments the company has made since 2005 supporting its strategic repositioning. The combination of Bull and s+c will create a powerhouse in the European HPC landscape. s+c will bring its experience in HPC solutions and services for customers in the manufacturing sector, and will contribute to expand Bull’s offering towards infrastructure services. Together with the divestment we are announcing today, this acquisition demonstrates our determination to accelerate further the transformation of the Group.”

The acquisition includes 270 employees, which created a revenue of 26 million euros last year. On the other end of the spectrum, Bull is selling its Medicaid solutions business to Ingenix. The niche business is a bit outside the current company focus. Ingenix is a large, US enterprise, so it will be better positioned to utilize the assets.

>>AMD Splits Company Into Two Operations

Big news on the microprocessor front. AMD has announced that it will split into two separate companies of operation. What!? You heard it. The first of the two companies will remain Advanced Micro Devices and will focus solely on microprocessor design operations. This would include its x86_64 processors, GPUs (via ATI), embedded processors and chipsets. The second company, temporarily known as “The Foundry Company,” will focus its operations on manufacturing and fabrication of silicon devices.

Plot thickens! The new organization is not wholly funded by AMD. AMD will only retain a 44.4 percent share of the new entity while the Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC) will own the remainder. For those wondering, ATIC is an investment group formed by the government of Abu Dhabi. For their majority share, they will pony up $2.1 billion immediately and will contribute anywhere from $3.6 billion and $6 billion more to upgrade AMD’s current chip fabs.

“We generally believe this deal is a game changer for the industry,” said Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chief executive of Mubadala. “It’s bold, and I think it’s smart.”

This was a must-do deal for the folks at AMD. As of June, AMD has a recorded debt of $5.3 billion and just $1.6 billion in cash. The new cash infusion will push progress on building an AMD fab plant in upstate New York. AMD must make a play for expanding their fabrication capabilities in order to remain competitive with Intel.

“This is the biggest announcement in our history,” said AMD’s chief executive, Dirk Meyer. “This will make us a financially stronger company, both in the near term and in the long term, as a result of being out from the capital expense burden we have had to bear.”

This is *huge* news in the microprocessor world. If the AMD/ATIC fab merger doesn’t pan out, the computer industry could see deeper shortages in upcoming AMD silicon. Watch this one closely.

For more info on the announcement, read the New York Times coverage.


John West is part of the team that summarizes the headlines in HPC news every day at You can contact him at


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