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October 23, 2008

Has the Joe Boat Sailed? Wanted: HPC Mascot

Diane Lieberman

The concept of the “democratization of HPC” is not a new one, but in recent months it appears to have taken on a life of its own. Our own editors and Tabor Research analysts have alluded to it many times, including twice within the last week (see Michael Feldman’s blog and his recent interview with Bob Graybill). It’s a concept that has been leveraged by or associated with nearly a dozen vendors in the last few months, including Sun, Cray, Microsoft, Bull, AMD, Platform, Penguin, Red Hat and IBM. It’s becoming de rigueur as a concept among researchers, academicians and industry, if you can judge from some of the excellent programs out there, including the Blue Collar Computing Initiative from OSC and the impressive Cluster Challenge for undergraduates hosted by SC.

While we can argue about whether or not this democratization has actually arrived or is on its way, it appears that a significant number of users and vendors in the HPC community want very much for the industry to head in this direction. And the technology is there, or nearly there.

In my opinion (this is, after all, a blog), it would be helpful if we had a champion (aka, mascot) to lead the charge.

Why? Because despite our best intentions and the state of the technology, as an industry we have failed thus far to connect the dots. We have not adequately presented a case to the small-medium business community, let alone consumers, about how HPC can be accessible and how it impacts our lives on a daily basis.

Think about it. The average person is touched by HPC dozens of times every day. When we go to the gas pumps. When we take a prescription drug. When we call up the local weather report online. When we drive our more energy-efficient vehicles. When we make an online stock trade. (Hope you’re not doing too much of that these days.)

Truly communicating this democratization so that it is internalized by the broader community might help fund numerous initiatives and ultimately give us a competitive advantage in the global market, while also helping so many of you to recruit new talent.

Regardless of your politics, it should be fairly apparent that a certain political party has done a pretty good job of mobilizing national policy around the “Joe the Plumber” and “Hockey Mom” mascots. We in HPC need a new and different symbol of our own.

Or maybe we could just wait a couple of weeks and get one of theirs cheaper.