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June 11, 2009

HPC Trends

Tiffany Trader (HPC)

With ISC ’09 right around the corner, the Web is buzzing with lots of discussions about current trends in high performance computing. For example, over at the TOP500 site, Horst Gietl, executive consultant for Prometeus GmbH, and Hans Meuer, ISC’09 general chair, have posted their list, which includes:

  • Many-/Multi-Core Systems within large clusters
  • Parallel computing
  • GPUs as competition to multi-core 
  • Green IT and energy consumption 
  • Exploding data volumes 
  • HPC in small/midsized companies
  • Cloud computing

They predict that the major challenges these trends face will be “low cost, low power consumption, availability of support for parallel programming, and efficient porting of existing codes.”

Horst and Hans also mention a “new buzzword” flying around — containers. About a year ago, Verari launched its FOREST Container (an acronym for Flexible, Open, Reliable, Energy Efficient, Scalable, and Transportable). Verari positions FOREST as a practical approach to Green IT when it’s acquired through the company’s IT leasing programs — makes sense. What IT professional wouldn’t want trade-in credits and energy rebates along with the newest technology available?

But trends can be misleading. A while back, our very own Michael Feldman speculated that it’s easy to identify new HPC trends because they’re generally the same as in the overall industry. The key is in knowing what’s “just noise” and “how all the elements interact.” At that time, the trends Michael identified were the rise of multicore and heterogeneous processing, power consumption, open source software, virtualization, and the struggle for application parallelization – some of the very same topics we’re still talking about today. What’s changed is how these trends are helping to drive HPC into the mainstream – and causing a decline in traditional datacenters. So to Michael’s point, how will mainstream businesses interact with HPC – specifically regarding system architecture? That would be a trend worth watching, better yet, knowing in advance!