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October 6, 2010

Robert Graybill on Integrating HPC’s “Missing Middle”

Nicole Hemsoth

President and CEO of Nimbis Systems, Dr. Robert Graybill took a few moments to discuss the concept of the missing middle with HPC in the Cloud during the R Systems-sponsored HPC 360 event in Champaign-Urbana last week. While the notion of who this critical mass is has already been well-defined, hearing a member of the community who has worked to deliver critical resources to that mass certainly has value.

During the first part of our discussion, which was not presented here, the CEO of Nimbis Services stated that core concept behind the company was reaching this audience—this group of users would required HPC resources yet lacked the ability to secure access, either due to financial constraints on the hardware and software licensing front, lack of expertise, or any other host of reasons that are so often cited in explanations about why this middle has yet to be fully engaged.

Graybill took the opportunity to brief me on the company’s newest product offering, which is called HPC Workbook. He notes that this “offers the missing middle the opportunity to run their Excel spreadsheets on a supercomputer by simply logging in and with a credit card or PayPal account, have access to virtual computing nodes or physical nodes for a week or day at a time, and suddenly be in an HPC world with the click of a mouse.”

While it might feel a little sacrilegious to use the words “PayPal” and “supercomputer” in the same sentence and yes, while it also might feel like the relative ease could be overstated, the company has seen some significant traction with its Cloud Mathematica product that provides complex software that can be delivered via EC2 or using R Systems as a high-performance computing resource provider.

Graybill has been instrumental in debates about HPC “outreach” and spreading greater capacity to a wider audience. Hearing him speak during his presentation and talking with him during a more casual chat was a highlight of the trip to Champaign-Urbana–although not quite on par with watching my Buckeyes win on Saturday.