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November 10, 2010

Introduction to the First Annual HPC in the Cloud Editors’ Choice Awards

Nicole Hemsoth

This week’s special blog section is reserved for details about our recent Editors’ Choice Awards, which were presented at the 7th annual Cloud Expo show in Santa Clara, California last week.

Following a rigorous selection process that involved a number of decision elements, including demonstrated commitment to cloud computing for high-performance and large-scale enterprise use, we were able to settle on a list of vendors that represent the ecosystem.

For a full description of the awards and a brief rundown of the winners, you can read here.

We have created detailed descriptions of the winners and the decision process for the main categories followed by a photo highlights page discussing the other awardees.

Cloud Innovation Leader: Platform Computing

Cloud Platform Innovators: Amazon Web Services

Cloud Outreach and Education Innovators: Microsoft

Cloud Security Innovators: Tie, IBM and Novell

* Special Post* More From the Winners Circle; Photo Highlights *

In order to more fully describe our process for choosing for our winners, this week we are featuring a more detailed breakdown of select categories and their associated top representatives. The Behind the Cloud blog section will, this week only, be dedicated to this purpose.

There are a few things that should be mentioned before we start; first of all, it’s nearly impossible to isolate one vendor in a list and aptly name them the “top dog” in a space that is changing on what seems like a daily basis. More specifically, there are a number of companies vying for the same customer base with slightly differentiated services, all of which are packaged and understood differently by different types of users.

Another issue that complicates choosing single winners is that as a publication, our focus is on both scientific and large-scale enterprise cloud computing. Anyone familiar with one or the other (or both simultaneously) knows that either of these arenas have their own very unique requirements and needs, thus when selecting winners we needed to make sure the companies we chose adequately straddled that double-line by catering to HPC and large enterprise customers.

On a final note, we didn’t just choose companies based on long-term commitment to the space. In fact, a couple of our picks were chosen simply because we see the vendor on the front end of something bigger we see taking shape over the next year. While we did select a few “obvious” choices (say, for instance, Amazon Web Services for its platform) some of our other choices have baffled a few in the industry.

Last week when the awards were presented I was confronted with a few questions to the effect of, “yes, but why didn’t we win that award when we offer the same service but with better x.” That “x” in the equation was often “support” but when we look at these vendors, functioning on something as nebulous as the concept of broad support without basis is difficult since we cannot feasibly try out every single vendor and put their proclaimed support to task.

Throughout the year we listen to the end users we meet. In fact, the renewed emphasis in this publication going forward is on case studies—on practical, functional examples of large-scale cloud deployments with emphasis on reality. On challenges. On balance.

So again, it’s no easy assignment to sit down with a mounting list of vendors, spend hours scanning through the backlog of announcements, whitepapers, notes from end users taken from conferences and phone discussions—and feel one hundred percent about the final decision. In a space like simple hardware, for example, it’s much simpler; who is the fastest, who is creating the most innovative architectures that work better than what’s come before. With cloud—like the whole topic of cloud itself—there is a great deal of subjectivity.

If there’s any take away from this year’s awards—the very first annual HPC in the Cloud awards, for that matter—it’s that we’re open to watching the ecosystem shift. We’re paying attention to what matters to HPC users in particular, and we’re definitely listening when they talk about their vendor experiences. The other issue is that we realize the space has yet to settle out; there has been no leavening agent to come in and temper the ever-increasing swell of new players, new concepts, new technologies, and new ways of repurposing old technology.

But there is definitely a pulse in the HPC cloud arena….and we’re checking it on a daily basis.