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April 10, 2014

Leading Edge Versus Bleeding Edge

Dan Olds

Enterprises are always looking for an edge to use against the competition, and information technology was created initially and specifically to be that edge. Decades later, computing in its various forms is the foundation of the modern corporation, and companies are still looking for new ways of gaining an advantage. More times than not, that means being out there on the leading edge with new hardware and software technologies, or innovative ways of creating software.

stock-footage-abstract-technologies-background-progressive-scan-seamlessly-loop-able-hdThe great thing is that there is no single way to gain competitive advantage, and that researchers in academia, government, and industry are constantly creating and testing technologies. Many of them never make it to the corporate datacenter, while others get there eventually. Some take the datacenter by storm.

Here at EnterpriseTech, our mission is to try to understand the technologies that large enterprises are deploying for competitive advantage and to discern why they are chosen and how they are deployed. Equally importantly, we want to grasp why various technologies are not being adopted by specific industries or classes of customers.

To that end, EnterpriseTech, in cooperation with my industry research firm, Gabriel Consulting Group, is surveying users in large enterprises to try to get a sense of which technologies are important to accelerate applications. We are particularly interested in a number of key technologies, such as GPU, FPGA, and other kinds of accelerators.

There are many ways to improve the performance of applications, and as is usual, the national supercomputer labs and large financial services and energy companies are leading the way in the deployment of various kinds of coprocessors for the distributed applications they run on their clusters. The manner that compute coprocessors are being deployed is shifting around in some cases as, for instance, FPGAs are being embedded in network interface cards and switches. GPU accelerators are being used for raw computation as well as for product design, simulation, and rendering, radically bringing down the cost of what manufacturers can do to virtually design and test products. Other kinds of accelerators, including Intel’s Xeon Phi and various DSPs have also found their niches and could gain more adherents.

Other hot areas now include the acceleration of applications by shifting away from disk storage to flash storage, which can be embedded in systems in various levels inside of the machines. And in other cases, companies are shifting to in-memory databases to do real-time queries against production data, often obviating the need and high cost of data warehouses.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to making applications go faster and gaining a competitive edge. The important thing to us is to find out what you are doing, not what the vendors tell us you should be doing. Is the payoff from the technology measuring up to the hype you’re hearing? You know better than they do. So we need you to tell us what technologies you are using for competitive advantage and what risks you are willing to take for the rewards you have either gained or hope to gain.

If these topics are interesting to you, we’d love you to take our 2014 Enterprise Technology Risks & Rewards (LINK) survey. It shouldn’t take any longer than 15 minutes to complete and we’ll provide you with the results so you can see what your peers are doing. To sweeten the deal, we’re also giving out 10 $50 gift cards to randomly selected respondents who complete the survey.

We greatly appreciate your help and look forward to seeing how you’re adopting (or not adopting) the latest and greatest technology.

Survey link: