SUPERCOMPUTER INDUSTRY HOPES TO REGAIN SPARKLE

September 1, 2000

FEATURES & COMMENTARY

New York, N.Y. — Donna Fuscaldo reports that Ford Motor Corp. used one to figure out which states had the most defective Firestone tires. Charles Schwab Corp. uses one to run its massive online trading site. Sprint Corp. PCS Group uses one to manage its large database of wireless customer information.

Long gone are the days when supercomputers were used only by government agencies and research institutions. These mammoth computers, with their huge memories and record-breaking speeds, are increasingly being used by corporations ranging from large financial institutions to designers of golf balls.

In fact, two of International Business Machines Corp.’s largest supercomputer customers aren’t government agencies or universities at all, but rather financial giant Schwab and telecommunications behemoth Deutsche Telekom AG.

So why has this sector, once the darling of Wall Street, fallen off the radar screen of many in the investment community?

Industry watchers partly blame the Internet for stealing the sector’s thunder, while makers of high-performance computers say people just haven’t realized that the machines are used in many different businesses, in many different ways.

Supercomputers were historically used for massive data computing, which still aids in weather forecasting, space travel, building nuclear weapons and helping find cures for diseases.

These complex machines, which came into prominence at the end of the 1970s, were once regarded with awe. But like most industries, supercomputers went through a metamorphosis and Wall Street stopped being enamored of them, according to Thomas Tabor, publisher of HPCwire, a Web site that follows the high-performance computing market.

In the early 1990s the economy wasn’t strong, and the U.S. was involved with the Gulf War. Those events and a number of other factors overshadowed the high-end computing industry, Mr. Tabor said. On top of that, the Internet came along and was “shining so bright that most Wall Street money went into that,” he said.

Although getting a big supercomputer contract – known as a “win” in the industry – still garners attention in the media, it is the business-type applications such as data mining and business intelligence that are spurring a new wave of growth.

Evolving are new uses for very high-end parallel computing in parts of e-business where there is a tremendous need to process massive amounts of data, said Brad Day, senior analyst at Giga Inc., a high-tech research firm. Companies are using supercomputers for such applications as data modeling and data warehousing, he said.

Supercomputers are present in “mundane businesses” and the investment community hasn’t fully grasped that trend, said David Turek, vice president of Deep Computing at IBM. “Most still think it’s for science and engineering, which hasn’t been the case since the mid-90s.”

In 1999, the high-performance computer industry, which encompasses scientific and engineering uses as well as business applications, was a $6 billion market, said Debra Goldfarb, group vice president of world-wide systems and servers at International Data Corp. She forecasts that the the market will grow 8% to 10% a year.

“Using a supercomputer means faster time to market, higher-quality products and reduced costs,” said Ms. Goldfarb. Companies are using simulation and modeling in applications ranging from manufacturing toilet seats to building nuclear weapons, she said. “Supercomputer wins are important to a company and extremely important to society,” Ms. Goldfarb added. Ford, Boeing Co., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. and a hundred other companies couldn’t be competitive without supercomputers, she said. If you tack on the roughly $6 billion market Ms. Goldfarb estimates for support and peripherals such as storage, file servers and software, the market becomes a $12 billion one.

Supercomputers are important for the advancement of business and science, but there is also an element of bragging rights associated with supercomputer “wins.”

There is a certain amount of public relations around the vendors that can create the faster computers, said Giga’s Mr. Day. “You rarely see a press release as these vendors get commercial customers,” he said. “You often see releases when there is a extreme use in a high-end technical environment.”

IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer is a classic example of hype surrounding an advancement in technology.

In April 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue computer defeated world chess champion Gary Kasparov in a weeklong chess rematch. Kasparov had defeated a lower-end IBM supercomputer in 1996. IBM spent an estimated $5 million on the rematch, including publicity, prizes and building and programming the computer. But the company said it reaped the equivalent of more than $100 million of favorable and free publicity.

“We used the Deep Blue as an event to get visibility,” said IBM’s Mr. Turek. “That doesn’t mean we created it just for that.”

Often the technology behind a supercomputer will trickle down into lower-end projects, he said. When IBM built the ASCI White supercomputer, “we built it with an eye toward bringing the technology to the broadest market,” he said. “We could have just built the ASCI and said here’s our bragging rights.” The ASCI White is used by the U.S. Department of Energy to run nuclear-test simulations.

Recently there has been a rash of announcements concerning high-profile supercomputer contracts. Earlier this month, the Energy Department awarded Compaq Computer Corp. a nearly $200 million contract to deliver the world’s fastest computer to the agency’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

Compaq is trying to put together one of the fastest computers in the world, but the project has yet to translate into increased sales of its Unix server, said David Bailey, an analyst at Gerard Klauer Mattison.

“The big wins are proof of concept,” said Mr. Bailey. “The real uses like data mining, although important, may not get the buzz that doing weather forecasting does.”

============================================================

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Supercomputers Streamline Prediction of Dangerous Arrhythmia

June 2, 2020

Heart arrhythmia can prove deadly, contributing to the hundreds of thousands of deaths from cardiac arrest in the U.S. every year. Unfortunately, many of those arrhythmia are induced as side effects from various medicati Read more…

By Staff report

Indiana University to Deploy Jetstream 2 Cloud with AMD, Nvidia Technology

June 2, 2020

Indiana University has been awarded a $10 million NSF grant to build ‘Jetstream 2,’ a cloud computing system that will provide 8 aggregate petaflops of computing capability in support of data analysis and AI workload Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been instrumental to AMD’s datacenter market resurgence. Nanomet Read more…

By Doug Black

Supercomputer-Powered Protein Simulations Approach Lab Accuracy

June 1, 2020

Protein simulations have dominated the supercomputing conversation of late as supercomputers around the world race to simulate the viral proteins of COVID-19 as accurately as possible and simulate potential bindings in t Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPC Career Notes: June 2020 Edition

June 1, 2020

In this monthly feature, we'll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high-performance computing community. Whether it's a promotion, new company hire, or even an accolade, we've got Read more…

By Mariana Iriarte

AWS Solution Channel

Computational Fluid Dynamics on AWS

Over the past 30 years Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) has grown to become a key part of many engineering design processes. From aircraft design to modelling the blood flow in our bodies, the ability to understand the behaviour of fluids has enabled countless innovations and improved the time to market for many products. Read more…

Supercomputer Modeling Shows How COVID-19 Spreads Through Populations

May 30, 2020

As many states begin to loosen the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders that have forced most Americans inside for the past two months, researchers are poring over the data, looking for signs of the dreaded second peak of t Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Indiana University to Deploy Jetstream 2 Cloud with AMD, Nvidia Technology

June 2, 2020

Indiana University has been awarded a $10 million NSF grant to build ‘Jetstream 2,’ a cloud computing system that will provide 8 aggregate petaflops of comp Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

COVID-19 HPC Consortium Expands to Europe, Reports on Research Projects

May 28, 2020

The COVID-19 HPC Consortium, a public-private effort delivering free access to HPC processing for scientists pursuing coronavirus research – some utilizing AI Read more…

By Doug Black

$100B Plan Submitted for Massive Remake and Expansion of NSF

May 27, 2020

Legislation to reshape, expand - and rename - the National Science Foundation has been submitted in both the U.S. House and Senate. The proposal, which seems to Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Boosts Deep Learning Accuracy on Memristive Chips

May 27, 2020

IBM researchers have taken another step towards making in-memory computing based on phase change (PCM) memory devices a reality. Papers in Nature and Frontiers Read more…

By John Russell

Hats Over Hearts: Remembering Rich Brueckner

May 26, 2020

HPCwire and all of the Tabor Communications family are saddened by last week’s passing of Rich Brueckner. He was the ever-optimistic man in the Red Hat presiding over the InsideHPC media portfolio for the past decade and a constant presence at HPC’s most important events. Read more…

Nvidia Q1 Earnings Top Expectations, Datacenter Revenue Breaks $1B

May 22, 2020

Nvidia’s seemingly endless roll continued in the first quarter with the company announcing blockbuster earnings that exceeded Wall Street expectations. Nvidia Read more…

By Doug Black

Microsoft’s Massive AI Supercomputer on Azure: 285k CPU Cores, 10k GPUs

May 20, 2020

Microsoft has unveiled a supercomputing monster – among the world’s five most powerful, according to the company – aimed at what is known in scientific an Read more…

By Doug Black

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

AMD
AMD
ASROCK RACK
ASROCK RACK
AWS
AWS
CEJN
CJEN
CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
IBM
IBM
MELLANOX
MELLANOX
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
SIX NINES IT
SIX NINES IT
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL
WEKAIO
WEKAIO

Contributors

Tech Conferences Are Being Canceled Due to Coronavirus

March 3, 2020

Several conferences scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, including Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC) and the Strata Data + AI conference, have Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Exascale Watch: El Capitan Will Use AMD CPUs & GPUs to Reach 2 Exaflops

March 4, 2020

HPE and its collaborators reported today that El Capitan, the forthcoming exascale supercomputer to be sited at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and serve Read more…

By John Russell

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cray to Provide NOAA with Two AMD-Powered Supercomputers

February 24, 2020

The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last week announced plans for a major refresh of its operational weather forecasting supercomputers, part of a 10-year, $505.2 million program, which will secure two HPE-Cray systems for NOAA’s National Weather Service to be fielded later this year and put into production in early 2022. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

Fujitsu A64FX Supercomputer to Be Deployed at Nagoya University This Summer

February 3, 2020

Japanese tech giant Fujitsu announced today that it will supply Nagoya University Information Technology Center with the first commercial supercomputer powered Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This