The Week in Review

By John E. West

October 30, 2008

Here’s a collection of highlights, selected totally subjectively, from this week’s HPC news stream as reported at insideHPC.com and HPCwire.

10 words and a link

Will cloud pricing answer the age-old question: is Windows more expensive?

Personal supercomputing survey closes, many want one, $10k too much

Economist free primer on cloud computing

Rackspace acquires bigger footprint in the clouds

TotalView adds batch and remote access debugging

Voltaire announces QDR IB switch

The niching of HPC – biggest super in the Big 10

SGI releases new visualization platform, aims to recapture roots

JAIST, CSC invest in Cray XT5s

Microsoft announces cloud offering, Dell will partner

Startup Plura Processing: Make Games, Use Grid, Get Paid

GPU market grows in tough times

Penguin’s new high density computing solution

Barron’s financial analysis on SGI: “circumstances dire”

It’s interesting to me when broader communities peek into our little corner of the world. Today’s morsel is a story from Barron’s on SGI. It’s titled “Don’t Be Tempted by SGI,” so you probably know where the article is headed (tip to HPCwire for the pointer)

The stock (ticker: SGIC) is down 59% this year, and its valuation — it trades at less than one-third its trailing sales – may tempt some investors. But the history of the business shows that sales of big, expensive supercomputers are rarely profitable.


The circumstances now are dire for SGI. It had just $40 million in cash, as of its most recent quarter, and it must begin principal payments on $12.75 million of the Morgan Stanley loan next year. It has incurred an operating cash loss of $65 million over the past four quarters. And on its most recent conference call, its chief financial officer warned of further indebtedness.

Open Education Cup offers prize for best online HPC training

As the HPC industry has continued to grow and gain acceptance in mainstream commercial industry, more people are faced with the perils of efficiently architecting parallel applications. There will always be a series of flagship universities and national laboratories that have the knowledge and means by which to further educate their staff on the Zen of computational sciences. What about those without access to these resources? Enter the Open Education Cup.

“It used to be that the concepts of parallel processing — of dividing a computing task and running it simultaneously across several processors – were only important to supercomputing experts,” said Jan Odegard, director of Rice University’s Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology. “With the introduction of dual-core, quad-core, and soon, many-core chips, as well as the understanding that chips with hundreds of cores will be in your typical PCs within just a few years, parallel processing is suddenly something that everybody needs to be familiar with.”

The Open Education Cup is a contest chartered with jump-starting “the creation of freely available, easily understood” classroom materials about parallel computing. Rice University is co-sponsoring the event with $500 cash prizes for the five best lessons submitted to the open-eduction site Connexions.

“Reports have said over and over again that we need more and better high-performance-computing education,” said one of the contest’s judges, Dan Reed, director of scalable and multicore computing strategy at Microsoft. “Projects like this are a way to build that education from the ground up,” said Reed, who is also a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology ( PCAST ) and a co-author of PCAST’s 2007 report on the challenges faced by America’s information technology industry.

The contest will kick off during the week of the Supercomputing conference in Austin, Texas. I personally believe this is very exciting. So many of us have been musing thoughts on creating education material easily digested by those outside the HPC norms. I tip my hat to those affiliated with the Open Education Cup for taking the bull by the horns. I’m personally looking forward to viewing the course submissions.

For more info on this, read the full article or check out their Web site.

Newman on three technologies that will disrupt enterprise storage

Sun’s HPC Watercooler points to the latest bit of analysis by Henry Newman pointing to his call for three storage technologies that will be “truly disruptive to the enterprise storage market.” Highlights:

Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) is my number one pick for a technology that could change enterprise storage in dramatic ways.

…I have been writing about object-based storage for several years now (see Let’s Bid Adieu to Block Devices and SCSI), and I am a big proponent of T10 OSD, given the problems I see regularly with fragmentation.

…I am a big proponent of [pNFS], and it has some broad implications (see The Future of NFS Arrives and NFS Enters a Parallel Universe).

Henry’s original article is here.

—–

John West is part of the team that summarizes the headlines in HPC news every day at insideHPC.com. You can contact him at [email protected].

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