HPC in 2009: Mergers, Acquisitions and Worse

By Michael Feldman

December 17, 2009

There was plenty of action in the HPC arena this year: the leap forward in GPU computing, the spread of cloud computing into the HPC realm, and the continuing multicore juggernaut, to name a few. But what really dominated the news from week to week in 2009 was the effect of the recession on HPC vendors. Payrolls across the industry were slashed — by shedding employees and cutting salaries — and company reorganizations became almost as common as product launches.

But the most visible and lasting outcome of the recession was the level of vendor consolidation that took place. Eleven companies in the HPC space were either acquired or went out of business in 2009. A number of these firms, including Sun Microsystems and SGI, were already in dire straits and were pushed over the edge by the worsening economy. Others were promising startups that simply ran out of cash and venture capital before they could establish a customer base. We recap all their stories here.

From a monetary point of view, the biggest HPC-related deal of 2009 is Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems. But the $7.4 billion marriage, which was initiated in April, has turned into a long engagement. The latest delay is the European Commission, which is fretting over the antitrust implications of Oracle’s ownership of Sun’s open source MySQL database product. Assuming this gets resolved, for high performance computing users there is a still a big question as to whether the merged entity will support Sun’s HPC portfolio going forward — this despite Larry Ellison’s assurance of keeping Sun’s product set intact.

Since emerging from bankruptcy in 2006, SGI never managed to turn a profit and in April 2009 once again found itself facing Chapter 11. In May, Rackable Systems stepped in and acquired the beleaguered computer vendor for $42.5 million. Upon rescuing the company, Rackable management decided to retain the SGI name and product set, at least for the time being. But in August, the new SGI jettisoned the visualization group and the associated VUE software product set. Most recently, at the Supercomputing Conference in Portland, the company unveiled its long-awaited Ultraviolet shared memory platform. Whether any of this translates into profitable quarters is a question to be answered in 2010.

In June, DRC Computer, a maker of FPGA coprocessor acceleration products, got bought up by one its customers: Security First Corp., a digital security firm. Like many IT vendors this year, DRC couldn’t find additional venture capital in 2009 to maintain the business as a going concern, so ended up looking for a more intimate arrangement. Security First brought over the two dozen or so DRC employees as well as company CEO and co-founder Larry Laurich. The new entity will operate as an independent subsidiary, with Laurich as the president.

Intel went on a bit of buying spree in August, snapping up software vendors Cilk Arts and RapidMind. Both companies offered parallel programming toolsets for multicore processors — technology that Intel is interested in developing, for obvious reasons. Currently, the SDK for Cilk++ (a parallel extension of C++) and the RapidMind Multi-core Development Platform are still available from Intel, but for the long run, the chipmaker is most interested in integrating the technology into its own parallel programming toolset. The RapidMind technology, in particular, will be folded into Ct (C for throughput computing), Intel’s high-level language for data parallelism.

Along those same lines, in September Microsoft bought Interactive Supercomputing (ISC). With the acquisition, Microsoft gets Star-P, a programming environment that allows MATLAB and Python programmers to run their codes interactively on standard HPC clusters. As in the Intel case, Microsoft will support current users of the software, but the end game is to bring the technology into the company’s Windows product set.

The above represents the happiest outcomes of HPC business consolidation in 2009, inasmuch as at least some of the technology and employees were saved. The rest of the vendors on this list were less fortunate.

In May, Linux cluster maker SiCortex went out of business after it failed to secure a second round of venture capital. SiCortex’ MIPS-based architecture and ultra low-power cluster design intrigued some early adopters — in the first quarter of 2009, they reported record revenues — but not enough of them to keep the business afloat. Cray later rescued the PathScale compiler technology (and engineers) from the remains of SiCortex and spun it off into an independent company.

The same week SiCortex went belly up, Woven Systems announced it was shutting its doors. The company offered high performance, adaptive routing 10GbE switches aimed at enterprise datacenters and HPC applications. In August, network security vendor Fortinet picked up some of Woven’s assets and intellectual property. The company said it would continue to sell certain Woven products, but the long term plan is to incorporate the switch technology into its FortiGate-5000 Series chassis-based security solutions.

The recession reached across the pond as well. UK vendors ClearSpeed and Quadrics also succumbed to the economic downturn.

ClearSpeed is not officially out of business, although it has been delisted from the London Stock Exchange and most of the staff has reportedly been laid off. It’s Web site is still spitting pixels however, and the company’s products can apparently be purchased through value added resellers. ClearSpeed’s CSX700 processor offers perhaps the best FP performance per watt in the industry, but its customized nature relegated it to niche status as commodity HPC accelerator solutions like GPGPUs and the Cell processor came into vogue over the past couple of years.

Quadrics shut its doors in June without much fanfare. The makers of QSNet, a proprietary high performance interconnect, had been struggling for some time as InfiniBand and 10 Gig Ethernet ate away at its market. Support for the current product set and the associated intellectual property have been picked up by Vega UK Ltd.

Lastly, we come to server maker Verari Systems, which just this week announced it was “restructuring” its business. Most of the employees are already gone, and the management left in place is busy looking for investors or perhaps a buyer to rescue what remains. SGI has already announced it will step in to provide support services for existing Verari customers.

The worst of the bloodshed may be over. Both IDC and InterSect360 Research are forecasting a modest rebound for global HPC spending in 2010, as IT budgets unfreeze and a backlog of commercial demand hits the market. A thawing of venture capital, low interest rates, and a surplus of savings should also help set the stage for an industry-wide recovery. Here’s hoping.

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!

Pfizer HPC Engineer Aims to Automate Software Stack Testing

January 17, 2019

Seeking to reign in the tediousness of manual software testing, Pfizer HPC Engineer Shahzeb Siddiqui is developing an open source software tool called buildtest, aimed at automating software stack testing by providing the community with a central repository of tests for common HPC apps and the ability to automate execution of testing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Senegal Prepares to Take Delivery of Atos Supercomputer

January 16, 2019

In just a few months time, Senegal will be operating the second largest HPC system in sub-Saharan Africa. The Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation Mary Teuw Niane made the announcement... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Cloud Platform Extends GPU Instance Options

January 16, 2019

If it's Nvidia GPUs you're after to power your AI/HPC/visualization workload, Google Cloud has them, now claiming "broadest GPU availability." Each of the three big public cloud vendors has by turn touted the latest and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Systems With Intel Omni-Path: Architected for Value and Accessible High-Performance Computing

Today’s high-performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI) users value high performing clusters. And the higher the performance that their system can deliver, the better. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Resource Management in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

New challenges demand fresh approaches

Fueled by GPUs, big data, and rapid advances in software, the AI revolution is upon us. Read more…

STAC Floats ML Benchmark for Financial Services Workloads

January 16, 2019

STAC (Securities Technology Analysis Center) recently released an ‘exploratory’ benchmark for machine learning which it hopes will evolve into a firm benchmark or suite of benchmarking tools to compare the performanc Read more…

By John Russell

Google Cloud Platform Extends GPU Instance Options

January 16, 2019

If it's Nvidia GPUs you're after to power your AI/HPC/visualization workload, Google Cloud has them, now claiming "broadest GPU availability." Each of the three Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

STAC Floats ML Benchmark for Financial Services Workloads

January 16, 2019

STAC (Securities Technology Analysis Center) recently released an ‘exploratory’ benchmark for machine learning which it hopes will evolve into a firm benchm Read more…

By John Russell

A Big Data Journey While Seeking to Catalog our Universe

January 16, 2019

It turns out, astronomers have lots of photos of the sky but seek knowledge about what the photos mean. Sound familiar? Big data problems are often characterize Read more…

By James Reinders

Intel Bets Big on 2-Track Quantum Strategy

January 15, 2019

Quantum computing has lived so long in the future it’s taken on a futuristic life of its own, with a Gartner-style hype cycle that includes triggers of innovation, inflated expectations and – though a useful quantum system is still years away – anticipatory troughs of disillusionment. Read more…

By Doug Black

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s Read more…

By John Russell

IBM’s New Global Weather Forecasting System Runs on GPUs

January 9, 2019

Anyone who has checked a forecast to decide whether or not to pack an umbrella knows that weather prediction can be a mercurial endeavor. It is a Herculean task: the constant modeling of incredibly complex systems to a high degree of accuracy at a local level within very short spans of time. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Computing Will Never Work

November 27, 2018

Amid the gush of money and enthusiastic predictions being thrown at quantum computing comes a proposed cold shower in the form of an essay by physicist Mikhail Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Unveils Shasta, Lands NERSC-9 Contract

October 30, 2018

Cray revealed today the details of its next-gen supercomputing architecture, Shasta, selected to be the next flagship system at NERSC. We've known of the code-name "Shasta" since the Argonne slice of the CORAL project was announced in 2015 and although the details of that plan have changed considerably, Cray didn't slow down its timeline for Shasta. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Sets Up for Epyc Epoch

November 16, 2018

It’s been a good two weeks, AMD’s Gary Silcott and Andy Parma told me on the last day of SC18 in Dallas at the restaurant where we met to discuss their show news and recent successes. Heck, it’s been a good year. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Contract Signed for New Finnish Supercomputer

December 13, 2018

After the official contract signing yesterday, configuration details were made public for the new BullSequana system that the Finnish IT Center for Science (CSC Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang Delivers Vision for the New HPC

November 14, 2018

For nearly two hours on Monday at SC18, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, presented his expansive view of the future of HPC (and computing in general) as only he can do. Animated. Backstopped by a stream of data charts, product photos, and even a beautiful image of supernovae... Read more…

By John Russell

HPE No. 1, IBM Surges, in ‘Bucking Bronco’ High Performance Server Market

September 27, 2018

Riding healthy U.S. and global economies, strong demand for AI-capable hardware and other tailwind trends, the high performance computing server market jumped 28 percent in the second quarter 2018 to $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to industry analyst firm Hyperion Research. Read more…

By Doug Black

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
NVIDIA @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

HPC Reflections and (Mostly Hopeful) Predictions

December 19, 2018

So much ‘spaghetti’ gets tossed on walls by the technology community (vendors and researchers) to see what sticks that it is often difficult to peer through Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Confirms 48-Core Cascade Lake-AP for 2019

November 4, 2018

As part of the run-up to SC18, taking place in Dallas next week (Nov. 11-16), Intel is doling out info on its next-gen Cascade Lake family of Xeon processors, specifically the “Advanced Processor” version (Cascade Lake-AP), architected for high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and infrastructure-as-a-service workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Germany Celebrates Launch of Two Fastest Supercomputers

September 26, 2018

The new high-performance computer SuperMUC-NG at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Garching is the fastest computer in Germany and one of the fastest i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft to Buy Mellanox?

December 20, 2018

Networking equipment powerhouse Mellanox could be an acquisition target by Microsoft, according to a published report in an Israeli financial publication. Microsoft has reportedly gone so far as to engage Goldman Sachs to handle negotiations with Mellanox. Read more…

By Doug Black

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer 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

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s Read more…

By John Russell

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