HPC 360 Highlights Manufacturing’s Missing Middle

By Nicole Hemsoth

October 5, 2010

This past week in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois at the R Systems-sponsored HPC 360 event, the “triple-m” combination of manufacturing and the missing middle was at the heart of discussions and presentations from representatives from a number of companies ranging from the mega-sized (Caterpillar and General Motors, for instance) to manufacturing supply chain providers, including Dassault Systemes. 

These conversations, coupled with presentations from Intel’s Dr. Stephen Wheat and Intersect 360 Research’s Addison Snell repeated the Council on Competitiveness-generated message about the critical economic role of the manufacturing supply chain’s ability to remain efficient and competitive via access to complex software packages and HPC resources.

In essence, the missing middle for manufacturing is the supply chain that feeds the large manufacturing companies—and it is this subset that is most in need of sophisticated applications and the computational capacity required to propel them. Still somehow, these companies remain left in that “missing middle” category of companies that require such resources but lack the expertise, and (or) the internal financial and developmental requirements needed to secure them.

To throw one more “m” into the missing middle and manufacturing theme, modeling (and its simulation counterpart) were prominently featured as critical backbones for successful manufacturing and product lifecycle management business, but nearly all companies present, even those who provide software solutions to these firms, were questioning the efficiency of their compute capability. While some were merely present to provide presentations about how modeling and simulation were key to reducing cost and time to market, others discussed the challenges of securing much-needed computational capacity when their current resources were already strained, which provided a perfect platform for HPC service provider R Systems (who again, was the sponsor for the event).

News from the Silicon Prairie

The “m” words just seem to keep mounting here, but there’s another crucial element that hasn’t been addressed—and it’s all about location. Enter “Midwest” as our newest addition to the parade.

Far too often, our meatiest HPC news items trickle in from the coasts of the United States and from major cities elsewhere around the world. For some reason, the American Midwest tends to get overlooked unless, of course, we start talking about manufacturing. It’s an easy thing to be guilty of—this accidental, mildly apologetic sideswiping of news from the vast plains, but it is lately been at the center of conversations about (and even within) manufacturing. Consider, for instance the Midwest Pilot program to emphasize the importance of HPC for U.S. manufacturing.

HPC resource providers would be astute to look to the Midwest for a potential customer base since this is a region that is in need of such resources, as evidenced by the pilot and related backing studies showing its viability. The pilot was the product of a summit and workshop, which was held at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in late August and was driven by the Council on Competitiveness. The goal of the small event was to lay the groundwork to create a program to leverage HPC resources for the U.S. manufacturing sector’s “missing middle” of supply chain feeders—many of whom are in the Midwest and define the needs that have been articulated by the Council repeatedly in recent years.

It’s not hard to see the parallel between the “missing middle” and America’s Midwest since oftentimes, that same term could apply far beyond conversations about computational resource needs. As the literal heart of America that drives forward on the production end of the innovation that filters in from our coastlines, all it took was one trip to a community like Champaign-Urbana (and the surrounding University of Illinois campus).

HPC for the Heartland

Given the era of virtualization and connectivity, it doesn’t necessarily matter where your hardware resources come from when they’re delivered in an on-demand capacity, but R Systems has discovered that more localized companies requiring HPC cycles are looking to them for support. Given that other resource providers with similar offerings for high-performance computing users are located along the coasts, this does positions them to be a go-to provider to feed companies in that “missing middle” category that are part of the stream of Midwest manufacturing suppliers.

One of the main benefits that R Systems claims is that they are able to deliver HPC resources on demand far more quickly than users might realize if they made use of a university system. Brian Kucic, who originally came from NCSA before realizing that users were not getting their computing needs met quickly enough and played a key role in the formation of the small HPC on-demand company, noted that potential customers like Wolfram did not want to wait in the supercomputer queue. He saw a need for such users with sporadic needs that was strong enough to warrant an investment in cluster resources to provide for such customers.

Wolfram Research was one of the first and more notable companies to make use of the company’s HPC offering, due in part to the local connection. Wolfram is headquartered in the Champaign-Urbana, and supplies mathematical software for engineers, researchers and other users with high-performance computing demands. Wolfram’s Mathematica offering provides some of the key modeling and simulation used for manufacturing product lifecycles, but the on-demand application for which R Systems was tapped is more in the experimental realm.

Wolfram Research asked R Systems to deploy their 576-node “R Smarr” cluster to launch their cloud-based Wolfram Alpha computational search engine. This project was aimed at delivering a searchable resource for quantitative material that would become instantly accessible and functional for users. While the concept alone required an incredible amount of compute-intensive work, Wolfram was unsure about the demand versus in-house capacity for such an offering. Thus they looked to R Systems, who then partnered with Dell to deliver the needed solution by upgrading an existing cluster.

The Wolfram Alpha case study is interesting beyond the clear marketing objectives for a number of reasons, including the short time from initial request to complete access to the solution. While reading case studies is fraught with peril, given the obvious lack of objectivity any of them bring to bear, for anyone trying to get to the heart of HPC resource provider business models and handling of typical large-scale projects on short deadlines, it might serve as a template for choosing solution providers and determining what is realistic in the expectations department for requesting an on-the-fly spin up.

It will be interesting to see how, as more on-demand HPC resource providers (and what a risk to take—this “if you build it they will come” business model) enter the space, the geographical shakeout goes down. Will companies turn to “their own” as they look to off-site companies to crunch and store their data? Is there inherent value in location alone if your location provides a steady influx for one particular sector in the same way the Midwest and manufacturing are married?

A Champaign Toast

There’s something about the term “Silicon Prairie” that at once seems a little derogatory (like it’s the hick cousin on the “real” center of technology innovation in the Bay area) but also fits the region quite well. The technology campus at the University of Illinois does seem a bit out of place, jutting up as it does amid amber waves of grain, but it’s also a striking, inspiring sight.

During the HPC 360 event in Champaign-Urbana, which was big enough to draw in some world-class speakers yet small enough to allow for some in-depth conversations, there was time to spend wandering around the old site of NCSA and the buildings that house startups supported by the Technology Entrepreneur Center at the University of Illinois. Here, entrepreneurs and companies that support them. Riverbed Technology, for instance, has an inexpensive presence, real estate-wise, but employs and develops student talent while getting really, really cheap highly-educated labor—at least compared to Silicon Valley. 

So, dear readers, behold—the Silicon Prairie, centered in the missing middle of the United States yet critical to empowering the missing middle of manufacturing. For companies looking for talent outside of the expensive confines of the Valley, perhaps looking to the region for what it might offer is realistic as the costs of doing business continue to soar.

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!

Advancing Modular Supercomputing with DEEP and DEEP-ER Architectures

February 24, 2017

Knowing that the jump to exascale will require novel architectural approaches capable of delivering dramatic efficiency and performance gains, researchers around the world are hard at work on next-generation HPC systems. Read more…

By Sean Thielen

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Feb. 23, 2017)

February 23, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

HPE Server Shows Low Latency on STAC-N1 Test

February 22, 2017

The performance of trade and match servers can be a critical differentiator for financial trading houses. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Financial Update (Feb. 2017)

February 22, 2017

In this recurring feature, we’ll provide you with financial highlights from companies in the HPC industry. Check back in regularly for an updated list with the most pertinent fiscal information. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

O&G Companies Create Value with High Performance Remote Visualization

Today’s oil and gas (O&G) companies are striving to process datasets that have become not only tremendously large, but extremely complex. And the larger that data becomes, the harder it is to move and analyze it – particularly with a workforce that could be distributed between drilling sites, offshore rigs, and remote offices. Read more…

Rethinking HPC Platforms for ‘Second Gen’ Applications

February 22, 2017

Just what constitutes HPC and how best to support it is a keen topic currently. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDC: Will the Real Exascale Race Please Stand Up?

February 21, 2017

So the exascale race is on. And lots of organizations are in the pack. Government announcements from the US, China, India, Japan, and the EU indicate that they are working hard to make it happen – some sooner, some later. Read more…

By Bob Sorensen, IDC

ExxonMobil, NCSA, Cray Scale Reservoir Simulation to 700,000+ Processors

February 17, 2017

In a scaling breakthrough for oil and gas discovery, ExxonMobil geoscientists report they have harnessed the power of 717,000 processors – the equivalent of 22,000 32-processor computers – to run complex oil and gas reservoir simulation models. Read more…

By Doug Black

Advancing Modular Supercomputing with DEEP and DEEP-ER Architectures

February 24, 2017

Knowing that the jump to exascale will require novel architectural approaches capable of delivering dramatic efficiency and performance gains, researchers around the world are hard at work on next-generation HPC systems. Read more…

By Sean Thielen

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDC: Will the Real Exascale Race Please Stand Up?

February 21, 2017

So the exascale race is on. And lots of organizations are in the pack. Government announcements from the US, China, India, Japan, and the EU indicate that they are working hard to make it happen – some sooner, some later. Read more…

By Bob Sorensen, IDC

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Drug Developers Use Google Cloud HPC in the Fight Against ALS

February 16, 2017

Within the haystack of a lethal disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig’s Disease) there exists, somewhere, the needle that will pierce this therapy-resistant affliction. Read more…

By Doug Black

Azure Edges AWS in Linpack Benchmark Study

February 15, 2017

The “when will clouds be ready for HPC” question has ebbed and flowed for years. Read more…

By John Russell

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

Intel and Trump Announce $7B for Fab 42 Targeting 7nm

February 8, 2017

In what may be an attempt by President Trump to reset his turbulent relationship with the high tech industry, he and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich today announced plans to invest more than $7 billion to complete Fab 42. Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This