Redmond Sets Sights on Manufacturing

By Nicole Hemsoth

April 6, 2011

The concept of digital manufacturing forms an umbrella over any number of computationally-driven technological enhancements that feed the overall manufacturing supply chain. Generally speaking, this includes anything from 3D rendering and prototyping of new products, the use of modeling and simulation to speed time to market or test for quality, or to plan and collaborate throughout the entire lifecycle of any given product. In short, there’s far more than initially meets the eye involved here…

Last year the news that touched on this, at least in the cloud sphere, was somewhat limited. Many items that emerged included advancements in SaaS solutions, including announcements from Autodesk about its Project Cumulus and Project Centaur, for instance. Even during the HPC360 conference, which had a manufacturing bent, there was an incredible amount of interest in what clouds could do for the industry but some solutions and the pesky “small” implementation details were definitely lacking from vendor conversations—SaaS-based or otherwise.

A number of companies that attended that event were in the process of making decisions about how clouds fit into their infrastructure, cost, performance, and other goals but I think if they were to jump ahead just one year they’d be finding far more answers—or least good starting points. After all, this is technology we’re talking about and to say a lot can change in one year is a profound understatement.

This will be the year when vendors and manufacturing alike start to see (and then act on) the fact that digital manufacturing and cloud computing are a good fit; they complement one another technologically and logically. Since many manufacturers rely on cutting-edge modeling and simulation tools, for instance, this once meant they needed cutting-edge hardware to churn out ideas and speed lifecycles along, which added to upfront cost.

Now that cloud possibilities have nipped some hardware investment concerns in the bud (at least initially—we could argue at length about that sticky ROI with cloud for the long-haul issue, of course) what advances the technological/software end could equally advance the cloud computing adoption/use end.  Am I glossing over some realities here? Yes. Yes, I am. But this scenario is possible—and playing out—for some small to mid-size manufacturers—and without such smaller players feeding the supply chain the whole house of cards would collapse anyway.

Despite some of the hubbub about this (really, really important) sector of the economy snatching up cloud opportunities, there haven’t been many companies actively courting manufacturers. At least not outside of industry-focused events that set aside specific time to present to possible new customers. Microsoft, however, performed the equivalent of writing personalized invitations for the manufacturers of the world this week with an announcement that hints at a much broader manufacturing focus around the bend.

A couple of days ago the company launched its Reference Architecture Framework for Discrete Manufacturers Initiative to “accelerate cloud computing and improved collaboration across the value chain.”

More specifically, this focused push to the clouds across the manufacturing sector–from the top of the pyramid to the base—is intended to help companies collaborate on a global scale via the power of an increasing number of mobile devices connected via the cloud. And preferably its cloud offerings.

The group behind the effort has pulled in manufacturing giants, including Siemens MES and Tata Consultancy Services as well as other smaller, more focused organizations like Camstar Systems and Rockwell Automation.

According to Sanjay Ravi who oversees Microsoft’s Worldwide Discrete Manufacturing Industry division, the combination of globalization and new technology and devices have “fragmented industry value chains, making them more complex and unable to quickly respond to increased competition and shorter product life cycles.” He goes on to identify the emergence of cloud alternatives as the key to putting the pieces back together but notes that manufacturers are still looking for guidance about how they can benefit from cloud.

Presumably, this is the impetus behind the new initiative which Ravi claims will provide a response to this need for guidance “while offering a pragmatic solution road map for IT integration and adoption. The company got an earful from respondents to their recent Discrete Manufacturing Cloud Computing Survey that gathered the opinions of 152 IT and other leaders from a number of manufacturing sectors, including aerospace, electronics and heavy equipment makers–there just isn’t enough information or guidance.

There were many noteworthy elements in that survey but the most important takeaway here is, at least in one opinion here, that Microsoft smells blood.

Now I realize I’m going out into left field with this analogy here, but manufacturing is like that baby antelope on the National Geographic channel; abandoned by its mother in the vast savanna—it doesn’t know much and is prone to wandering aimlessly…And…well…

Am I saying that Microsoft is the lion discretely watching it walk on wobbly legs in this mini-fable? Not really—It might be that it is more of a shepard to lead it to a safe, stable patch. And when it comes to shepards, I guess the first big, strong one on the scene will do just nicely.

Microsoft does have the power to appeal to this huge customer base and it uses the keywords that are most likely to entice this segment of the market.

Ravi claims that “current cloud computing initiatives are targeted at cost reduction but a growing number of forward-looking companies are exploring new and innovative business capabilities uniquely delivered through the cloud.” He notes that this is taking hold in product design and what he terms “social product development” projects as well staking a claim for the value of added collaboration via the cloud. 

If some of this sounds like vendor hype behind clouds that approaches the topic far too generally, you might be right, but then again that seems to be the norm in terms of anything cloud-related these days. It’s more about who goes all carpe diem on an industry at the moment it smells weakness (in this case a lack of knowledge about implementation, practicality, etc). ‘Approach with caution’ can be read as ‘be as general as possible’ but nonetheless, by tackling the fact that the education and guidance are the missing piece, Microsoft might win itself a few manufacturing converts.

To go back to that HPC360 event from last year, there were a lot of questions about clouds in general but no one really answered them completely. This might be because even “way back then” (October) companies were still fleshing out their own strategy to take to this particular market. Through its recent survey, one of the main takeaways was that while there’s interest, there’s just as much confusion, but Microsoft is seizing this opportunity to tout itself as the expert—and lead the flock to a new era of digital manufacturing.

Now that I’ve had my say I’ll go back to my NatGeoTV and see if that weak, lost little antelope suddenly kicks up its heels and makes its own path.

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!

SRC Spends $200M on University Research Centers

January 16, 2018

The Semiconductor Research Corporation, as part of its JUMP initiative, has awarded $200 million to fund six research centers whose areas of focus span cognitive computing, memory-centric computing, high-speed communicat Read more…

By John Russell

US Seeks to Automate Video Analysis

January 16, 2018

U.S. military and intelligence agencies continue to look for new ways to use artificial intelligence to sift through huge amounts of video imagery in hopes of freeing analysts to identify threats and otherwise put their Read more…

By George Leopold

URISC@SC17 and the #LongestLastMile

January 11, 2018

A multinational delegation recently attended the Understanding Risk in Shared CyberEcosystems workshop, or URISC@SC17, in Denver, Colorado. URISC participants and presenters from 11 countries, including eight African nations, 12 U.S. states, Canada, India and Nepal, also attended SC17, the annual international conference for high performance computing, networking, storage and analysis that drew nearly 13,000 attendees. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek Nonprofit

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and NREL Take Steps to Create a Sustainable, Energy-Efficient Data Center with an H2 Fuel Cell

As enterprises attempt to manage rising volumes of data, unplanned data center outages are becoming more common and more expensive. As the cost of downtime rises, enterprises lose out on productivity and valuable competitive advantage without access to their critical data. Read more…

When the Chips Are Down

January 11, 2018

In the last article, "The High Stakes Semiconductor Game that Drives HPC Diversity," I alluded to the challenges facing the semiconductor industry and how that may impact the evolution of HPC systems over the next few years. I thought I’d lift the covers a little and look at some of the commercial challenges that impact the component technology we use in HPC. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

SRC Spends $200M on University Research Centers

January 16, 2018

The Semiconductor Research Corporation, as part of its JUMP initiative, has awarded $200 million to fund six research centers whose areas of focus span cognitiv Read more…

By John Russell

When the Chips Are Down

January 11, 2018

In the last article, "The High Stakes Semiconductor Game that Drives HPC Diversity," I alluded to the challenges facing the semiconductor industry and how that may impact the evolution of HPC systems over the next few years. I thought I’d lift the covers a little and look at some of the commercial challenges that impact the component technology we use in HPC. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

ANL’s Rick Stevens on CANDLE, ARM, Quantum, and More

January 8, 2018

Late last year HPCwire caught up with Rick Stevens, associate laboratory director for computing, environment and life Sciences at Argonne National Laboratory, f Read more…

By John Russell

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The @hpcnotes Predictions for HPC in 2018

January 4, 2018

I’m not averse to making predictions about the world of High Performance Computing (and Supercomputing, Cloud, etc.) in person at conferences, meetings, causa Read more…

By Andrew Jones

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he Read more…

By John Russell

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Nvidia, Partners Announce Several V100 Servers

September 27, 2017

Here come the Volta 100-based servers. Nvidia today announced an impressive line-up of servers from major partners – Dell EMC, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Delivers 17-Qubit Quantum Chip to European Research Partner

October 10, 2017

On Tuesday, Intel delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip to research partner QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The announcement marks a major milestone in the 10-year, $50-million collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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