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!

How the United States Invests in Supercomputing

November 14, 2018

The CORAL supercomputers Summit and Sierra are now the world's fastest computers and are already contributing to science with early applications. Ahead of SC18, Maciej Chojnowski with ICM at the University of Warsaw discussed the details of the CORAL project with Dr. Dimitri Kusnezov from the U.S. Department of Energy. Read more…

By Maciej Chojnowski

At SC18: Humanitarianism Amid Boom Times for HPC

November 14, 2018

At SC18 in Dallas, the feeling on the ground is one of forward-looking buoyancy. Like boom times that cycle through the Texas oil fields, the HPC industry is enjoying a prosperity seen only every few decades, one driven Read more…

By Doug Black

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, produ Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

AI Can Be Scary. But Choosing the Wrong Partners Can Be Mortifying!

As you continue to dive deeper into AI, you will discover it is more than just deep learning. AI is an extremely complex set of machine learning, deep learning, reinforcement, and analytics algorithms with varying compute, storage, memory, and communications needs. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

From Deep Blue to Summit – 30 Years of Supercomputing Innovation

This week, in honor of the 30th anniversary of the SC conference, we are highlighting some of the most significant IBM contributions to supercomputing over the past 30 years. Read more…

New Panasas High Performance Storage Straddles Commercial-Traditional HPC

November 13, 2018

High performance storage vendor Panasas has launched a new version of its ActiveStor product line this morning featuring what the company said is the industry’s first plug-and-play, portable parallel file system that delivers up to 75 Gb/s per rack on industry standard hardware combined with “enterprise-grade reliability and manageability.” Read more…

By Doug Black

How the United States Invests in Supercomputing

November 14, 2018

The CORAL supercomputers Summit and Sierra are now the world's fastest computers and are already contributing to science with early applications. Ahead of SC18, Maciej Chojnowski with ICM at the University of Warsaw discussed the details of the CORAL project with Dr. Dimitri Kusnezov from the U.S. Department of Energy. Read more…

By Maciej Chojnowski

At SC18: Humanitarianism Amid Boom Times for HPC

November 14, 2018

At SC18 in Dallas, the feeling on the ground is one of forward-looking buoyancy. Like boom times that cycle through the Texas oil fields, the HPC industry is en Read more…

By Doug Black

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 Read more…

By John Russell

New Panasas High Performance Storage Straddles Commercial-Traditional HPC

November 13, 2018

High performance storage vendor Panasas has launched a new version of its ActiveStor product line this morning featuring what the company said is the industry’s first plug-and-play, portable parallel file system that delivers up to 75 Gb/s per rack on industry standard hardware combined with “enterprise-grade reliability and manageability.” Read more…

By Doug Black

SC18 Student Cluster Competition – Revealing the Field

November 13, 2018

It’s November again and we’re almost ready for the kick-off of one of the greatest computer sports events in the world – the SC Student Cluster Competitio Read more…

By Dan Olds

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

OpenACC Talks Up Summit and Community Momentum at SC18

November 12, 2018

OpenACC – the directives-based parallel programing model for optimizing applications on heterogeneous architectures – is showcasing user traction and HPC im Read more…

By John Russell

How ASCI Revolutionized the World of High-Performance Computing and Advanced Modeling and Simulation

November 9, 2018

The 1993 Supercomputing Conference was held in Portland, Oregon. That conference and it’s show floor provided a good snapshot of the uncertainty that U.S. supercomputing was facing in the early 1990s. Many of the companies exhibiting that year would soon be gone, either bankrupt or acquired by somebody else. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

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

TACC Wins Next NSF-funded Major Supercomputer

July 30, 2018

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has won the next NSF-funded big supercomputer beating out rivals including the National Center for Supercomputing Ap Read more…

By John Russell

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Requiem for a Phi: Knights Landing Discontinued

July 25, 2018

On Monday, Intel made public its end of life strategy for the Knights Landing "KNL" Phi product set. The announcement makes official what has already been wide Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

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

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

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

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter 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

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

Google Releases Machine Learning “What-If” Analysis Tool

September 12, 2018

Training machine learning models has long been time-consuming process. Yesterday, Google released a “What-If Tool” for probing how data point changes affect a model’s prediction. The new tool is being launched as a new feature of the open source TensorBoard web application... Read more…

By John Russell

The Convergence of Big Data and Extreme-Scale HPC

August 31, 2018

As we are heading towards extreme-scale HPC coupled with data intensive analytics like machine learning, the necessary integration of big data and HPC is a curr Read more…

By Rob Farber

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