The Bright Side of Decline: IDC Sheds Light on HPC Server Market

By Nicole Hemsoth

April 2, 2014

As some of you have already noted, the most recent figures from IDC’s sweep of the HPC server market are in—and from the surface, they don’t suggest a stellar season ahead for supercomputing. However, when put into some broader context, particularly on the international scale with a few massive, surprise systems added to the mix, the big picture is anything but grim.

To recap quickly, the research group found that worldwide factory revenue for the HPC technical server market dipped 7.2%–knocking it to the $10.3 billion mark for the whole of 2013. Interestingly, this decline is based on the previous numbers from 2012, which showcased a record $11.1 billion. This was driven, in large part, by the power of a few versus the seismic forces of an entire market.

“The high end of the market has always been lumpy,” explained Steve Conway, Research Vice President in IDC’s technical computing division. “Ever since supercomputing has existed, there’s been a lot of variability quarter to quarter and year to year. It’s heavily driven by sales of the largest systems, which then throws the bell curve—just as it did here. He notes that even without those very few but massive sales, the high end is marching steadily forward. “If you don’t look at this market as a one-year thing, but rather as a trend line, it’s continuing to grow.”

462108395Conway reminded us that 2012 was very strong but was powered by some anomalies—a few strong sales in particular. The biggest was the K system in Japan, which was $550 million alone. “This, coupled with the Tianhe-2 in China, provided a sudden injection of spending that hadn’t been predicted—and very likely won’t be repeated in the near future. In other words, the decline in these numbers was well-anticipated.

When taking a look at the server market across all segments, HPC, despite a decline in overall spending in the last year, is doing far better than its general business computing brethren. The average selling price of HPC systems is already high and continues to mount in comparison. The difference in IDC’s most recent server market figures is not a matter of selling price, it’s the number of units sold. While that might be lower, the general server market has remained flat over the last several years with around 1% CAGR versus the relatively steady 7% for HPC.

Conway says that there are many considerations that contribute to this disparity in server market numbers, including what customers require from their systems and of course, HPC’s outsider status on some trends that have cheapened commodity enterprise computing, namely virtualization and server consolidation.

Speaking of that difference between the HPC and general business computing markets, there has seemed to be a convergence underway. We’ve been tracking how an increasing number of enterprise users are looking to technical computing servers and tools, which could signal further growth in these IDC HPC numbers. But let’s reverse that for a moment—are HPC shops looking to the commodity, stripped down (think Open Compute type) servers that are storming the enterprise?

According to Conway, these two spaces—HPC and high-end enterprise—are merging, but uni-directionally. He says more commercial firms are now HPC servers but on the flipside, the HPC folks are not really “down shifting” to look to enterprise servers. “The market is getting a little complicated now because there are workloads where the stripped down servers make sense, but on the other end, there’s a higher expectation from other users that even more should be included in clusters.” He says that they’re watching the trend but predicting it is no easy task once we move out another two or three years.

Another fuzzy area is around how new movements, including Hadoop, could alter future IDC HPC server market numbers. At the core of this is the “big data” trend, a great deal of which can be classified as technical computing under IDC’s larger definition of HPC and what is thrown into the mix. With analytics at the center of this defined as technical computing, Hadoop cannot be ignored. But interestingly, despite the noise around Hadoop in commercial circles, the risk-averse business world is less likely to adopt Hadoop for production environments. Conway said that Hadoop use in HPC trumps it in enterprise with 29% of shops reporting they were already using it. While there are a number of ways it must be modified (swapping out the native file system and  other efforts to boost performance) it’s striking that the most visible talk around Hadoop’s role in the world (solving big commercial problems one batch at a time) is from the one segment where the adoption is the slowest.

This all calls to mind the work being done at smaller and mid-sized houses—commercial and academic alike. The server market numbers were brightest for these segments, however, again, this is not just indicative of some massive market push, but rather other, more subtle forces. The most profound culprit for this growth is the recession (remember that?). These segments are bouncing back while large-scale HPC investments weren’t as affected since the wheels of those deals for big systems had been set in motion and were “too big to fail” in a sense. On the other hand, orders around $50,000 (for instance) were more easily put on ice or even cancelled during that uncertain time. They’re back now, reflecting that bounce, but also decent sales.

Among the vendors who stood out in the last year were HP (32.3% share), IBM (27.7%) and strong showings from others, including Cray, which had some sales of both supercomputers and internal products that boosted their revenue 23.4%. Another surprise was Dawning, which closed out the year with a whopping 73.8% revenue growth total over the course of 2012.

Conway stressed the importance of the overall trend line over multiple years for a healthy but hilly market like HPC. He plans on continued growth for the accelerator and coprocessor market, continued investment worldwide in exascale initiatives (although he argues that one common theme among nations is the need to provide a solid ROI argument for sustained funding), and what is already shaping up to be an exciting 2014—from the very peak of computing down to the smaller technical computing cluster levels.

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!

Data Vortex Users Contemplate the Future of Supercomputing

October 19, 2017

Last month (Sept. 11-12), HPC networking company Data Vortex held its inaugural users group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) bringing together about 30 participants from industry, government and academia t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Self-Training Goes Forward at Google DeepMind

October 19, 2017

DeepMind, Google’s AI research organization, announced today in a blog that AlphaGo Zero, the latest evolution of AlphaGo (the first computer program to defeat a Go world champion) trained itself within three days to play Go at a superhuman level (i.e., better than any human) – and to beat the old version of AlphaGo – without leveraging human expertise, data or training. Read more…

By Doug Black

Researchers Scale COSMO Climate Code to 4888 GPUs on Piz Daint

October 17, 2017

Effective global climate simulation, sorely needed to anticipate and cope with global warming, has long been computationally challenging. Two of the major obstacles are the needed resolution and prolonged time to compute Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Transforming Genomic Analytics with HPC-Accelerated Insights

Advancements in the field of genomics are revolutionizing our understanding of human biology, rapidly accelerating the discovery and treatment of genetic diseases, and dramatically improving human health. Read more…

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Cluster Competition coverage has come to its natural home: H Read more…

By Dan Olds

Data Vortex Users Contemplate the Future of Supercomputing

October 19, 2017

Last month (Sept. 11-12), HPC networking company Data Vortex held its inaugural users group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) bringing together ab Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Self-Training Goes Forward at Google DeepMind

October 19, 2017

DeepMind, Google’s AI research organization, announced today in a blog that AlphaGo Zero, the latest evolution of AlphaGo (the first computer program to defeat a Go world champion) trained itself within three days to play Go at a superhuman level (i.e., better than any human) – and to beat the old version of AlphaGo – without leveraging human expertise, data or training. Read more…

By Doug Black

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Read more…

By Dan Olds

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

Fujitsu Tapped to Build 37-Petaflops ABCI System for AIST

October 10, 2017

Fujitsu announced today it will build the long-planned AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI) which is set to become the fastest supercomputer system in Japan Read more…

By John Russell

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

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

Intel Debuts Programmable Acceleration Card

October 5, 2017

With a view toward supporting complex, data-intensive applications, such as AI inference, video streaming analytics, database acceleration and genomics, Intel i Read more…

By Doug Black

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources 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

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w 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

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

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

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

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

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