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!

DoE Awards 24 ASCR Leadership Computing Challenge (ALCC) Projects

June 28, 2017

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) ASCR Leadership Computing Challenge (ALCC) program awarded 24 projects a total of 2.1 billion core-hours at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF). The o Read more…

By HPCwire Staff

STEM-Trekker Badisa Mosesane Attends CERN Summer Student Program

June 27, 2017

Badisa Mosesane, an undergraduate scholar who studies computer science at the University of Botswana in Gaborone, recently joined other students from developing nations around the world in Geneva, Switzerland to particip Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake, STEM-Trek

The EU Human Brain Project Reboots but Supercomputing Still Needed

June 26, 2017

The often contentious, EU-funded Human Brain Project whose initial aim was fixed firmly on full-brain simulation is now in the midst of a reboot targeting a more modest goal – development of informatics tools and data/ Read more…

By John Russell

DOE Launches Chicago Quantum Exchange

June 26, 2017

While many of us were preoccupied with ISC 2017 last week, the launch of the Chicago Quantum Exchange went largely unnoticed. So what is such a thing? It is a Department of Energy sponsored collaboration between the Univ Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Optimized HPC Solutions Driving Performance, Efficiency, and Scale

Technology is transforming nearly every human and business process, from driving business growth, to translating documents in real time, to enhancing decision-making in areas like financial services and scientific research. Read more…

UMass Dartmouth Reports on HPC Day 2017 Activities

June 26, 2017

UMass Dartmouth's Center for Scientific Computing & Visualization Research (CSCVR) organized and hosted the third annual "HPC Day 2017" on May 25th. This annual event showcases on-going scientific research in Massach Read more…

By Gaurav Khanna

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 “pre-exascale” award), parsed out additional information ab Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tsinghua Crowned Eight-Time Student Cluster Champions at ISC

June 22, 2017

Always a hard-fought competition, the Student Cluster Competition awards were announced Wednesday, June 21, at the ISC High Performance Conference 2017. Amid whoops and hollers from the crowd, Thomas Sterling presented t Read more…

By Kim McMahon

GPUs, Power9, Figure Prominently in IBM’s Bet on Weather Forecasting

June 22, 2017

IBM jumped into the weather forecasting business roughly a year and a half ago by purchasing The Weather Company. This week at ISC 2017, Big Blue rolled out plans to push deeper into climate science and develop more gran Read more…

By John Russell

DoE Awards 24 ASCR Leadership Computing Challenge (ALCC) Projects

June 28, 2017

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) ASCR Leadership Computing Challenge (ALCC) program awarded 24 projects a total of 2.1 billion core-hour Read more…

By HPCwire Staff

DOE Launches Chicago Quantum Exchange

June 26, 2017

While many of us were preoccupied with ISC 2017 last week, the launch of the Chicago Quantum Exchange went largely unnoticed. So what is such a thing? It is a D Read more…

By John Russell

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

Tsinghua Crowned Eight-Time Student Cluster Champions at ISC

June 22, 2017

Always a hard-fought competition, the Student Cluster Competition awards were announced Wednesday, June 21, at the ISC High Performance Conference 2017. Amid wh Read more…

By Kim McMahon

GPUs, Power9, Figure Prominently in IBM’s Bet on Weather Forecasting

June 22, 2017

IBM jumped into the weather forecasting business roughly a year and a half ago by purchasing The Weather Company. This week at ISC 2017, Big Blue rolled out pla Read more…

By John Russell

Intersect 360 at ISC: HPC Industry at $44B by 2021

June 22, 2017

The care, feeding and sustained growth of the HPC industry increasingly is in the hands of the commercial market sector – in particular, it’s the hyperscale Read more…

By Doug Black

At ISC – Goh on Go: Humans Can’t Scale, the Data-Centric Learning Machine Can

June 22, 2017

I've seen the future this week at ISC, it’s on display in prototype or Powerpoint form, and it’s going to dumbfound you. The future is an AI neural network Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray Brings AI and HPC Together on Flagship Supers

June 20, 2017

Cray took one more step toward the convergence of big data and high performance computing (HPC) today when it announced that it’s adding a full suite of big d Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

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

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is the successor to Caffe, the deep learning framework developed by Berkeley AI Research and community contributors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of Read more…

By Alex Woodie

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of “quantum supremacy,” researchers are stretching the limits of today’s most advanced supercomputers. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

Messina Update: The US Path to Exascale in 16 Slides

April 26, 2017

Paul Messina, director of the U.S. Exascale Computing Project, provided a wide-ranging review of ECP’s evolving plans last week at the HPC User Forum. Read more…

By John Russell

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