A Decade in HPC

By Addison Snell

November 15, 2016

A lot can change in ten years. We might move houses or change jobs. Our kids get older (and so do we). If we’re lucky we make new friends, and we’re sad when old ones pass into memory. There are some things we hold onto—our core values, our driving passions—and over ten years, we hope to see progress toward our goals, so that when we look back on a decade, we see how far we’ve come.

This is our tenth Supercomputing Conference since starting Intersect360 Research in January 2007 (as Tabor Research then, a division of Tabor Communications), and it’s been a decade of change. It’s hard to think of industries that evolve as rapidly as HPC. Most other advancements you’d think of—in scientific research, manufacturing, electronics, entertainment, transportation—have ties to HPC. Year by year, HPC influences the arc of change in our lives.

As part of a retrospective on our ten years as HPC analysts, I reviewed what the industry looked like when we began, along with the predictions we made along the way. Ten years ago, our industry looked a lot different.

  • Beowulf-style x86 clusters were the dominant paradigm, and blade form factors were about to take off, but Intel was not the number-one processor vendor for HPC clusters in 2006. (It was AMD.)
  • Grid computing was still a common topic, and cloud computing had not yet taken hold.
  • The U.S. was indisputably the leader in supercomputing. The BlueGene/L system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories was in the middle of its streak of number-one rankings on the TOP500 list, having recently doubled in capacity to 136 teraflops.
  • InfiniBand overtook all other non-Ethernet interconnects for the first time, with Mellanox as the only silicon provider. (QLogic announced its entrance two years later, at SC08.)
  • Parallel file systems were uncommon, though in 2007 Panasas would begin a major campaign around pNFS, and Sun Microsystems acquired Cluster File Systems, Inc., which owned Lustre. IBM had GPFS but had not yet acquired Platform Computing.
  • Most importantly, it was the dawn of the multicore era. AMD, IBM, and Intel were all shipping dual-core CPUs, with roadmaps leading to four, eight, and more. This would prove to be the most definitive shift that changed the face of HPC.

intersect360logoIt was into this industry landscape that we brought our new HPC analyst company. We founded Intersect360 Research (as Tabor Research then) with an eye on doing something different, relying primarily on forward-looking surveys of the broad HPC community to drive a better understanding of future trends.

Furthermore, we strove to be inclusive of non-traditional use cases of HPC in business, calling it “Edge HPC” in 2007 before later changing its name to “High Performance Business Computing,” the nomenclature we still use today. As part of that effort, we identified financial services as one of the largest commercial vertical markets for HPC. And another segment proved controversial, as we also counted what we then called “ultrascale internet” as a consumer of HPC technologies. Today we still track this segment, but it is modernly called “hyperscale,” and it has grown and evolved into its own market, adjacent to HPC but not part of it.

That early recognition of the hyperscale market is far from the only future-looking insight we had. In 2007, we published research that predicted that business applications would drive the growth in the HPC industry, which they have. (Finance is still a top segment, and all commercial markets have been growing.) We also said that year that grappling with large amounts of data the need for systems focused on data management. Okay, we didn’t call it “Big Data” at the time, but the trend was there.

And that transition to multicore? We saw what that was doing too. We predicted it would lead to power consumption as a top-tier consideration, and that there would be an increased investment in middleware. We said in 2007 that GPUs would become a predominant accelerator architecture, beginning at the entry-level and working their way up in scale. And we perceived a growing gap between delivered and actual performance.

We thought at the time that this would lead the industry to beginning to devalue raw metrics of performance, such as flops, in favor of truer productivity metrics, and we even used the term “High Productivity Computing” for a while. That’s one we got wrong, at least as far as the last ten years is concerned, though we do hear talk now of “Exascale” rather than “Exaflops,” a tentative step in that direction.

Along the way, there were also the things we said wouldn’t happen. Although Big Data swept through IT, we said the applicability and usage of Hadoop would be limited, and that Hadoop wouldn’t make a big dent in HPC. Bolstered by evidence in our surveys, we also said that HPC would be very slow to adopt public cloud resources. Today, less that 3 percent of HPC spending is in public cloud, though we do now project double-digit growth for the next five years.

The biggest change of all was more recent, when for the last three years we began to recognize the end of the “Beowulf era,” as defined by clusters of similar architecture, where regardless of vendor or form factor, there was simple portability of MPI codes from one system to the next. That has passed, and we now swing back toward an era of specialization, in which end users must select which architectures to optimize for, and they may wind up committed for many years. Furthermore, 88 percent of HPC users say they will support multiple architectures, matching applications to the systems where they run best.

The Decade Ahead

The next 10 years are certain to bring even more change in HPC. At a recent presentation for the HPC Advisory Council, we predicted that specialized, custom architectures will reemerge, that public cloud will remain less than 10 percent of HPC spending, and that object storage will begin to take off in commercial markets.

And the biggest change of all is in evidence this week at SC16. The influence of hyperscale will be felt strongly, in software and middleware (e.g., OpenStack), in system configurations (e.g. Open Compute Project), and most particularly in the hottest new application area: artificial intelligence.

AI (including its other names, like “cognitive computing,” and inclusive of algorithms like machine learning and deep learning) will have a transformative effect on industry and our lives. As with HPC, there are few limits to imagining what can eventually be done with it. And it will drive the use of certain HPC technologies, particularly among the large cloud providers. One difference between AI and HPC is its strong affinity to cloud.

Amongst all this change, a few things will remain the same. The fundamental drivers of the HPC market will remain strong, because there will always be new insights to glean and harder problems to solve. Regardless of any hot, new application areas, there will continue to be a need for good old traditional HPC and supercomputing, until one day we wake up and decide we’ve reached the end of science. And for the next ten years and into the future, Intersect360 Research will remain true to its foundational goal, to deliver critical industry insights, year after year.

About the Author

addison-snellAddison Snell is the CEO of Intersect360 Research and a veteran of the high performance computing industry. He launched the company in 2007 as Tabor Research, a division of Tabor Communications, and served as that company’s VP/GM until he and his partner, Christopher Willard, Ph.D., acquired Tabor Research in 2009. During his tenure, Addison has established Intersect360 Research as a premier source of market information, analysis, and consulting.

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!

RSC Reports 500Tflops, Hot Water Cooled System Deployed at JINR

April 18, 2018

RSC, developer of supercomputers and advanced HPC systems based in Russia, today reported deployment of “the world's first 100% ‘hot water’ liquid cooled supercomputer” at Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JI Read more…

By Staff

New Device Spots Quantum Particle ‘Fingerprint’

April 18, 2018

Majorana particles have been observed by university researchers employing a device consisting of layers of magnetic insulators on a superconducting material. The advance opens the door to controlling the elusive particle Read more…

By George Leopold

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’s introduction of an ARM-based system (XC-50) last November. Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPC and AI Convergence is Accelerating New Levels of Intelligence

Data analytics is the most valuable tool in the digital marketplace – so much so that organizations are employing high performance computing (HPC) capabilities to rapidly collect, share, and analyze endless streams of data. Read more…

Hennessy & Patterson: A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture

April 17, 2018

On Monday June 4, 2018, 2017 A.M. Turing Award Winners John L. Hennessy and David A. Patterson will deliver the Turing Lecture at the 45th International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA) in Los Angeles. The Read more…

By Staff

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’ Read more…

By John Russell

IBM: Software Ecosystem for OpenPOWER is Ready for Prime Time

April 16, 2018

With key pieces of the IBM/OpenPOWER versus Intel/x86 gambit settling into place – e.g., the arrival of Power9 chips and Power9-based systems, hyperscaler sup Read more…

By John Russell

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cloud-Readiness and Looking Beyond Application Scaling

April 11, 2018

There are two aspects to consider when determining if an application is suitable for running in the cloud. The first, which we will discuss here under the title Read more…

By Chris Downing

Transitioning from Big Data to Discovery: Data Management as a Keystone Analytics Strategy

April 9, 2018

The past 10-15 years has seen a stark rise in the density, size, and diversity of scientific data being generated in every scientific discipline in the world. Key among the sciences has been the explosion of laboratory technologies that generate large amounts of data in life-sciences and healthcare research. Large amounts of data are now being stored in very large storage name spaces, with little to no organization and a general unease about how to approach analyzing it. Read more…

By Ari Berman, BioTeam, Inc.

IBM Expands Quantum Computing Network

April 5, 2018

IBM is positioning itself as a first mover in establishing the era of commercial quantum computing. The company believes in order for quantum to work, taming qu Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

FY18 Budget & CORAL-2 – Exascale USA Continues to Move Ahead

April 2, 2018

It was not pretty. However, despite some twists and turns, the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget is complete and ended with some very positi Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown 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

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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