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!

Intel Debuts Pohoiki Beach, Its 8M Neuron Neuromorphic Development System

July 17, 2019

Neuromorphic computing has received less fanfare of late than quantum computing whose mystery has captured public attention and which seems to have generated more efforts (academic, government, and commercial) but whose Read more…

By John Russell

Goonhilly Unveils New Immersion-Cooled Platform, Doubles Down on Sustainability Mission

July 16, 2019

Goonhilly Earth Station has opened its new datacenter – an enhancement to its existing tier 3 facility – in Cornwall, England, touting an ambitious commitment to holistic sustainability as well as launching a managed Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

New CMU AI Poker Bot – Pluribus – Humbles the Pros Again

July 15, 2019

Remember Libratus, the Carnegie Mellon University developed AI poker bot that’s been humbling poker professionals at Texas hold’em for a couple of years. Well, say hello to Pluribus, an upgraded bot, which has now be Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Bring the Combined Power of HPC and AI to Your Business Transformation

A growing number of commercial businesses are implementing HPC solutions to derive actionable business insights, to run higher performance applications and to gain a competitive advantage. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Smarter Technology Revs Up Red Bull Racing

In 21st century business, companies that effectively leverage their information resources – thrive. As it turns out, the same is true in Formula One racing. Read more…

ISC19 Cluster Competition: Application Results, Finally!

July 15, 2019

Our exhaustive coverage of the ISC19 Student Cluster Competition continues as we discuss the application scores below. While the scores were typically high, some of the apps, like SWIFT and OpenFOAM, really pushed the st Read more…

By Dan Olds

Intel Debuts Pohoiki Beach, Its 8M Neuron Neuromorphic Development System

July 17, 2019

Neuromorphic computing has received less fanfare of late than quantum computing whose mystery has captured public attention and which seems to have generated mo Read more…

By John Russell

Goonhilly Unveils New Immersion-Cooled Platform, Doubles Down on Sustainability Mission

July 16, 2019

Goonhilly Earth Station has opened its new datacenter – an enhancement to its existing tier 3 facility – in Cornwall, England, touting an ambitious commitme Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

New CMU AI Poker Bot – Pluribus – Humbles the Pros Again

July 15, 2019

Remember Libratus, the Carnegie Mellon University developed AI poker bot that’s been humbling poker professionals at Texas hold’em for a couple of years. We Read more…

By John Russell

ISC19 Cluster Competition: Application Results, Finally!

July 15, 2019

Our exhaustive coverage of the ISC19 Student Cluster Competition continues as we discuss the application scores below. While the scores were typically high, som Read more…

By Dan Olds

Nvidia Expands DGX-Ready AI Program to 19 Countries

July 11, 2019

Nvidia’s DGX-Ready Data Center Program, announced in January and designed to provide colo and public cloud-like options to access the company’s GPU-powered Read more…

By Doug Black

Argonne Team Makes Record Globus File Transfer

July 10, 2019

A team of scientists at Argonne National Laboratory has broken a data transfer record by moving a staggering 2.9 petabytes of data for a research project.  The data – from three large cosmological simulations – was generated and stored on the Summit supercomputer at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF)... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia, Google Tie in Second MLPerf Training ‘At-Scale’ Round

July 10, 2019

Results for the second round of the AI benchmarking suite known as MLPerf were published today with Google Cloud and Nvidia each picking up three wins in the at Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Applied Materials Embedding New Memory Technologies in Chips

July 9, 2019

Applied Materials, the $17 billion Santa Clara-based materials engineering company for the semiconductor industry, today announced manufacturing systems enablin Read more…

By Doug Black

High Performance (Potato) Chips

May 5, 2006

In this article, we focus on how Procter & Gamble is using high performance computing to create some common, everyday supermarket products. Tom Lange, a 27-year veteran of the company, tells us how P&G models products, processes and production systems for the betterment of consumer package goods. Read more…

By Michael Feldman

Cray, AMD to Extend DOE’s Exascale Frontier

May 7, 2019

Cray and AMD are coming back to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to partner on the world’s largest and most expensive supercomputer. The Department of Energy’s Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphene Surprises Again, This Time for Quantum Computing

May 8, 2019

Graphene is fascinating stuff with promise for use in a seeming endless number of applications. This month researchers from the University of Vienna and Institu Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Verifies Its Largest 7nm Chip Design in Ten Hours

June 5, 2019

AMD announced last week that its engineers had successfully executed the first physical verification of its largest 7nm chip design – in just ten hours. The AMD Radeon Instinct Vega20 – which boasts 13.2 billion transistors – was tested using a TSMC-certified Calibre nmDRC software platform from Mentor. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

TSMC and Samsung Moving to 5nm; Whither Moore’s Law?

June 12, 2019

With reports that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TMSC) and Samsung are moving quickly to 5nm manufacturing, it’s a good time to again ponder whither goes the venerable Moore’s law. Shrinking feature size has of course been the primary hallmark of achieving Moore’s law... Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Competitors Stalk Nvidia

May 14, 2019

There is no shortage of processing architectures emerging to accelerate deep learning workloads, with two more options emerging this week to challenge GPU leader Nvidia. First, Intel researchers claimed a new deep learning record for image classification on the ResNet-50 convolutional neural network. Separately, Israeli AI chip startup Hailo.ai... Read more…

By George Leopold

Nvidia Embraces Arm, Declares Intent to Accelerate All CPU Architectures

June 17, 2019

As the Top500 list was being announced at ISC in Frankfurt today with an upgraded petascale Arm supercomputer in the top third of the list, Nvidia announced its Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Top500 Purely Petaflops; US Maintains Performance Lead

June 17, 2019

With the kick-off of the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt this morning, the 53rd Top500 list made its debut, and this one's for petafl Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Intel Launches Cascade Lake Xeons with Up to 56 Cores

April 2, 2019

At Intel's Data-Centric Innovation Day in San Francisco (April 2), the company unveiled its second-generation Xeon Scalable (Cascade Lake) family and debuted it Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray – and the Cray Brand – to Be Positioned at Tip of HPE’s HPC Spear

May 22, 2019

More so than with most acquisitions of this kind, HPE’s purchase of Cray for $1.3 billion, announced last week, seems to have elements of that overused, often Read more…

By Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hardware That Powered the Black Hole Image

June 24, 2019

Two months ago, the first-ever image of a black hole took the internet by storm. A team of scientists took years to produce and verify the striking image – an Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

It’s Official: Aurora on Track to Be First US Exascale Computer in 2021

March 18, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy along with Intel and Cray confirmed today that an Intel/Cray supercomputer, "Aurora," capable of sustained performance of one exaf Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Announcing four new HPC capabilities in Google Cloud Platform

April 15, 2019

When you’re running compute-bound or memory-bound applications for high performance computing or large, data-dependent machine learning training workloads on Read more…

By Wyatt Gorman, HPC Specialist, Google Cloud; Brad Calder, VP of Engineering, Google Cloud; Bart Sano, VP of Platforms, Google Cloud

Why Nvidia Bought Mellanox: ‘Future Datacenters Will Be…Like High Performance Computers’

March 14, 2019

“Future datacenters of all kinds will be built like high performance computers,” said Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang during a phone briefing on Monday after Nvidia revealed scooping up the high performance networking company Mellanox for $6.9 billion. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Chinese Company Sugon Placed on US ‘Entity List’ After Strong Showing at International Supercomputing Conference

June 26, 2019

After more than a decade of advancing its supercomputing prowess, operating the world’s most powerful supercomputer from June 2013 to June 2018, China is keep Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

In Wake of Nvidia-Mellanox: Xilinx to Acquire Solarflare

April 25, 2019

With echoes of Nvidia’s recent acquisition of Mellanox, FPGA maker Xilinx has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Solarflare Communications, provider Read more…

By Doug Black

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