Intersect360 on 2016 Top Performers and Trends

By John Russell

January 31, 2017

HPC supplier consolidation in 2016 is showing up on market watcher scorecards with Dell EMC (15.7 percent) slipping ahead of HPE (14.7 percent) as the top HPC system supplier according Intersect360 Research’s just released report, Top of All Things in HPC, 2016. Once HPE absorbs SGI (7.3 percent), it will likely edge back into first. Lenovo (10.1 percent) and Cray (4.9 percent) were also in the top five. NVIDIA again dominated the accelerator market (systems and number of accelerators in use).

The Intersect360 report is based on HPC technology use as reported in a survey of HPC user sites (487) and not based on vendor reported revenue. For the purposes of the report, ‘top’ is defined as companies accounting for 50% market share or the top five, whichever comes first. The survey was conducted in the second and third quarters of 2016.

Other prominent trends were:

  • Mellanox gained share of mentions in every locale for system interconnect and networks, with storage showing the largest gain.
  • Middleware profile remained consistent with the prior year with programming environment, job management, and compilers being the top three subcategories.
  • Top five ISV application packages and the top five Open Source application packages remained the same between 2015 and 2016.

There’s lot to watch in the frothy processor market where accelerators of all stripes continue to gain more use and ARM and IBM Power offerings strive to win market share from Intel. “The most significant is the battle between Xeon Phi and NVIDIA GPUs for share of the many-core market, which will be fought in both HPC and Hyperscale markets. For emerging processors, we’ll be keeping close tabs on both ARM and POWER, which had similar end-user outlooks one year ago. This year will start to show which of them will get more traction,” said Addison Snell, CEO, Intersect360 Research.

“FPGAs are still relevant, particularly for highly scalable applications that are predominantly text or integer-based, rather than floating point. They could get a boost in certain hyperscale applications, such as search, where GPUs are more targeted to machine learning and deep learning. The overall trend is one of architectural diversity, in which end users will match application workloads to the architectures that suit them best. 88% of HPC users expect to support multiple architectures going forward.”

After accounting for the merged Dell EMC’s rise in market share the storage segment remained much the same. It’s still fairly fragmented in terms of vendors and products. Data Direct Networks (14.8 percent), Dell EMC (12.7 percent) and IBM (11.0 percent) were the top providers, followed by NetApp (8.5 percent) and HPE (7.2%). The ‘others’ category remains larger (45.8%) and Intersect360 reports Amazon Web Services is creeping up, growing from 1 percent in 2014 to 1.7 percent in 2016.

Storage software use remains fragmented as well. SpectrumScale/GPFS, Lustre, and PanFS are the top storage software packages and in total 57 unique packages were cited by respondents. This agrees well with an observation by Ari Berman of BioTeam who noted that in life sciences, “[W]e came up with, 48 viable active types of files systems out there that people are using actively in life science. And they all have vastly different characteristics – management potential, scalability, throughput speed, replication, data safety, all that stuff.” (See HPCwire article: BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences)

Snell said, “One of the most noteworthy things to pull from the survey responses is the strength of IBM Spectrum Scale (GPFS) relative to Lustre. Lustre often gets more of attention, but IBM has been quietly successful with its data-centric strategy and has a strong position in high-performance storage. DDN also perennially does well in our surveys, with a survey share higher than the company’s true revenue share, demonstrating that DDN’s customers strongly identify as “HPC.”

All said, the rough and tumble of the storage market continues with no real sign of consolidation yet.

The interconnect segment is growing more interesting. As noted earlier Ethernet use grew in the Top500 this year although InifniBand “continues to be the performance system of choice,” according to the Intersect360 report. Intel’s Omni-Path Architecture hasn’t shown up in significant numbers yet but Intersect360 expects to see increased OPA market share in 2017.

“Frankly the past year’s surveys would have been too early to really get a sense of Omni-Path adoption. In a survey in early 2016, 51% of HPC users had a favorable forward-looking impression of Omni-Path (versus 76% favorable for InfiniBand),” said Snell.

Of course everyone, including the HPC industry, is watching President Trump for clues about how the administration’s actions will affect them. Much is still uncertain. “I would revert back to what I said in the HPCwire video at SC16 – expect disinvestment from public sector research (DOE, NOAA, NASA, NSF, NIH, …), but conversely, policies may encourage spending in key commercial vertical markets for HPC. For example, the administration favors investment in oil and gas and manufacturing, and deregulation in finance and pharmaceuticals.”

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