In Advanced Computing and HPC, Dell EMC Sets Sights on the Broader Market Middle 

By Doug Black

January 22, 2020

If the leading advanced computing/HPC server vendors were in the batting lineup of a baseball team, Dell EMC would be going for lots of singles and doubles – and some home runs, too – trying to hit for a high batting average. The cleanup hitter would be HPE, swinging for the fences with recent acquiree and supercomputing powerhouse Cray. The tradeoff in Dell EMC’s strategy: win more deals in the broader middle market knowing that HPE and Cray will grab bigger headlines and boast more mega-deal marquee spots at the top of the HPC Top500 list.

We recently sat down with Dell EMC’s Thierry Pellegrino, VP Business Strategy & HPC Solutions Server and Infrastructure Systems, to discuss his company’s positioning in the consolidating advanced computing industry. Central to his vision of competing against co-market leader (see below) HPE, whose acquisition of Cray was preceded by its 2016 purchase of SGI), is his view that the mid-market is expanding as AI and other high-demand workloads become more widely adopted; this in turn requires vendors to deliver servers, software and services tailored for customers lacking in HPC-class computer science skills. Ergo: the company is building an HPC product portfolio for the middle quintiles of the high end systems industry.

Thierry Pellegrino, Dell EMC

“Look, our strategy is clear,” Pellegrino told us. “We’re not trying to get a majority share of the entries in Top 500. We’re not trying to win every single exascale computer out there.…”

The focus, he said, is on higher volume, smaller scale systems. “There’s a lot to be done in kind of the middle of the pyramid. The top of the pyramid, we can and will play there, but we don’t want to dedicate our energy to being the leader in that space. And then, you know, HPC becomes more and more mainstream in a certain way. So a big part of what we want to do as we follow our three tenets – which is advancing, optimizing and democratizing HPC – is to make HPC available to smaller size customers where the type of workloads they want to run doesn’t run on a single server, doesn’t run on two servers, they need some level of parallelism, and they don’t want to go and design or understand how to build a cluster, but they’d like to have access to that technology. We want to be that partner that can simplify it for them and make it available.”

Still, Pellegrino said, when a supercomputing opportunity presents itself that Dell EMC feels is a good fit, the company will compete. He cited two elite systems wins: “Frontera,” installed at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas in Austin in 2018, a Dell C6420 system utilizing Intel Xeon Platinum processors with throughput of 23.5 petaflops, ranked fifth on the Top500 list; and, currently claimed by Dell EMC to be the most powerful industrial supercomputer, “HPC5” at Italian utility giant Eni, comprised of 1,820 Dell EMC PowerEdge C4140 servers with Intel Gold 6252 24-core processors and four Nvidia V1000 GPUs, with peak power of 70 petaflops, announced last October.

“Our customers want to know they can come to a partner that can deploy large scale, whether it be processor-based or GPU-based, or different types of processors,” Pellegrino said.

Even as HPE mounts an increasingly formidable challenge with Cray and SGI under its hood, Pellegrino contended that industry consolidation has had the unintended consequence of raising Dell EMC’s profile, by process of elimination.

“Let’s talk about HPE buying two of our competitors,” he said. “So on the on the one hand, it’s building up HPE to being a bigger company in the HPC space. It’s great for them. On the other hand, look at the landscape. It used to be Cray, SGI, Dell, EMC, Lenovo. So we’ve seen a consolidation, and it has an interesting side effect. A lot of customers are looking for either alternative technologies or choice in their environment.

“So for customers that want to have at least two sources for their systems, we’ve become really an interesting partner to call to the party. And we see that more and more. So even though it might be counterintuitive – to see HPE acquire SGI and Cray as maybe a competitive environment that’s going to hurt Dell EMC – it’s actually helped us gain even more relevance in discussions where we’re called to come in to be the that second source or sometimes being that first source.”

Assessing the results of Dell EMC’s middlebrow HPC strategy depends on whose market share analyses you subscribe to.

As of its most recent HPC market update, covering the first half of 2019, released during the SC19 supercomputing conference in November, industry analyst firm Hyperion Research reported that in the $6.7 billion HPC server sector, HPE has 35 percent market share – not including Cray’s 2.3 percent share – while Dell EMC is at 21 percent.

Meanwhile, Intersect 360 Researchreported at SC19 that for 2018, HPE and Dell EMC were virtually tied for HPC server market share, and the firm’s president, Addison Snell, said that when HPC server and storage market shares are combined, Dell EMC leads HPE, 29.8 percent vs. 25.6 percent.

Whatever the case may be, a central element of Dell EMC’s democratization strategy are “Ready Solutions,” jointly engineered with business partners and designed to deliver tested high performance configurations for specific use cases, such as HPC, AI, data analytics, software-defined infrastructure, along with vertical focus areas within those categories. The idea is to offer design choices that accelerate deployments and scaling.

The goal, Pellegrino said, is “to simplify the discussion with our customers, whether they’re in manufacturing or they’re in life sciences, or in any kind of AI type of workload they’re trying to solve.”

While some customers have the skills and experience to build their own clusters, Pellegrino said, for the “big majority” of Dell EMC customers “starting with a clean sheet is a daunting moment.” He cited several new solutions, reference architectures and technology upgrades for HPC storage and AI, announced in November.

On the HPC storage side, Dell EMC announced turnkey solutions for ThinkParQ’s BeeGFS and ArcaStream’s PixStor software-defined parallel file system, designed for I/O-intensive workloads and scalable from small clusters to enterprise-class systems on premises or in the cloud, according to the company.

Dell EMC also launched a an AI Ready Solutions for the Domino Data Science Platform, designed to help data scientists develop models faster while providing a data science lifecycle platform. The company also released Dell EMC reference architectures for DataRobot, Grid Dynamics,, Iguazio and Kubeflow on Red Hat OpenShift.

“Look, it’s great to be in a world where technology is advancing at such a pace, but it’s becoming very complicated,” Pellegrino said. “Between the processors, the memory types, the storage types, the accelerator types, the level of cooling and power delivery that you need to think of, the deployment, the cost of deployment tools, the different stacks, whether you’re doing traditional HPC, data analytics or (AI) inferencing or training, or even if in in an enterprise class environments – how do you integrate all this with a cloud environment, with something that is vastly distributed? We have to answer all those questions. And little by little, we’re building up all those building blocks that help our customers really do everything they want to.”

This article first appeared in EnterpriseAI, sister publication of HPCwire

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!

IBM Research Scales to 11,400 Cores for EDA

August 5, 2021

For many HPC users, their needs are not evenly distributed throughout a year: some might need few – if any – resources for months, then they might need a very large system for a week. For those kinds of users, large Read more…

Careers in Cybersecurity Featured at PEARC21

August 5, 2021

The PEARC21 (Practice & Experience in Advanced Research Computing) Student Program featured a Cybersecurity Careers Panel. Five experts shared lessons learned from more than 100 years of combined experience. While it Read more…

HPC Career Notes: August 2021 Edition

August 4, 2021

In this monthly feature, we’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high-performance computing community. Whether it’s a promotion, new company hire, or even an accolade, we’ Read more…

The Promise (and Necessity) of Runtime Systems like Charm++ in Exascale Power Management

August 4, 2021

Big heterogeneous computer systems, especially forthcoming exascale computers, are power hungry and difficult to program effectively. This is, of course, not an unrecognized problem. In a recent blog, Charmworks’ CEO S Read more…

Digging into the Atos-Nimbix Deal: Big US HPC and Global Cloud Aspirations. Look out HPE?

August 2, 2021

Behind Atos’s deal announced last week to acquire HPC-cloud specialist Nimbix are ramped-up plans to penetrate the U.S. HPC market and global expansion of its HPC cloud capabilities. Nimbix will become “an Atos HPC c Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Pushing pixels, not data with NICE DCV

NICE DCV, our high-performance, low-latency remote-display protocol, was originally created for scientists and engineers who ran large workloads on far-away supercomputers, but needed to visualize data without moving it. Read more…

Berkeley Lab Makes Strides in Autonomous Discovery to Tackle the Data Deluge

August 2, 2021

Data production is outpacing the human capacity to process said data. Whether a giant radio telescope, a new particle accelerator or lidar data from autonomous cars, the sheer scale of the data generated is increasingly Read more…

Careers in Cybersecurity Featured at PEARC21

August 5, 2021

The PEARC21 (Practice & Experience in Advanced Research Computing) Student Program featured a Cybersecurity Careers Panel. Five experts shared lessons learn Read more…

Digging into the Atos-Nimbix Deal: Big US HPC and Global Cloud Aspirations. Look out HPE?

August 2, 2021

Behind Atos’s deal announced last week to acquire HPC-cloud specialist Nimbix are ramped-up plans to penetrate the U.S. HPC market and global expansion of its Read more…

What’s After Exascale? The Internet of Workflows Says HPE’s Nicolas Dubé

July 29, 2021

With the race to exascale computing in its final leg, it’s natural to wonder what the Post Exascale Era will look like. Nicolas Dubé, VP and chief technologist for HPE’s HPC business unit, agrees and shared his vision at Supercomputing Frontiers Europe 2021 held last week. The next big thing, he told the virtual audience at SFE21, is something that will connect HPC and (broadly) all of IT – into what Dubé calls The Internet of Workflows. Read more…

How UK Scientists Developed Transformative, HPC-Powered Coronavirus Sequencing System

July 29, 2021

In November 2020, the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium (COG-UK) won the HPCwire Readers’ Choice Award for Best HPC Collaboration for its CLIMB-COVID sequencing project. Launched in March 2020, CLIMB-COVID has now resulted in the sequencing of over 675,000 coronavirus genomes – an increasingly critical task as variants like Delta threaten the tenuous prospect of a return to normalcy in much of the world. Read more…

IBM and University of Tokyo Roll Out Quantum System One in Japan

July 27, 2021

IBM and the University of Tokyo today unveiled an IBM Quantum System One as part of the IBM-Japan quantum program announced in 2019. The system is the second IB Read more…

Intel Unveils New Node Names; Sapphire Rapids Is Now an ‘Intel 7’ CPU

July 27, 2021

What's a preeminent chip company to do when its process node technology lags the competition by (roughly) one generation, but outmoded naming conventions make it seem like it's two nodes behind? For Intel, the response was to change how it refers to its nodes with the aim of better reflecting its positioning within the leadership semiconductor manufacturing space. Intel revealed its new node nomenclature, and... Read more…

Will Approximation Drive Post-Moore’s Law HPC Gains?

July 26, 2021

“Hardware-based improvements are going to get more and more difficult,” said Neil Thompson, an innovation scholar at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL). “I think that’s something that this crowd will probably, actually, be already familiar with.” Thompson, speaking... Read more…

With New Owner and New Roadmap, an Independent Omni-Path Is Staging a Comeback

July 23, 2021

Put on a shelf by Intel in 2019, Omni-Path faced a uncertain future, but under new custodian Cornelis Networks, OmniPath is looking to make a comeback as an independent high-performance interconnect solution. A "significant refresh" – called Omni-Path Express – is coming later this year according to the company. Cornelis Networks formed last September as a spinout of Intel's Omni-Path division. Read more…

AMD Chipmaker TSMC to Use AMD Chips for Chipmaking

May 8, 2021

TSMC has tapped AMD to support its major manufacturing and R&D workloads. AMD will provide its Epyc Rome 7702P CPUs – with 64 cores operating at a base cl Read more…

Berkeley Lab Debuts Perlmutter, World’s Fastest AI Supercomputer

May 27, 2021

A ribbon-cutting ceremony held virtually at Berkeley Lab's National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) today marked the official launch of Perlmutter – aka NERSC-9 – the GPU-accelerated supercomputer built by HPE in partnership with Nvidia and AMD. Read more…

Ahead of ‘Dojo,’ Tesla Reveals Its Massive Precursor Supercomputer

June 22, 2021

In spring 2019, Tesla made cryptic reference to a project called Dojo, a “super-powerful training computer” for video data processing. Then, in summer 2020, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted: “Tesla is developing a [neural network] training computer called Dojo to process truly vast amounts of video data. It’s a beast! … A truly useful exaflop at de facto FP32.” Read more…

Google Launches TPU v4 AI Chips

May 20, 2021

Google CEO Sundar Pichai spoke for only one minute and 42 seconds about the company’s latest TPU v4 Tensor Processing Units during his keynote at the Google I Read more…

CentOS Replacement Rocky Linux Is Now in GA and Under Independent Control

June 21, 2021

The Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation (RESF) is announcing the general availability of Rocky Linux, release 8.4, designed as a drop-in replacement for the soon-to-be discontinued CentOS. The GA release is launching six-and-a-half months after Red Hat deprecated its support for the widely popular, free CentOS server operating system. The Rocky Linux development effort... Read more…

Intel Launches 10nm ‘Ice Lake’ Datacenter CPU with Up to 40 Cores

April 6, 2021

The wait is over. Today Intel officially launched its 10nm datacenter CPU, the third-generation Intel Xeon Scalable processor, codenamed Ice Lake. With up to 40 Read more…

Iran Gains HPC Capabilities with Launch of ‘Simorgh’ Supercomputer

May 18, 2021

Iran is said to be developing domestic supercomputing technology to advance the processing of scientific, economic, political and military data, and to strengthen the nation’s position in the age of AI and big data. On Sunday, Iran unveiled the Simorgh supercomputer, which will deliver.... Read more…

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

Leading Solution Providers


Julia Update: Adoption Keeps Climbing; Is It a Python Challenger?

January 13, 2021

The rapid adoption of Julia, the open source, high level programing language with roots at MIT, shows no sign of slowing according to data from I Read more…

AMD-Xilinx Deal Gains UK, EU Approvals — China’s Decision Still Pending

July 1, 2021

AMD’s planned acquisition of FPGA maker Xilinx is now in the hands of Chinese regulators after needed antitrust approvals for the $35 billion deal were receiv Read more…

GTC21: Nvidia Launches cuQuantum; Dips a Toe in Quantum Computing

April 13, 2021

Yesterday Nvidia officially dipped a toe into quantum computing with the launch of cuQuantum SDK, a development platform for simulating quantum circuits on GPU-accelerated systems. As Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang emphasized in his keynote, Nvidia doesn’t plan to build... Read more…

Microsoft to Provide World’s Most Powerful Weather & Climate Supercomputer for UK’s Met Office

April 22, 2021

More than 14 months ago, the UK government announced plans to invest £1.2 billion ($1.56 billion) into weather and climate supercomputing, including procuremen Read more…

Quantum Roundup: IBM, Rigetti, Phasecraft, Oxford QC, China, and More

July 13, 2021

IBM yesterday announced a proof for a quantum ML algorithm. A week ago, it unveiled a new topology for its quantum processors. Last Friday, the Technical Univer Read more…

Q&A with Jim Keller, CTO of Tenstorrent, and an HPCwire Person to Watch in 2021

April 22, 2021

As part of our HPCwire Person to Watch series, we are happy to present our interview with Jim Keller, president and chief technology officer of Tenstorrent. One of the top chip architects of our time, Keller has had an impactful career. Read more…

Frontier to Meet 20MW Exascale Power Target Set by DARPA in 2008

July 14, 2021

After more than a decade of planning, the United States’ first exascale computer, Frontier, is set to arrive at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) later this year. Crossing this “1,000x” horizon required overcoming four major challenges: power demand, reliability, extreme parallelism and data movement. Read more…

Senate Debate on Bill to Remake NSF – the Endless Frontier Act – Begins

May 18, 2021

The U.S. Senate today opened floor debate on the Endless Frontier Act which seeks to remake and expand the National Science Foundation by creating a technology Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow