Acceleration meme

Amir at Reconfigurable Computing Blog (welcome back Amir!) notes

There’s probably a few hundred of us who are watching the accelerated computing meme spread. It is catching on, there’s probably a few dozen of us ready to put our mouth where the money is when wall street catches on too–email me by the way (my name at where i work).


We have been making the arguments (and pitching) accelerated computing for years. Almost half a decade. Scary. We see in other peoples marketing materials, pitches, etc things we have said years ago. In one particularly egregious example, a potential competitor had some of our slides in their online presentation. Makes you really love to deal with “no-NDA” VCs.

I agree with Amir that the meme has been catching on for a while. Unlike the massively overhyped grid of several years ago (todays “grid” bears very little resemblence to the “grid” hyped several years ago as the companies caught unaware by the cluster-wave struggled to differentiate themselves), this meme appears to be grass-roots based. Some companies are lining up with products. We had been trying to do this as well, but most VCs we have spoken with are disinterested in accelerated computing (and HPC in general), preferring to focus on yet-another-(myspace|linkedin|facebook|…generic flavor of the day…).

I don’t think Amir’s numbers are right, it isn’t several hundred. It is probably an order or two of magnitude better than that.

At the end of the day, we can live with die shrinks, and get our meager exponential growth. Our data volumes are growing faster than Moore’s law. We need cost effective and high performance/low power and pervasive technologies to address these issues. This wide spread, and accelerating need for high performance technologies has been driving the cluster market hard and fast. Insanely hard, and fast. The need is not diminishing, it is accelerating.

This has created a perfect storm of need. And opportunity. With the right mix of ideas and capital, some group of companies can do wonders here.

We have been pitching this stuff for years, and the demand and interest on the customer/user side is accelerating. VCs remain focused on yet-another-(myspace|linkedin|facebook|…generic flavor of the day. This is a shame. Clusters exploded the HPC market from a $2-3B/year to north of $10B/year
(note to UK readers: B == 10**9, or 1E+9 in this context). Clusters are pushing this market at a ferocious pace. There is no real sign of letup here. The growth market is at the lower end.

Talk about a perfect storm. Supercomputers have gone from single digit shipments yearly, through thousands of units shipped per year. With accelerator technologies, at the right price and performance point, we are looking at millions of units shipped, or more. HPC and its followons have been moving downstream for decades. They always will.

15 years ago, my local “supercomputer” could run molecular dynamics simulations: 100 time steps per week. Today my laptop can run 1 time step in about 4 seconds on the same calculation. Moore’s law is nice, but if I were doing simulations today, I wouldn’t want to use 64 atom supercells, but million atom supercells, with many k-points, rather than just the central gamma point.

My results were more accurate the more computing power I had. This wasn’t lost on me. It isn’t being lost on anyone else needing to simulate or calculate.

The end users know this, and this is why they are driving the market for HPC at the ferocious pace it is at.

Some companies know this, and this is why they try to market this stuff.

The money folks don’t know this. And this is why there is little/no capital in this market.

This technology won’t make excel calculate spreadsheets faster. It will allow the models that you plug into excel to run on the supercomputer to run on your desktop. This is a highly disruptive enabling technology with little need for evangelism.

But it is not facebook-v2.

Some group of companies are going to make money here. It doesn’t seem at this moment, that many/any VCs are going to be in this crowd.

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