Good article, with tangential relevance to HPC

This was linked from Drudge or one of the other sites. Some of the articles writing is a bit on the biased side, and there are some things I don’t quite agree with.

However, the thrust of the article (ignoring the title and other elements) is summarized in the last few paragraphs.

“Enterprises and individuals must recognise and adapt to these fundamental economic changes. We believe that those with a fossilised frame of mind risk being marginalised.”

In a world in which we are no longer masters, it is a warning that we ignore at our peril.

Yes. Absolutely.

You sink, or you swim.

In HPC, the markets are growing rapidly. And they are shifting rapidly. India and China are consuming more processing power. I don’t expect this to abate, but to accelerate.

Markets are creatively destroyed. Something better-faster-cheaper comes along, and it starts to dominate. Domination is not forever, and unless you also creatively destroy your own products, and expand your own markets, you are going to be eaten by your competitors that do.

We see this across many markets. It happens again and again and again. Anyone betting otherwise is quite likely a sucker.

Look at how HPC has changed over time. Supers in the MFLOP range, in the US. Supermicros in the GFLOP range globally, which destroyed the market for the MFLOP level supers, while growing the market size 10x or more. Clusters in the 10 GFLOP- 500 TFLOP range which destroyed the market for the 10 GFLOP supermicros, while growing the market size 10x or more.

See the trend?

There were maybe 10 supers in the world in the 80s. There were about 100 in early 90s, and this blossomed through several hundred to low thousands in the late 90s. There are tens of thousands of clusters in use now. Rocks, one of the most popular cluster systems, has well over 1000 registered clusters, and more unregistered.

Creative destruction happens again and again and again.

So what is going to replace or augment clusters? The marketeers tried doing it with “grids” in the early 2000’s. Grids are effectively clusters of clusters. Clouds are rebranded grids. Hopefully with less marketing drivel. Current marketing/journo speak talks of 4-5 large clouds with everone using these.

Honestly I think that this may be wishful thinking. Clouds are useful and will be useful, but having power at your desktop and laptop is very important. I don’t expect to see clouds replace clusters, I expect them to be more of an offload engine. That is, unless the costs start working very much in the favor of clouds. I am not sure we are there yet. Cloud owners need to make money from them, and they need a model that works. Cloud users will likely use it if the economic cost of setting up their own or borrowing their own is larger than the cost of using the remote system. And all of this also depends upon cheap/fat pipes. I am not convinced we are there yet, but I think we may be getting closer.

This is where accelerators fit in, as they can provide significant power at the desktop/laptop. For a reasonable cost. And can be incorporated into clouds.

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