2 out of 3 ain’t bad

No, not Meatloaf lyrics. A few years ago, I guessed that the HPC market was going to bifurcate or possibly trifurcate. Well, its about 3 years on, and bifurcate it did.

Accelerators (in the form of GPUs) are everywhere. I was dead on correct in almost every aspect of what I had predicted (privately to VCs, from whom we couldn’t raise a cent in the early/mid 2000’s for this market).

Remote cluster/clouds with dropping prices per CPU hour are taking over sections of HPC, and we see some impact upon purchase decisions made by people buying clusters. Buy what you will use day to day, and buy the extra cycles you need when you need em. Just in time cycle acquisition.

Got these right. And yes, we even tried raising money for the cloud bit in 2005/2006. This time from a (short sighted) state program and VCs. Had a large customer lined up, had a VC willing to chip in, just needed the state program to agree to this.

That state program is now generally seen as an abject failure in its previous incarnation … it was supposed to help start up companies with good ideas, VCs, and likely customers. Go figure.

Of course, I got some things wrong.

I guessed that “muscular desktops” and “personal supercomputers” would become the norm.

Boy was I wrong.

Desktops, the ones that people bought, were cheap units for the most part. The big powerful supercomputer in a deskside chassis? Not selling so much. More than 8 processor cores and more than 16 GB ram? Not so interesting to people.

I had bet they were, and we built the Pegasus deskside units around them. These are basically very powerful computers with many cores, huge amounts of ram, accelerators, IO, networking, and graphics.

But the number of customers for such beasts?

Very small.

And whenever we would get into a customer field of view, we’d be fighting against some low end design from (insert random vendor here) which wouldn’t be near the end users specs.

Or someone would request N units, and oh, by the way, they want it at a price point that was less than half our bill of materials cost.

So fast forward to today, and I have to say that this market has been a disappointment for us. I really had thought people would be building multi GPU and accelerator desktops. But very few are.

And you know, we get, as often as not, customers going out, finding a sale on GPU units, and then asking us to beat the sale price on GPU units. Without this, no one (but NVidia) is going to get rich on GPUs. With this, it keeps reducing the incentive unless we were selling 10’s to 100’s of thousands.

So at some point, we have to look at the absolute size of the margins, and what it takes to be successful in this space. My thoughts at the moment is that the desktop market is simply not worth actively pursuing. This doesn’t means we won’t sell products. We will design and build custom systems for customers. We are doing that now for other customers. We just will not actively market fixed function systems as much as the capability to design/build what a customer wants.

Pegasus has not left the building. He is evolving. As the market evolves. The need for him has been dramatically lessened by several competing factors. And we have to be wise enough and flexible enough to adapt and evolve along with the need.

So we got 2 out of 3 of the market predictions right. I guess its interesting to see the various pundits who initially ignored these predictions, now spending huge amounts of time on them.

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