Friday, April 25, 2008

Tweaking the Parts

Back on March 26, Jay provided his commentary on HPCC & Steven Wheat's keynote in these pages.

Now John E. West has added to the discussion instigated by Wheat. "If high performance computing wants to continue to be a distinguishable market space, it needs its own research and development activities." So, when is that funding coming?

In the article for HPC Wire there are numerous suggestions for improving the process. There are several suggestions for ways to fix the procurement process and a call by Dan Reed, now of MSFT, for a coordinated national HPC R&D effort.[1]

Fundamentally, the bottom line is the economics aren't working right now.

Ed Turkel's statement about tweaks on commodity systems is naive about the real economic costs of delivering commodity components. By definition commodity systems are mature markets with brutal margins. When you focus on holding the margin even the most modest tweak in the components is expensive. To support tweaks, you need modular designs to isolate the HPC embellishments from your mainstream delivery, or you need an industry that thinks these will be table stakes in the near future.

We're going to see how expensive and sustainable tweaks in silicon are in the GPGPU market. AMD & NVIDIA are delivering GPUs with functionality that no video display system will ever use. It's a real live experiment in action.
I just hope someone is watching... Oh yeah, we are :)

[1] Dear President, I want America to spend more money on really big computers... See Michael Feldman's HPC Wire Editorial on that one I won't touch that discussion on these pages. At least not yet.

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