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Meeting notes: HPC User Forum explores manufacturing and more

Contribution by regular reader Steve Conway, Research Vice President in IDC’s High Performance Computing group.

The thirty-sixth High-Performance Computing (HPC) User Forum meeting took place at the Dearborn Inn in Dearborn, Michigan, April 13-14, 2010.  The meeting was held for the first time back to back with the annual DICE Alliance meeting.

IDC said the global recession hit HPC hard, dropping revenue from $10 billion in 2008 to $8.6 billion in 2009, a decline of 11.6%. But the “supercomputers” segment for HPC systems priced at $500,000 or more grew 25% in 2009, and the top bracket for systems sold for $3 million and up jumped 65% last year. In 2009, IBM and HP finished in a statistical tie for market leadership, while Dell and Cray gained market share.

The meeting’s main topic featured a strong cast of speakers from tier one and supply chain manufacturers: BMI, Boeing, BP, Caterpillar, Chrysler, Ford, General Electric  General Motors, L&L Products, Metacomp, Procter & Gamble, and R-Systems – not to mention organizations aiming to boost HPC usage in SMB “missing middle”: the Council on Competitiveness, National Association of Manufacturers, National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, NCSA, and USC-ISI.

L&L’s Steve Reagan brought home the benefits of HPC use in the supply chain by stressing that his 800-person firm could not compete without being able to use HPC to design solutions for Ford and others on short notice, typically within a 4-5 week window in the client’s product design cycle.

In a panel session, ISVs outlined their strategies for boosting the scalability of HPC applications and addressing the ballooning issue of software licensing on multicore and heterogeneous platforms. Another session looked at the current realities (as opposed to hype) of cloud computing for HPC. The verdict: it’s a slam dunk for some (e.g., CERN) but too early to call for others.

Government program updates from DoD HPCMP, INCITE, NASA and NSF rounded out the HPC User Forum agenda. The DICE Alliance 2010 agenda featured keynotes from Vic Reis and Gil Weigand of DOE, along with a panel on HPC data center power and cooling and other talks. A joint dinner and touristic experience at the amazing Ford Museum gave attendees from both meetings a chance to mix and mingle.

The next HPC User Forum meeting takes place September 13-15 in Seattle. For more information, go to www.hpcuserforum.com.

Steve Conway is a Research Vice President in IDC’s High Performance Computing group which sponsors the HPC User Forum.

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