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Interview: Addison Snell on the All-New HPC500 Organization

Intersect360 Research recently launched the HPC500, an exclusive community of high performance computing user organizations that will share their real-world experiences to help shape the future of supercomputing. To find out more about the new organization and what’s coming up at ISC’12, I caught up with Intersect360 Research CEO Addison Snell.

insideHPC: How would you gage the overall health of the worldwide HPC market at this time?

Addison Snell: The good news is the worldwide HPC market is still growing, thanks to a strong commercial sector. Businesses worldwide are continuing to increase their investments in advanced technology for science, engineering, or business. Big Data is just one driver for this.

On the other hand, budget expectations for the public sector (academia and government) are the weakest we have seen them in five years, and this restricted growth—particularly in the supercomputer product segment—in 2011. The Eurozone crisis also caused some spending to slow down. Ultimately we still see long-term growth, but there will continue to be pockets of relative strength and weakness.

insideHPC: You recently announced the HPC500. What is that all about?

Addison Snell: The HPC500 is an exciting new bellwether group for the HPC industry. We’re of course looking for leading HPC organizations around the globe, but the HPC500 does more than that, by specifically gathering 500 organizations that form a representation of the industry across all vertical markets, geographies, and budget sizes.

User organizations will get a lot of benefits from participating, including no-cost access to our research and the ability to communicate with other HPC leaders worldwide. We’ve already admitted our first 50 members, and once we’re at full speed, we’ll have exclusive receptions and quarterly presentations on topics of interest. Our launch reception Monday night at ISC (beginning at 8:30 p.m. in the Trader Vic’s restaurant in the Radisson BLU) is our first event. And most of all, the HPC500 will be a guiding light for the industry, as their voices will inform our research and therefore the course of HPC development for our clients.

insideHPC: Do you have any predictions for the new TOP500 list?

Addison Snell: This is going to be a great year for TOP500 in its 20th anniversary. I think everyone wants to see whether K will repeat as number one. It will also be important to gauge how much momentum NVIDIA has with Tesla in advance of the introduction of Intel MIC systems.

But we also need to be careful to appreciate TOP500 for what it is: an example of what can be done by elite supercomputer users worldwide. These technologies and applications are awesome, and they inspire the rest of the industry to follow.  But TOP500 is not about HPC market share. The broad industry doesn’t look like the TOP500 list. That’s where HPC500 can play a supportive and complementary role. We need to have both. I hope TOP500 sees another 20 years!

insideHPC: What activities does Intersect360 have planned for ISC’12?

Addison Snell: Our own reception for HPC500 on Monnday night will kick us off, and we look forward to doing similar events in the future. But beyond that, we are thrilled to be involved in so much of the program this year. Rupak Biswas of NASA and I will be the inquisitors for the first session of the newly revamped Hot Seat panel on Monday (1:00 to 3:00 p.m.), which now features shorter presentations and faster questions. And of course we wrap up the program on Thursday (1:00 to 2:00 p.m. in Hall 4) with the very popular ISC Analyst Crossfire panel. This year I’m thrilled to have as my panelists, Dona Crawford of LLNL, Happy Sithole of CHPC in South Africa, Elena Churakova of T-Platforms, and David Turek of IBM.  It’s going to be fun!

insideHPC: What are your favorite aspects of ISC?

Addison Snell: The best thing about ISC is the international community building. Because of the leading role HPC has in society, I truly believe we are in a relationship business. It is such a benefit to stay in touch with all these great minds—and to meet new ones every year—from around the world, to see what’s new, what’s possible this year that you never saw before.

I love that the student cluster competition has such a big role at ISC this year. Attracting youth into HPC is going to be critical, not just for longevity of the industry, but for the fresh ideas they bring. I can’t wait to see what these students do!

insideHPC: How does ISC fit in the overall HPC ecosystem?

Addison Snell: There are other events and other forums, but ISC is the best one for making strong connections with colleagues old and new worldwide. It has a global reach to bring in the people I want to see from China, from Brazil, from Singapore, even from France!, but also plenty of opportunity to make those connections. The computers are always cool, but seeing what people are doing with them, that’s what keeps me addicted to the HPC industry and coming back to ISC year after year.

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