Just what is personal supercomputing?

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That’s the question asked by genomeweb.com in an article by Matthew Dublin on the recent “personal supercomputing” trend. I’ll go on record as saying that I like the term. It’s evocative, and feels like the kind of thing that might encourage a non-supercomputing user to kick the tires. And I’m all about bringing new communities to HPC. Addison Snell (for one) is on record as not liking it.

From the genomeweb piece

Andrew Jones, vice president of consulting at the Numerical Algorithms Group, a nonprofit HPC software and services solution group, has argued that by definition, a supercomputer is a computer with data processing power beyond that which is commonly available. “There is always going to be a class of computing power that is much bigger than anything that will physically fit on your desk because if you can buy something for $1,000 or $10,000 then there are going to be users that are prepared to buy hundreds of them for a million dollars,” Jones says. “And there’s always going to be something that is orders of magnitude bigger than what most people can afford but the cheap stuff gets more powerful.” And that’s the point: good old Moore’s Law, along with improvements in hardware like GPUs, make that cheap and powerful stuff easily accessible for the rest of us.

The article looks at two customers who have bought personal supercomputers, one each for Cray’s CX1 and an NVIDIA-enabled workstation. Worth a read.