HPC 360 Conference Means Business

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

There’s an upstart conference on Commercial HPC coming up at the end of the month called HPC 360. Will they be able to attract Joe Businessman to come and hear about the benefits of high performance computing? Maybe, considering that they are throwing in tickets for a Big Ten tailgate party.

So that raises a bigger question about whether Commercial HPC even exists. In my mind, HPC is a never-ending journey towards infinite performance. And on this Odyssey, Commercial HPC has long been the song of the sirens for IT vendors.

The song goes something like this; sure the supercomputing market of scientists and researchers is small in the world of IT, but invest in R&D and innovate the superfast gear we want, and the Enterprise guys will soon come running with their big checkbooks.

To be fair, we can cite all kinds of examples where HPC is being used by commercial businesses. And while we tout CFD simulations on Pringles as a soon-to-be mainstream practice, the rocky waters of the HPC market continue to sink some of the most innovative companies on the planet.

In my time at Sun, we were very taken with the Song of Commercial HPC. We even went so far as sponsoring the disastrous Commercial HPC Conference & Expo back in 2002. Trust me, you weren’t there.

Is Commercial HPC really coming this time? I want to believe, but I I don’t bet with my heart. In the meantime, I’m thinking I should scrape up airfare for this show and put my money on Ohio State.


  1. Chris Baker says

    Rich, Your “Gloom-n-Doom” may be true for conferences, such as this and one in 2002 Sun sponsored, but I don’t agree with you at all on HPC not making it in the commercial world. Do you think that LS-Dyna, ABAQUS, PolyFlow and so many other FEA tools are only sold to government labs and large universities? You mention Pringles, a product from Proctor and Gamble out of Cincinnati. You are correct, P&G uses HPC in many of their products and manufacturing practices. What about the automotive industries (Ford, GM, Honda, Toyota) and the thousands of suppliers? Do you think they do all their crash studies on dummies? Or that Goodyear or Michelin run all of their prototype tires on physical tracks for months on end? And don’t forget the film industry. I don’t think Pixar renders all those millions of frames by hand?
    Obviously, I am misunderstanding your point here. Perhaps, when you say Comersial HPC, you mean HPC being used in the Financial side of business rather than the R&D, manufacturing, engineering and quality side of business? True, that is a slower market with much less openings for “traditional” HPC, but I have heard some good success stories from Bank of America and others who are innovating their practices around HPC.
    So, let’s hope that this conference will see better results. Who knows, maybe I will attend – and not just because I am a “Buckeye”.

  2. You make a good point, Chris, and the companies you mention have been using HPC for a long time. I seem to remember Ford buying one of the first Cray systems.

    So I guess it is a matter of how we define Commercial HPC. When I think about “traditional HPC,” I already think of it as all-inclusive of verticals like automotive, oil & gas, and aerospace. But when small and medium business start to use things like predictive analytics, in my mind that will be the day when Commercial HPC arrives. It will likely be delivered from the Cloud, and the vendors dreams of a cluster in every business closet will fade away.