Intel's "Missing Middle" Revives "Attack of the Killer Micros"

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Some 20 years ago, the Attack of the Killer Micros was a big concern to us folks in Chippewa Falls. Could clusters of workstations possibly be a threat to the market for big iron systems? Well, the world changed, the layoffs came, and Cray Research surrendered to acquisition in 1996.

It’s funny how old ideas get new again. This week Intel unveiled their “cube clustered computing” concept, an internal pilot program to show that workstations can be clustered together to provide HPC levels of compute power.

So who is cube clustered computing for? That’s where the new part comes in. Intel is seeding a meme called the “missing middle,” which refers to businesses who have tough computational challenges to solve but don’t have the money or access to HPC. According to slides I saw this week at the HPC User Forum, research indicates that there are 150,000 such businesses in the U.S. alone.

You’ll be hearing a lot more about the missing middle. Think of it as an opportunistic marriage where Something Old, Something New, and Something Borrowed turns into Something Green.


  1. […] is being addressed by some (hint: the day job) in a variety of ways. An article at InsideHPC by Rich Brueckner gave it a good contextual background, in terms of historical trends […]


  1. Isn’t this GRID??

  2. it’s a little hard to see the point here. yes, you can do HPC on NOW, and you can “serverize” the NOW with IPMI and cages. so the take-home is mainly that cube people need displays, and it’s cheap to attach a display to each node of the cluster? OK, sure – it’s not that it doesn’t make sense, but that it’s not news. and it’s slightly dubious in that it goes against thinclient/virtualization trends, and also assumes the workload is not network-sensitive. (I would claim that the latter is actually the _defining_ feature of HPC.)

    this is almost a spread-the-pain kind of thing: take servers out of datacenters and spread them around the human-occupied spaces. noise is mostly a design issue, and at least in climates where buildings have to be heated, you get some small green benefit.

    in other words, the main thing keeping servers in the machineroom is networking. they certainly don’t need glasshouse levels of, say, humidity control. I guess power might be a question: compare a UPS-protected datacenter versus office where plugs are kicked…