Hengeveld: The Hugo Rule and Exascale

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In this special guest feature, Intel’s John Hengeveld reflects on Exascale computing and China’s recent Blue Light supercomputing announcement.

I had a historic moment of learning at ISC10 the night Kirk Skaugen announced the Intel® MIC programs commitment. We were perhaps a little celebratory in Hamburg as I went down the street with my wife Jennifer and a collection of colleagues. Along with us was Hugo Saleh, one of Intel’s HPC gurus, and we discussed the marketing concept of want and pricing. To Hugo, it seemed that the more you made your necessity to make a deal apparent, the more you wind up paying for the deal. It occurred to me that this was a neat concept that applies broadly.

Around Intel, we use “the Hugo Rule” with the following canonical statement: “the more you seem to want, the less you are going to get, the more you will have to pay for it”.

It’s a concept well grounded in economics; Increased demand, increase price. You see it in buying a house, or buying a car. If you show that you are excited, the price goes up. It’s also well grounded in negotiating theory. Hit the silk market in Beijing, and you will see it in action. The famous Star Wars cantina scene applies here: “that’s the real trick isn’t it – then it’s going to cost extra – ten thousand, all in advance…” The thought is premised on the notion that in one time negotiated agreements, where a long term relationship of value creation isn’t being built, open communication about your interests hurts your interests.

The Hugo Rule has been imbued in Western culture (Ironic Side note: It’s my experience in Japan that it feels impolite to talk until you show that you understand the interests of the group so deeply that you don’t need to speak about them anymore).

We are in the Near Exascale Era as we go from PetaFlop to DecaPeta Flop and on. China made a statement on the process last week with their “Blue Light” announcement. If we treat this time like we are in negotiations for advantage, the Hugo Rule will apply. The more we seek, the less we get.
How much better will all of this go if we work closely together? We share our insights; we collaborate with research partners. We study the very challenging exascale problems, not as negotiators but as partners. The processing power of the world’s largest supercomputer circa 1997 nears the point of fitting on one chip. Soon, this will happen with exascale: in 2034, exascale on a chip.

I am less interested in the first exascale system than I am about how Exascale systems do real work. To do that, we need not one exascale system but hundreds and eventually, as Moore’s law pounds on, millions.

Exascale must not become a one-time negotiation. Otherwise, we will all get very little and pay a lot.


  1. john hengeveld says

    Further side note… Do you think the NBA Players want to play this season? They seem to want it alot..
    Hugo rule..