Hengeveld: Looking Back at HPC in 2012, Looking Ahead to 2013

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In this guest feature, Intel’s John Hengeveld reviews the past year and looks ahead to the industry challenges HPC is facing 2013.

Happy New Year Everybody!  For me, 2012 was very exciting and very stressful. On the one hand I had family engagements, graduations, the launch of Intel® Xeon® E5 processors, the launch of Intel® Xeon Phi™ brand and first products, strong competitive moves in the industry. On the other hand I dealt with my illness, my brother-in-laws accidental death, and the aforementioned launches and new products.

I started 2012 by predicting that it would be the year of “Practical Petascale” and expected 20 petascale class machines – I under-called by 3 – and that they would be working on real applications (they are). I predicted we would start to see the technology gnomes cranking on the dawn of the exascale era. We saw Intel, nVidia and IBM all make a statement about what the next step in exascale would look like. Intel made some key acquisitions and delivered the Intel® Xeon Phi™ products. I am excited Intel announced these coprocessors reached generally availability on 1/28. So now, pretty much anybody can get one from his or her favorite OEM.

Intel Sr. VP Diane Bryant announced our product line at supercomputing.

I mentioned my four challenges to exascale – Programmability; Reliability; Efficiency, and System Scalability (PRESS) and we made very visible headway on all but Reliability. The OpenMP standard moved forward on a solid standard for attached co-processing.  According to the top500 list, the industry has substantially improved its performance per watt. System Scaling solutions are starting to coalesce. On the Reliability front, there have been a few items of interest, but I haven’t seen as much as I think we need.

2013 is shaping up to be a corker in technical computing with more new products from Intel and others, and major new system deployments globally. There will be maybe 50+ Petascale systems – maybe more.

The biggest challenges to come this year:

  • The industry has been going at a breakneck pace for the past couple of year. I expect this to continue through 2013; I am worried that the software industry is falling behind in capabilities and services.
  • I expect that this year will see much greater convergence and intersection between the role of the workstation in visualization and design and the role of HPC in simulation and modeling.  This fact alone should expand the technical computing markets, but we still need to converge on means for cloud access and standards for clusters relationships with workstations.
  • I think that industrial investment will pick up substantially.  Competition requires computation. And Big Data Analytics will grow beyond the initial Hadoop models into something much more powerful in the long term. Defining that standard will be a big challenge as well.
  • We had better see more traction on the system reliability front.

Quite a year last year – An Amazing year this year. I love this industry. I really do.