Interview: Addison Snell on the New HPC Budget Allocation Map Survey

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Intersect360 Research recently surveyed the HPC user community to learn more about how High Performance Computing sites divide and spend their budgets. Now that their HPC Budget Allocation Map report is out, I caught up with CEO Addison Snell to learn more.

insideHPC: You’ve been doing this survey for five years now, do the results vary greatly from year to year?

Addison Snell: I’m pleased to say that for the most part we see consistency from year to year, which lets us know that we’re on the right track with the industry averages and trends, since the answers aren’t bouncing randomly all over the place. Of course, the individual site response vary greatly, but the averages work out consistently. And that way we can confidently isolate real changing trends when we see them, such as the slowdown in public sector spending on HPC over the past few years.

insideHPC: From the most-recent survey, what has changed from the 10,000-foot level?

Addison Snell: For the previous few years, we had seen a steady decline in the percent of budget that got allocated to hardware (systems, storage, networks, etc.), as other categories, like facilities, were on the rise. 2012 saw a sudden reversal in that trend, with hardware spiking up at the expense of all other categories, across all sectors. Likely we’re seeing a rebound effect of delayed capital expenditures, after organizations suffered through a few years of frugality in the recessionary climate.

insideHPC: You surveyed users on their spending in top-level categories including: hardware, software, facilities, staffing, services, and cloud/utility computing. Is cloud spending on the increase in the HPC space?

Addison Snell: If you’re talking about public cloud models, it really isn’t, and this has been consistent for the past few years. We do see some cloud spending, but nothing widespread. Most of the growth is coming from private cloud models.

insideHPC: In your Site Budget Allocation Map, servers lead spending in the hardware category, followed by storage and networks. Is the ratio of these three elements starting to change in these days of data-intensive computing?

Addison Snell: Storage is clearly the fastest-growing product sector, and we don’t expect that to change over the course of our forecast period. We could see an increase in high-performance networks too. The server is still a dominant component (especially with more and more memory getting packed into them), but a lot of technology change is going on “outside the box.”

insideHPC: Was facility spending included in the report? In general, does the cost of power and cooling for most HPC sites get paid for from someone else’s budget?

Addison Snell: Internal items like facilities and personnel are definitely included in the report, including an analysis of how often these come from outside the HPC budget, and how much they cost when they don’t. 38% of the time, the HPC budget doesn’t include facilities costs (power, cooling, floor space); someone else pays for it. We analyze this a few different ways in order to gain a full understanding of how facilities costs could play into acquisitions.

But for all the attention on facilities, personnel is actually the bigger internal spending category. And with multi-core and heterogeneous computing, tasks like system administration, programming, and optimization are getting more complicated, so we expect personnel costs aren’t going anywhere.

insideHPC: From an HPC vendor standpoint, what trends from the Site Budget Allocation Map represent good news and increased revenue opportunities for the future?

Addison Snell: The biggest good news is that budget expectations — the outlook for 2013 and 2014 — have improved noticeably, and this has been a good indicator of future spending. We’re still going to see softness in government in academia, and in Europe relative to other geographies, but overall, business should be picking up. Things are looking better!