Torn between two options


In my last blog I pointed at the potential of supercomputing to become a key technology for the 21st century. Actually we do have a common target and we seem to understand how we might be able to reach the target. National governments put aside reasonable budgets for hardware – less so for software and development of new methods. Our overall standing, however, is rather positive. We hear president Obama talk about HPC and we know that the French president and the German chancellor had their conversations about the topic. We see HPC become part of discussion between EU member states and Russia.

By the way: it is interesting to see that Russia and China alike are entering the HPC world not just with new national centers but with an approach that embraces all parts of the story. Traditionally the European view on these countries oscillates somewhat between unlimited admiration (Urs App speaks about the Sino-platonic love affair of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, and the excitement about authors like Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy is still alive in western Europe) and disgust (German emperor Wilhelm II became notorious for his hatred of the Chinese when he delivered his famous “Hun speech” in 1900 to the German expeditionary force ordering his troops to fight in the spirit of the Huns and show no mercy, and since 1917 Winston Churchill and most European politicians were worried about that partially European partially Asian country from which the Bolshevik revolution seemed to spread across the world).

Putting the past behind and disentangling ourselves from historic prejudice what is in these developments for high performance computing. I think it is mostly a positive development. The US-Japanese domination of the supercomputing market has left a pretty sclerotic landscape. For a while we have seen companies come and go, but every procurement has seen a reasonable number of responses and competition was pretty tough.

Over time Japanese vendors gradually started to retract. The US market was practically closed for them after intensive discussions about prices and unfair competition. The European market saw three Japanese vendors in 2000 but is now hardly relevant for these companies. On the other side we have seen a reduction of high-end offerings in the US market. Clusters carry the day. In the top 50 systems we find one US vendor to dominate the market and if we leave out the HP/NEC cooperation the only Japanese contribution left are two systems – one of which is a national prestige project.

If competition is the driving force for innovation we should be happy about the Russian and Chinese approaches. I would love to see more from NUDT, T-Platforms and (we should not forget this) from the French Bull activities. I would love to see centers of excellence develop around these new architectures to grow new science and bring forward new ideas. I do not expect to see the end of the “more of the same is better” frenzy nor do I believe that we will find solutions that do not rely on extreme parallelism at all levels. However, being challenged by young and brilliant Russian and Chinese engineers and scientists may give fresh motivation and support for new ideas in supercomputing.



About the author

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael M. Resch is the director of the High Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS), the director of the Department for High Performance Computing, and the director of the Information Center (IZUS) at the University of Stuttgart/Germany. Michael Resch has over 20 years of experience in HPC and was an invited plenary speaker at SC’07 in Reno/USA. He is a member of the board of the German Gauss Center for Supercomputing (GCS), and is a member of advisory councils for Microsoft, Triangle Venture Capital Group and a number of foundations. Michael Resch is a member of the advisory board of the Paderborn Center for Parallel Computing (PC2) and a member of the steering committee of the IDC HPC User Forum. He has contributed for years to the success of ISC and has been active in a variety of conferences and community activities in supercomputing over the last years. Michael Resch holds a degree in Technical Mathematics from the Technical University of Graz/Austria and a PhD in Engineering from the University of Stuttgart/Germany. In 2002 he held an Assistant Professorship at the department of computer science of the University of Houston/TX. In 2009 he was awarded an honourable doctoral degree from the National Technical University of Donezk/Ukraine. In 2011 he was awarded an honourable doctoral degree from the Russian Academy of Science.



Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c.  Dr. h.c. Michael Resch

   Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Dr. h.c. Michael Resch

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