ISC Top Three Insights


Intersect360 Research has published its top ten HPC research insights based on research we completed in 2011. Here are our top three. For more details on this report, visit

1. Accelerator Adoption on the Rise

Through our annual HPC User Site Census survey and additional special research, Intersect360 Research has continued to monitor the evaluation and use of accelerators for HPC applications. Earlier modest increases jumped dramatically in our 2011 surveys, revealing that about two-thirds of HPC users are now testing or deploying accelerated solutions, up from just 20% in 2010. Although most of this usage is still modest in scale, users project increasing accelerator usage for a larger percent of their application workflows.1  Accelerated solutions will become dominant in future years.
NVIDIA is currently the dominant accelerator vendor. 90% of the HPC sites that are evaluating or using accelerators have NVIDIA GPU computing solutions. No other accelerator vendor appeared at as many at 20% of sites. In our HPC Site Census survey, many sites were unaware of the brands of accelerators under evaluation or in use, which is a further indication that, with the exception of NVIDIA, vendor awareness for this market had not yet developed. FPGAs remain in use and under future consideration for certain applications and will continue to play a role in the market.
As Intel comes to market in late 2012 with accelerated x86 solutions in “Knight’s Corner” many integrated core (MIC) processors, competition will intensify. The deployment of the 10 Petaflop “Stampede” supercomputer at Texas Advanced Computing Center will showcase the technology and should help in applications development.  Competition between accelerator models will center on application development tools, especially with Intel development tools versus CUDA from NVIDIA. AMD is likely to additionally promote OpenCL.

2. Lustre Roadmap Stabilized for HPC

At the start of 2011, Lustre’s HPC roadmap was in question, given Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems and subsequent cancellation of future Lustre development and support for non-Oracle hardware. Throughout the year the Lustre HPC community matured dramatically, and the roadmap for HPC Lustre has stabilized. Users have rallied around initiatives such as Open Scalable File System (OpenSFS) and European Open File System (EOFS), and Lustre User Groups (LUGs) have proliferated. The vendor community has also rallied to Lustre development and support, either on their own or through partnerships with Whamcloud, which has led the way in contributions to Lustre.
The new challenge for Lustre will be to expand its footprint beyond high-end research labs into commercial markets. Enterprise RAS (reliability, availability, serviceability) features and first-line support from more storage vendors will help. pNFS still looms as a potential alternative in the possibly near future, and as 2011 closed multiple vendors had productized pNFS clients, with pNFS servers on the roadmap for 2012.

These file system dynamics will continue to be important, with storage demand continuing to grow faster than any other product segment.2 Additionally, recent consolidation among storage vendors will intensify the competition in this space.

3. Facilities Share of Budget Continues to Increase

Facilities costs continue to grow each year, having reached a high of 13.2% in our 2011 survey, up from 8.0% in 2007.3  In addition to the sheer cost of developing additional datacenter resources, there are often political problems when extending the datacenter may impinge on facilities currently allocated to others in the organization.
Datacenter expansion is by necessity a step function. Incremental expansion costs very little until the datacenter is full, and then a significant investment is required. Increasing compute density to conserve space is often limited by power and cooling capacities.
Although cloud computing adoption for HPC remains low (see Trend #8 below), facilities costs could spur growth if they continue to rise. Among HPC users who have adopted cloud computing, facilities limitations were cited as one of the most important drivers.4

1 Comprehensive Research Study: “Accelerator Adoption in HPC,” June 2011.

2 Disk drive supply issues caused by flooding catastrophes in Thailand will cause 2011 storage revenue to fall short of previous expectations, but the majority of this revenue differential will be recaptured in 2012, and storage will continue to be a high-growth product segment in the five-year forecast. See “HPC Market Update: Industry Growth to Fall Short in 2011,” December 2011.
3 HPC market advisory service, User Budget Map survey data, report publication pending.
4 HPC market advisory service, “Cloud Computing in HPC: Rationale for Adoption,” July 2011.

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