[Beowulf] HPC Market Question

Mark Hahn hahn at mcmaster.ca
Tue Jan 13 14:32:18 PST 2009

> Comments are welcome as well.

I did the poll.  being support for academic research,
the link between outside reality and inside finances is 
tenuous at best.  none of our plans have changed.  not 
that we really have plans - we depend entirely on the 
whims of politicians in Ottawa.  and there's basically 
no visibility there - is HPC the sort of spending that 
conservatives would like?  only if whitewashed as "industrial
partnership"?  will it even be the conservatives?

we tend to present HPC as being essential infrastructure for science,
engineering, business, medicine, even humanities.  I'm not sure the
infrastructure part gets through, though: HPC requires renewal every
~3 years as well as nontrivial operating costs (even if just people, not
counting power or space).  people think "roads" when you say infrastructure,
unfortunately, and you don't replace them so frequently.
none of this seems particularly tied to the economic climate. 
I speculate that economic booms (such as the $150/bbl days in Alberta) 
might affect non-commercial HPC in a more significant way.

economic slowdowns _do_ tend to damp the vendors' product plans.
in a twisted way, that takes some pressure off the need to upgrade.
we offer free access to shared HPC clusters, but a user needs to 
make some investment of their time to take advantage.  but if they have 
8-core, 30 GB/s desktops, some would not bother with our 3-year old
Opteron systems.  it's not clear to me whether the slowdown affects 
ongoing battles like infiniband vs 10g...

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