PORTLAND, Ore.—Last year, market research firm International Data Corp. (IDC) reported a virtual tie between Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp. in supercomputers, with each company hold 29 percent market share. The worldwide supercomputer market—also called high-performance computing (HPC)—however, is spilling over into the high-performance server market.
High-end server models, called cluster computers, are melding with supercomputers. For instance, IBM's Watson system which beat human champions on the quiz show Jeopardy last month is actually a cluster of commercially available Power 750 servers with 2,880 Power 7 cores. Last month, IDC reported that IBM was leading overall in servers, but that HP was ahead in industry-standard x86 servers.
According to Marc Hamilton, HP lead for high performance computing in the Americas, HP plans to expand its stake.
"HP is not building proprietary supercomputers, but using industry standard servers and graphics co-processors," said Hamilton. "Whether you call it a cluster computer, a supercomputer or a high-performance computing system, today everything is being simulating on them before it is built—whether it's a new airplane, a car design or the antenna for a new cell phone."
According to IDC, HP was No. 1 in the server blade market with 53 percent share last year, while IBM held a 28 percent share. And in the x86 server market, HP has over 38 percent share, with Dell at 21 percent and IBM coming in third 19 percent, according to IDC.
By combining advanced servers with high-speed interconnects and graphics processors tuned to specific applications, high-end applications can be configured to deliver supercomputer performance with souped-up servers.
"HPs high-performance computing uses industry standard components like X86 processors and Nvidia Tesla graphics coprocessors—eight in our SL390 server—but with a super-sized communications interconnect for the GPUs that still uses standard chip sets—what we call converged infrastructure," said Hamilton.
To simplify configuration of server-based supercomputers, HP's Factory Express service assembles built-to-order HPC cluster computers made to meet customers' specifications, but using HP's experience in how to create the necessary high-speed interconnects using standard chip sets. The finished cluster supercomputer is then totally integrated and pretested at HP, "to assure it comes up running on day one and stays running for the life of the system," said Ed Turkel, HP's worldwide marketing lead for high performance computing.
"The biggest barrier to the growth of HPC is a combination of affordability, power consumption and the complexity of putting together such very, very large computer systems," said Turkel. "By breaking through those barriers, we hope to increase levels of performance with industry standards by adding the specific components needed to give our systems a competitive advantage."