Friday, 18 March 2011

Performance and Results

[Originally posted on The NAG Blog]

What's in a catch phrase?

As you will hopefully know, NAG's strapline is "Results Matter. Trust NAG".

What matters to you, our customers, is results. Correct results that you can rely on. Our strapline invites you to trust NAG - our people and our software products - to deliver that for you.

When I joined NAG to help develop the High Performance Computing (HPC) services and consulting business, one of the early discussions raised the possibility of using a new version of this strapline for our HPC business, reflecting the performance emphasis of the increased HPC activity. Probably the best suggestion was "Performance Matters. Trust NAG." Close second was "Productivity Matters. Trust NAG."

Our (then newly proactive but not new) HPC consulting business offers to help customers extract better performance from parallel computing technologies - whether multicore workstations, clusters with hundreds of cores, or multi-thousand node supercomputers. In many cases, application software must be evolved, optimized, or occasionally substantially re-architected with new algorithms, to effectively exploit the processing power of multicore based workstations and supercomputers. We do this through collaborative development of your applications to introduce parallel processing, or to improve scalability, or to develop new algorithms suited for the next generation of computing technology. We also offer training courses in the relevant skills and technologies (e.g. OpenMP, MPI, Fortran). And some insights on HPC via the NAG blog.

However, we also recognised that as well as our comprehensive HPC skills base, NAG brings an added value to the market - experience of developing portable, robust, production quality software that users can rely on for accurate results.

HPC and supercomputing often focuses on getting the fastest performance. But that isn't much use unless you can trust those answers too. The converse is true also - answers must be delivered in a useful timescale - performance matters. I have written about this performance/robustness balance several times - on the NAG blog and in my ZDNet UK columns. Good enough performance must always be balanced with accuracy and reliability.

And so, we concluded that keeping the same strapline, "Results Matter. Trust NAG.", was just right for the HPC aspects of NAG's business too.

Because, in the end, Performance is part of Results - in fact, while the Results out of the code are obviously important, it is the Results out of your business or research that really Matters - and scalable application Performance could be the factor that drives your research, design, or even economic Results.

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