Friday, 11 January 2013

Predictions for 2013 in HPC

As we stumble into the first weeks of 2013, it is the season for predictions about what the coming year will bring. In my case, following my recent review of HPC in 2012, I get to make some predictions for the world of HPC in 2013.


First up, this year’s buzzword for HPC marketing and technology talks. Last year was very much the year of “Big Data” as a buzzword. As that starts to become old hat (and real work) a new buzzword will be required. Cynical? My prediction is that this year will see Big Data still present in HPC discussions and real usage but it will diminish in use as a buzzword. 2013 will probably spawn two buzzwords.

The first buzzword will be “energy-efficient computing”. We saw the use of this a little last year but I think it will become the dominant buzzword this year. Most technical talks will include some reference to energy-efficient computing (or the energy cost of the solution or etc.). All marketing departments will swing into action to brand their HPC products and services as energy efficient computing – much as they did with Big Data and before that, Cloud Computing, and so on. Yes, I’m being a tad cynical about the whole thing. I’m not suggesting that energy efficiency is not important – in fact it is essential to meet our ambitions in HPC. I’m merely noting its impending over-use as a theme. And of course, energy efficient computing is not the same as Green Computing – after all that buzzword is several years old now.

Energy efficiency will be driven by the need to find lower power solutions for exascale-era supercomputers (not just exascale systems but the small department petascale systems that will be expected at that time – not to mention consumer scale devices). It is worth noting that optimizing for power and energy may not be the same thing. The technology will also drive the debate – especially the anticipated contest between GPUs and Xeon Phi. And politically, energy efficient computing sounds better for attracting investment rather than “HPC technology research”.