I was recently going through IDC market data1 and realized HPC now represents 29% of the server market. This is a significant number that has grown from ~20% to 29% in only 6 months. The first thing you are probably saying to yourself is ‘why do I care?' Well, take it from me; coming from Intel, it is a big deal. Have you ever tried negotiating with someone when you have very little leverage? You don't get too far do you? That's how HPC has been up until now. When trying to design products for HPC the question comes back, what is the return on investment (ROI)? When we were just a sliver of the market, it was hard to justify. Now that we are 29%, guess what, we have leverage. So guess what HPC community? You can now say it loud and say it proud. Tell us what you need to make the HPC community stronger, faster and more efficient. We're listening.
Performance continues to be top on almost everyone's list. Intel was the first to introduce quad core and we are now launching our first 45nm processors on November 12th. The new manufacturing process has enabled Intel to almost double the transistor count vs the current 65nm process. We are increasing the cache and bus frequency to deliver better performance for HPC applications. How will the added cache and faster bus benefit the commercial HPC applications? Well, it should most certainly provide faster results for their customers and that is always a good thing. As we deliver faster processors we continue to investigate the core count. When we first introduced the Core micro-architecture to HPC, we also introduced quad core. This has been seen as a very good progression in our silicon roadmap. What are some of the benefits multi-core brings to market? By adding cores, we are able to maintain power envelopes while increasing performance. Are the increased cores helping the HPC market? My immediate response is, of course, they are. After talking to ISV's I begin to second guess my immediate response. Commercial applications are licensed to customers by processor, by core, or by MPI instances. If application performance does not scale with the increased core count, does it make sense to use a quad core processor? Will a dual core processor work better than a quad core for certain applications? As we drill down on this dilemma, we are quickly realizing the answer is sometimes. Sometimes a dual core will be better and sometimes a quad core will be better. There is no simple answer to cores and what is the right number for your environment.
Another area of growing interest in HPC is the performance between nodes. Our latest chipset, the Intel® 5400, offers PCI Express generation 2. This will provide twice the bandwidth of generation 1 and is ideal for quad data rate InfiniBandTM. The Gen 2 will also provide great support for visualization applications. The Intel® 5400 chipset and the Intel® Xeon® processor 5400 series create our first HPC designed platform. As we progress on to our next generation we need to ensure the HPC voice is being heard. As InfiniBand continues to grow in the HPC market does it eventually replace GbE as the interconnect of choice? Does an HPC optimized product support IB down? What about Gigabit Ethernet? How about 10G Ethernet? What is the market willing to pay for the increased performance?
There are lots of questions that need to be answered when creating an optimized HPC platform. One thing is for sure; HPC is now a big time player and can't be ignored. If you support high performance computers in your data center, make sure your wants and needs are being heard.
1IDC Q2 Server tracker and IDC Q2 Qview