Post-SC thoughts: Arm, AI and a cloudy future

SuperComputing 2017 was big, busy and full of new ideas. The Ellexus team had back-to-back meetings with customers and partners, who each brought new ideas and challenges to discussions. The global high performance computing industry is growing at a fast pace, buoyed by scientific advances and the industry’s push towards even greater speeds and this was certainly evident in Denver.

Here are few trends that our team identified as they toured the show floor.

Arm is gaining traction

Everywhere there seemed to be real excitement and talk surrounding Arm’s v8-A architecture and new tools being added to the Arm mantle. There was talk of strong performance on early ported applications, even before they have been optimised.

In particular, Cavium is leading the way with their Arm processor, which HPE was keen to talk about, and Cray announced they will have a Cavium ThunderX2 based supercomputer. Cadence tools are now on Arm and Red Hat also officially announced support for Arm, joining the likes of SUSE.

Many people are watching this space to see how much Arm will drive down costs in the industry. Earlier this month Qualcomm revealed its Amberwing Centriq 2400 Arm server processor, which could pose competition for both Cavium and Intel.

Ellexus released Arm versions of our tools recently and many people were interested to hear more about this. It’s early days but we expect take-up to ramp up quickly.

AI and machine learning

This was big last year and will probably be a big subject for some time. For example, self-driving cars that need to store a lot of data pose real opportunities for the HPC sector. We spoke to far more people who worked in these sectors rather than specifically in HPC than in previous years.

Containers are interesting, but not yet the norm

Docker wasn’t widely mentioned, but Singularity had some exposure at the show. Many universities were happy to talk about their use of Singularity, which is specifically for the HPC industry. The general feeling about containers, however, is wait and see.

The growth of the cloud

This was a particularly hot topic, but discussions included a fair amount of confusion and mixed messages. While some people think it is the future, others are more sceptical. Either way, it’s hard to deny the growth of cloud storage though the tools to make it as streamlined as possible are perhaps not quite ready yet.

We’re soon to announce our cloud migration service to help organisations ensure they make the right storage decisions for their applications. Ask us for more information if you’re interested.