These are a few of the questions that market-research company IDC addressed in a February web conference entitled 'IDC Predictions 2010: Worldwide High-Performance Computing', which was conducted by three top members of the IDC HPC team: Dr Earl Joseph, Steve Conway and Jie Wu. Clearly we can't include all the info in this very short summary, but a replay of the full hour-long presentation is available at this link. And now, the key predictions:
The HPC market will resume growth in mid-2010, but the recovery will benefit HPC segments differently
Before the economic slowdown hit, double-digit growth was predicted for the current timeframe. Instead, HPC server revenue in 2009 was about $8.25bn, down 15.5 per cent from 2008. The latest IDC forecast has revenue growing from 5 to 7 per cent this year, reaching $10.5bn by 2013. The high end of the market is showing the greatest strength. Some segments such as automotive and financial services are still guarding their capital expenditures, but government and academia will the bright spots for HPC market recovery.
The race for global leadership will turbocharge the supercomputers segment
The supercomputer segment (defined as $500,000+) will grow 17 per cent in 2010 to reach $3.1bn, and despite the tough year, even higher end machines ($3,000,000+) grew 65 per cent (!) in 2009 to reach $1.0bn.
In 2010, evolutionary change will trump revolutionary change
While we still need some revolutionary developments to address fundamental problems, vendors are concentrating on evolutionary improvements at this time. Incremental advances will help but won't resolve persistent issues such as highly parallel programming, power/cooling and software licensing costs.
Commoditisation will increasingly level the playing field for HPC competition
With commoditisation, any nation or region with sufficient funding can aspire to build and operate petascale systems. Anyone can enter the race, and there are fewer differentiating factors.
The highly parallel programming challenge will increase
Hardware parallelism continues to race ahead of programming paradigms. The parallel performance 'wall' will reshape the nature of HPC code design and system usage.
X86 processors will dominate but GPGPUs will gain traction as x86 hits the wall
In the past decade, x86 processors went from 'near zero' to 'hero' in the HPC space, largely replacing RISC machines. And while they will continue to dominate, GPGPUs are starting to make strong headway and are seeing some large-scale deployments.
Infiniband will continue to gain HPC market share
By 2013, the HPC interconnect market will grow to about $2.25bn broken down this way: 50 per cent Ethernet (a steady share), 37 per cent Infiniband (up from 12 per cent in 2005) and 13 per cent proprietary (down from 39 per cent in 2005).
Driven by the data explosion, HPC storage will outpace the recovery for HPC server
In 2008/09, the HPC storage market declined somewhat less than the server market; in 2010, the storage market will expand about 8 per cent to $3.1bn and will continue to represent a growing fraction of all HPC revenues.
Power and cooling efficiency will become more important, but is not far along today
People are aware of the need for better power/cooling management, but often for administrative or internal reasons they sometimes don't address these issues head-on.
Cloud computing will start making modest inroads into HPC
The early adopters are dominant in this area, and today most activity is in private clouds rather than public clouds.