The folks in charge of the SC 08 conference being held in Austin, Texas, this week have trumpeted the phenomenal growth of the supercomputing show, with attendance up by almost 10 percent from the previous year, but I’m beginning to doubt that high-performance computing is driving this growth as much as the broad changes in the data center world. As Ori Aruj, CEO a GM of switch chipmaker Dune Networks, told me when I asked why he was at the show, “This is no longer about high-performance computing and research. This is now a data center conference.”
I’m inclined to agree with him, as there are a lot of networking and storage vendors here with really large and visible booths that seem outsized compared with the HPC market opportunity. There are also attendees here from companies that have little or no business in supercomputing, such as Dune Networks, Isilon or Rackable Systems. Some of the 219 industry exhibitors (as opposed to the 118 research exhibitors) can’t possibly make enough in the HPC market to justify such a large presence at the show, although a product manager at Ciena, which makes networking gear, pointed out that HPC installations can act as an effective advertisement for other business.
So here among the 10,764 attendees at the show one might be forgiven for occasionally forgetting that Microsoft, Intel, Nvidia and a host of other consumer brands aren’t here to talk about basic computing — but supercomputing.