Dell Targets Surging HPC Market

Much like the venerable mainframe, high-performance computing (HPC) is alive and doing very well, growing 3x faster than the traditional x86 market, and has a TAM (total addressable market) of over $6 billion, said Brian Payne, Executive Director, Server Solutions. HPC is one of the three use cases the new PowerEdge C6320, in a , is targeted at: the other two segments are the Web technology market; and people doing hosting, inclusive of telcos.

Due to ship next month, the new server boasts some impressive stats, including: up to two times performance improvement on the leading HPC performance benchmark; 28% increased power efficiency on Spec_power over previous generation; 50% more cores per node; 72TB onboard storage; and 16 DDR4 DIMMs; and what Dell calls’ the right mix of cost-efficient compute and storage in a compact, 2U chassis for HPC and hyper-converged solutions and appliances.’

The HPC space is growing, said Payne. “It’s fueled by the massive growth in data… (and) our focus is how do we make this more accessible to the market to address this growth?”

That’s where the C6320 is delivering 2x performance, 48% improvement in Spec-amp, and in performance per watt, spec-power, we’re seeing 28% improvement. “Those kinds of improvements… people have woken up… can produce more results that fuel a business endeavor or scientific purpose.”

Although the data is a year old, IDC reported that the HPC technical server market was worth $2.3 billion in the first quarter of 2014 (1Q14). Unit shipments were relatively flat, growing 0.4% year over year on shipments of 33,577 units, although IDC was expecting the overall HPC technical server market to grow at a healthy 7.4% yearly rate with revenues reaching $14.7 billion by 2018.

was the leading market vendor with 35%, followed by (23.1%) and Dell (17.2%). Dell provided some more recent IDC stats from March: ‘HPC forecast still predicts healthy overall worldwide long-term annual revenue growth of 8.2% (CAGR) out to 2019, and 6.9% annual growth in HPC system units shipped.’

The company also pointed out its recent success in the overall server market (Q1 2015):

-No. 2 worldwide with 22.7% unit share; and,

-grew faster in Q1 than the market in terms of units across x86, mainstream and density-optimized (WW x86 unit market growing +8.4 Y/Y, with Dell at +9.3% Y/Y; WW mainstream unit market growing at +6.3% Y/Y, with Dell at +6.8% Y/Y; and, WW density optimized market growing at +16.0% Y/Y, with Dell at +26.2% Y/Y).

IDC reported a 17.2% jump in revenues in the Q1 server market, and an 8.4% increase in units. “We continue to see a market profile that is increasingly driven by new compute deployment scenarios, often in hyperscale datacenters,” said Al Gillen, Program Vice President, Servers and System Software at IDC.

Density-optimized server shipments grew 26.1% and revenue was up 51.6%. This growth follows the previous quarter where density-optimized shipments and revenues were both in significant decline on a year-over-year basis. Gartner also noted ‘particularly strong demand‘ from the hyperscale area in its Q1 server report.

A February 2015 report from Intersect360 Research cited many-core accelerators, flash storage, 3-D memory, integrated networking, and optical interconnects as just some of the technologies propelling future HPC architectures. According to Chief Research Officer Christopher Willard, “2015 will see increased architectural experimentation. Users will test both low-cost nodes and new technology strategies in an effort to find a balance between these options that delivers the best performance within user budgets.”

Currently the dominant server (and HPC) vendor, HP updated its Apollo platform of air and water-cooled systems in November. “We’re continuing a lot of the momentum we’ve had with the Apollo platform,” said John Gromala, Senior Director, Hyperscale Product Management, HP Servers, and that they’re “definitely hitting the sweet spot of computing, not only in oil and gas, but even with a lot of enterprises”.

, which recently picked up IBM’s x86 server business, opened its first global High Performance Computing innovation centre in March. “Today marks a milestone in our ambition as an enterprise company,” said Aymar de Lencquesaing, EMEA President and SVP, Lenovo. “Not only are we opening the company’s first global HPC centre but we are reaffirming our commitment, investment and ambitions in the enterprise.”

In early May it was reported that wants to take on in the HPC space with a souped-up Zen core that will offer a 40% performance improvement. “We are reinvesting in the high end desktop with the Zen core. High performance and compute in desktop makes a big difference,” said AMD CEO Lisa Su.

It really is a case of one-size-doesn’t-fit all, said Payne, which is why Dell is offering a broad portfolio of server solutions. “So what we find is a combination of products in the portfolio to solve a given problem.”

Originally developed for its small but critical hyperscale customers, the C6320 is just the latest announcement: at the end of April Dell updated its 4-socket 4U R920 server, which was targeted at the fading but still significant Unix market (the non-x86 market presents a $9.1 billion addressable market in 2015). The company also updated its PowerEdge VRTX and M1000e converged platforms, and introduced the PowerEdge FC830 and the M830 blade servers.

An early customer is the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego, which is using the C6320 (27 racks) to power its Comet petascale supercomputer. Totaling 1,944 nodes or 46,656 cores, Comet provides a five-fold increase in compute capacity versus SDSC’s previous HPC system.

“We like to say that Comet provides ‘HPC for the 99 percent’ – essentially it’s about providing high-performance computing to a much larger research community and serving as a gateway to discovery,” said SDSC director Michael Norman, principal investigator for the Comet project. “In order to provide research to a larger community of users, we needed to start with a solid hardware foundation. We chose the Dell PowerEdge C6320s over competitive solutions because of Dell’s reputation in the HPC space, its leading hardware design and innovations, and for its ease of deployment. We’re excited to be working with Dell as we expand access to researchers who have not traditionally relied on supercomputers to help accelerate discovery.”

Normally, Dell ships only a few pre-production units to select customers, but the SDSC example represents the evolution of the company’s ability to work more closely with its customers, said Payne. We found ways to address their needs, and within two weeks, we went from shipping dock to up and running. “So innovation at the product side… and then there’s also innovation in the business model.”

HPC is only one of the target markets. Dell has been doing well in the hyperscale segment, and has big expectations for converged systems such as its Engineered Solutions for VMware EVO: RAIL. It stated that IDC expects this market to experience a 59.7% CAGR from 2014 to 2019, generating more than $3.9 billion in total sales Dell’s EVO: RAIL appliance will be available with the in July too.

Author: Steve Wexler

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