HP has announced a High Performance Computing alliance with Intel to expand HPC in the enterprise. That’s good news for the dominant HPC and chip vendors, but one has to wonder how Intel’s other HPC OEMs, especially Dell and Lenovo, will react. While a wholesale movement to alternative processors like ARM and Power 8 (IBM) is doubtful, it would be logical for the competition to seek ways to level the HPC playing field.
Under the terms of the deal, announced Monday at the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, Germany, HP is offering its HPC Solutions Framework based on HP Apollo servers, and will leverage Intel’s Xeon Phi processors, Omni-Path interconnect technology and the Enterprise Edition of Lustre. HP and Intel are also enhancing the capabilities at HP’s HPC Center of Excellence in Grenoble, France, and opening a new CoE in Houston.
Bring together the two leaders creates a “two-plus-two-equals-six” arrangement, said Bill Mannel, VP & GM of Apollo Servers, HP. He told IT Trends & Analysis that this change in their long-standing relationship is not just being done from a product perspective. “We’re actually looking at this from a solutions perspective… specific industries… and specific workloads,”
Given that HP’s recently formed business unit focuses on HPC and Big Data, it’s natural that the new alliance will also focus on HPC and Big Data, said Mannel. “There’s probably no CIO that doesn’t feel pressure to have some kind of Big Data initiative.” However, most of those Big Data initiatives fail.
“Everybody’s feeling pressure to do something with Big Data and a lot of them don’t know where to go.” Mannel said everybody’s trying to get there, everybody’s trying to be successful and they’re finding that they need a lot more help. More and more customers are coming to us and wanting to engage with us not just from a hardware perspective, but from a solution perspective, he said.
The alliance apparently got its start from a conversation between the CEOs – Meg Whitman and Brian Krzanich – as HP was beginning the process of splitting itself into an enterprise business and a PC and printer business. “So we did a deeper dive with our counterparts at HP to see if there was a fit,” said Intel’s Charles Wuischpard, VP and GM of the Workstations and High Performance Computing division in the Data Center Group.
“HP is looking to double down on HPC. HP already does a lot already, as you know, and they see a lot of opportunity in traditional HPC and big data. The idea was that if we develop all-Intel solutions and work closely with HP using the Scalable Systems Framework, both at the development level and at the go-to-market level, could we be more successful. We certainly think of HP as a big scale partner – the size of their sales organization and their channel reach is greater than ours.”
The companies are aligning their current product roadmaps and are working to develop the next three generations of high-end systems through 2020, according to Wuischpard.
The HP alliance is the first in the HPC space – a similar supercomputer partnership was formed with Cray in April – but Intel is not ruling out other such partnerships. The deal is non-exclusive for both parties, meaning HP can forge similar alliances with other component suppliers and Intel can do similar deals with HP’s competitors. “I think you will see more of this from the other partners over time,” added Wuischpard.
The HPC market is already hot, and the HP/Intel tandem should only drive up the temperature. It is growing 3x faster than the traditional x86 server market, and has a TAM (total addressable market) of over $6 billion, according to a recent interview with Brian Payne, Executive Director, Dell Server Solutions. The 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.
As of the last official IDC numbers (1Q14), HP was the leading market vendor with 35%, followed by IBM (23.1%) and Dell (17.2%). The HPC market is predicted to reach $14.7 billion by 2018.
HP and Intel may be the HPC leaders, but they have a lot of company. Lenovo, which recently picked up IBM’s x86 server business, opened its first global High Performance Computing innovation centre in March. In early May it was reported that AMD wants to take on Intel in the HPC space with a souped-up Zen core that will offer a 40% performance improvement.
The HP/Intel alliance has been in the works for several months, but the journey has just begun, said Mannel. They plan to make more announcements this Fall, and the focus will be on solutions, not just products.