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HPC: The Software Industry Gulag

by Debra Goldfarb
for Intersect360 Research (originally published under the Tabor Research name)
Aug 1, 2008

as published in HPCWire

HPC: The Software Industry Gulag...or More Pointedly, Where is SAP for the Rest of Us?

If one were to categorize the enterprise software market as mature, robust, innovative -- and definitely 21st century -- as it races headstrong into the cloud -- how would one categorize the HPC software market? Not to throw stones, but you could easily put it in the circa 1980 timeframe and use terms like immature, cottage-like and definitely lacking investment. When you mention HPC to any of the venture guys, they run for the hills.

I can rewind 20+ years to when I first entered this market and the conversation has not changed. No software, no money for software, and a continuous "humm" over the impracticalities of building software for an ever increasingly complex set of platforms. The dialogue never seems to evolve beyond parallel programming, languages (Fortran and C -- of course), open source and the vertical application specialists who seem to own the scarcest commodity.

Now mind you, there is an implicit expectation that the government should invest in and drive the initiative. Not only is the conversation focused in the wrong direction, but we are not even asking the right question! In my opinion, the issue is much more complex. Don't get me wrong. These are not absolutes, and we certainly need to get very real and focused on solving the challenges associated with programming models, as well as building robust middleware and tools. The big question, however, is around productivity, not platforms; and how do we make high performance systems fit seamlessly into an overall IT environment? For me the question is "where is SAP for the rest of us?"

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