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HPC User Site Census: Life Cycles

by Christopher G. Willard, Ph.D., Addison Snell, Laura Segervall
for Intersect360 Research
July 2016
This report, part of our HPC User Site Census series, examines the life cycle of servers and storage systems installed in a sample of HPC user sites. Intersect360 Research surveyed a broad range of users about their current computer system installations, storage systems, networks, middleware, and supporting software. The resulting data is presented in a series of reports throughout the year, each describing different aspects of the HPC end-user landscape.
Our goal in this analysis of the life cycle of an HPC system is to examine the length of time a system is installed and examine the tendency and timing for upgrading a system.
Key findings of the survey include the following:
  • About 61% of the 707 servers had been installed for three years or less, and only 15% of the servers were older than five years when surveys were completed, indicating a very young installed base. The average age for servers was 3.3 years.
  •  Improvements, either via additional nodes or upgrades to the servers, continue to occur after the initial sale for about 73% of the servers. More than one-third (35%) of the servers were upgraded in the first year of ownership.
  • About two-thirds (64%) of the storage systems have been installed for three years or less, similar to servers. The average age for storage systems was 3.3 years.
  • Upgrades to storage systems were reported for about 72% of the storage systems. Most (87%) of the upgrades occurred on storage systems owned for four years or less.
  • The share of servers with upgrades reported has increased significantly since 2008. In 2008, about 49% of respondents stated they made either additions or upgrades or both after acquiring the server compared to 73% in 2015. Upgrades appear to be used to maintain performance during the server’s average three year life rather than extending the life. In our latest study, servers with upgrades were on average a year older than those not reporting an upgrade.

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