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HPC User Site Census: Life Cycle

by Christopher G. Willard, Ph.D., Laura Segervall, Addison Snell, Debra Goldfarb
for Intersect360 Research (originally published under the Tabor Research name)
July 2008

This fourth report in our Site Census series provides an examination of the lifespan of the systems installed at a sample of HPC user sites. We surveyed a broad range of users about their current computer system installations, storage systems, networks, middleware, and software supporting these computer installations. The other reports, HPC User Site Census: Systems, HPC User Site Census: Processors, and HPC User Site Census: Storage focused on server suppliers, server node characteristics, processors-related trends, and storage issues.

Our goal in this analysis of the life cycle of a HPC system is to examine the length of time a system is installed, the distribution and frequency of installed system expansions and upgrades, and relationships between system architectures and life cycles.

Key findings of the survey include the following:

  • Almost 70% of the systems installed at the 69 sites were acquired in 2005 or later. Prior to 2005, the number of systems installed rapidly declines suggesting the average lifecycle for the systems used at HPC sites is about 3 years.
  • Improvements, either via additional nodes or upgrades to the system, continue to occur after the initial sale for about 49% of the systems. About 74% of these improvements occurred after 2006.
  • For sites that do make improvements to their systems, most (61%) will extend their systems more than once in the lifetime of the system. The average number of improvements is about 2.8 for these systems.
  • The majority of clusters systems (54%) had no improvements, compared to 45% for all other architectures. All architectures were more likely to add nodes than upgrade system components.

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