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HPC Storage Systems Target Modular Designs for Productivity

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This paper examines the size and status of the worldwide market for high-performance computing (HPC) storage systems along with evolutionary trends affecting this market. The paper also looks at Intel and Xyratex as examples of vendors at the forefront of key trends with technology to benefit from the IDC-forecasted robust growth of the HPC storage systems market.

The Need for HPC Storage Evolution
During the past decade, clusters and other computer systems based on industry-standard technologies (x86 processors, MPI, et al.) propelled the rapid growth of the worldwide HPC server market. In 2011, the HPC server market achieved record revenues of $10.3 billion, en route to an IDC-forecasted level of $14.6 billion in 2016. IDC expects the broader HPC ecosystem—servers, storage, application software, middleware, and service—to grow from $20.3 billion in 2011 to $29.2 billion by 2016.

Clusters became the dominant species of HPC servers, not only by offering irresistible price/peak performance, but also by evolving from unreliable do-it-yourself projects to robust, factory-made products.

• A key element of this market-winning evolution was the development of modular (“building block”) designs that exploit economies-of-scale to keep prices reasonable as system sizes grow.
• Another key element was factory pre-integration and pre-testing of constituent hardware, software, and networking technologies to ensure interoperability at customer sites. Clusters are typically based today on reference architectures and design blueprints based on tried-and-true combinations of industry-standard technologies.

Many of today's largest, most powerful HPC systems—whether classified as clusters or not—have adopted this winning formula. The chief benefit of the evolution of HPC compute servers to production-grade tools has been increased productivity for user organizations.