Supercomputing Technology: Why It Is Important

By Henry Newman

The annual Supercomputing show earlier this month highlighted high-performance computing technology. This field has always been very competitive and has never made vendors significant long-term profit for many decades. Companies have come and gone, and the number of companies that have entered and exited this market is astounding. Lots of companies tried to enter with revolutionary idea and soon find the market either rejected the ideas or found something more interesting than before. This happened to so many companies, and of course there were the consolidations that had big companies buying smaller companies. Long-term profit has eluded most companies solely focused on HPC, but HPC is still important to the future of all of us. Not to be U.S.-centric, but I live here, and I want us to be successful.

HPC technology is the basis for the design and implementation of new drugs, planes, cars and lots of other things we use every day. The world made a big deal of out Steve Jobs dying. He was a great man with amazing ideas that people saw every day, but a man named Seymour Cray died the same day in 1996. His computer systems had more impact on our lives from the 1960s to the 1990s than did Steve Jobs' consumer products. iPhones and iPads are cool, but the 747, 757, 767 DC-9, DC-10, cars, medicine, and everything else that got us to today was designed and engineered on a system that Seymour built for 30 years.

I think we need to put things in perspective; consumer products are great, but they do not drive the nation's industrial technology. Supercomputing, even though it has not been very profitable, is a critical part of the infrastructure of our nation and we should remember that.

This article was originally published on November 29, 2011