Fujitsu has just announced that they have taken the crown in Supercomputer performance breaking past the 10 petaflop barrier. That is over 10 quadrillion operations a second. Seriously fast.
Just when we thought that Intel/AMD and x86 would take over the world this beauty came along. For those interested in the speeds and feeds of the Kei Supercomputer - 22,032 four-socket blade servers in 864 server racks with a total of 705,024 cores!
This is a Supercomputer with specific workload profiles running on there. However, looking at the scale of the infrastructure involved, we are basically looking at multiple large scale Internet Cloud providers literally in this construct.
Traditional Cloud providers may well find themselves with a new competitor, the HPC Supercomputer crowd. Supercomputer are expensive to run, but they have all the connectivity and datacenter facilities that one needs.
Clearly this is a departure from the Linux variants that are currently ruling the virtualization roost like VMware, Citrix with Xen, RedHat with KVM, Oracle VM with Xen (and their Virtual Iron acquisition - one of the largest Xen based Cloud providers). Now we also have Solaris back into the game with its own take on virtualization - Solaris Containers. All of this is probably more focused on enterprise workloads - think BIG DATA, think ERP/Supply Chain/CRM!
What does this all Mean for Virtualization and the Cloud?
Many of the reasons for this scale out strategy with virtualization was centered around getting higher utilization from hardware as well as gaining additional agility and resiliency features.
High end mainframes and high end Unix systems have had resiliency baked in for ages. However this came at a price!
The Solaris/SPARC union particularly within large supercomputer shops provides an additional player in the market for enterprise workloads that still need scale-up and scale-out in parallel. This is clearly not for running a Windows SQL server, or a Linux based web server.
However, massive web environments can be easily hosted on such a construct. Large intensive ERP systems could take benefit, providing near-realtime information and event-response capabilities. One could easily imagine a supercomputer shop providing the raw horsepower .
As an example, the recent floods in Thailand are causing a huge headache for disk drive shipments worldwide. Linking an ERP system with big data analytics regarding the risk to supply chains based on weather forecast information as well as actual current events might have allowed a realignment of deliveries from other factories. That simulation of weather and effect on risk patterns affecting supply can certainly be performed in such a supercomputer environment.
Why is this important for the CIO?
An eclectic mix of technologies will still provide a level of efficiency to the organization that a simple infrastructure-as-a-service strategy can not hope to reach.
Simply sitting in a Cloud may not be enough for the business. Usable Cloud capacity when needed is the key. This provides real agility. Being able to outsource tasks of this magnitude and then bring the precious results in-house is the real competitive advantage.
Personally, I am not quite sure that enterprises are quite ready to source all their ICT needs from a Public Cloud Provider just yet. Data security issues, challenges of jurisdiction and data privacy concerns will see to that.
That being the case, it will still be necessary for CIO/CTOs to create the IT fabric needed for business IT agility and maintain the 'stickiness' of IT driven competitive advantage .
Keep a clear mind on the ultimate goals of a Cloud Strategy. Cost efficiency is important, but driving revenue and product innovation are even more critical. A multi-pronged Cloud strategy with a "fit-for-purpose" approach to infrastructure elements will pay in the long run.