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HPC in the Cloud: Five Predictions for 2013

We heard a lot of buzz surrounding cloud computing and high performance computing (HPC) in the cloud throughout 2012. And you can expect more of the same in 2013. But I believe we will begin to see some clarity in 2013 as maturing vendors and customers take a more realistic look at this emerging, dynamic technology. Here are five predictions for what to expect in 2013.

The debate over whether cloud computing is an “infrastructure play” versus a “business model optimization” opportunity will continue.
This argument has boiled to the surface in the past year and will gain steam in 2013. Some cloud computing organizations that are trying to sell time on their systems are attempting to lure customers by convincing them the technology is nothing more than an upgrade in computing hardware at an offsite location. And nothing else has to change for the customer.

Don’t fall for it. While this may be true in some cases and beneficial to the minority of end users, I believe cloud computing is an opportunity for the customer to fundamentally change the way they do business. HPC in the cloud will give customers the ability to ramp up their productivity. They will do more with less and begin bidding on more projects that are bigger than could be handled in the past.

My suggestion to manufacturing companies considering moving their design, modeling and 3D visualization processes to the cloud is to think big. Take this opportunity to look for growth and optimize the way you do business.

Three-letter government agencies will open their secure clouds to vendors.
Currently, there are manufacturing companies working on research and development projects for the DoD, DHS, DOE and other federal agencies, but official government HPC power is not easily accessible to those civilian entities. We will see this change in 2013 as agencies allow access to their HPC systems for use in work being performed under federal contracts.

What’s important about this is that it will level the playing field as smaller manufacturing concerns, which don’t have their own HPC capabilities, will have access to incredibly powerful cloud systems that have already been set up by certain federal intelligence agencies. These manufacturers will be able to bid on federal work that previously was not possible.

Major corporations will open their HPC resources to their supply chains.
In the petroleum, automotive, and consumer products markets, large corporations are consolidating their computing power into HPC megacenters. And just as Amazon realized a few years ago, these corporations are beginning to understand internal issues of low overall utilization versus dynamic capacity management.

At some point, this resource may become an additional revenue stream for the corporation, but within the next year or so, I expect these organizations to make the computing horsepower available to their top-tier vendors in their supply chains – many of which are manufacturing firms – for use in work being performed for the larger corporation. The manufacturing companies that are best positioned to take advantage of the newly available HPC power will be first in line to bid on new business and see their existing relationships grow. Reluctant HPC players may fall behind.

In my opinion, this is yet another reason for a future-oriented manufacturing company to jump into HPC cloud technology sooner rather than later. The time may come when one of your major contracts will require it. Be ready. The “extranet” is becoming real.

Cloud brokers will emerge as a new service offering.
Let’s face it, there’s still plenty of confusion relating to cloud computing services. Manufacturing companies and other entities are bombarded with information about the cloud, and they are justifiably confused by the contradictory information circulating right now. Just as real estate brokers came into existence to hook a potential home buyer up with the right seller (and vice versa), I believe we will soon see a similar professional offering in the HPC Cloud market.

The cloud broker will be an expert in HPC services and will understand the pros and cons of services offered by multiple vendors. More importantly, though, the broker will understand business. The broker will likely work on behalf of the customer whom is seeking cloud resources, as opposed to working directly for a vendor. I believe the broker will assess the customer’s business needs, and be able to communicate in business lingo, not just in HPC jargon.

The profit potential for these brokers is enormous as they maintain no computing hardware of their own and receive a commission off the deal they can make between the HPC cloud vendor and customer.

There is 100 percent certainty the confusion over HPC in the cloud will continue.
Unfortunately, vendors of cloud computing services are doing a poor job of marketing their technologies to the companies that can really benefit from them. It’s a classic marketing mistake – cloud vendors know computers, and they try to sell their services by promoting the technology itself rather than the benefits of the technology.

This is where publications like the Digital Manufacturing Report play such a vital role by breaking through the techno-babble that goes over most people’s heads. At the end of the day, people in digital manufacturing and other industries don’t really care about how many computer cores are available. They want more practical questions answered: Does their software run in the HPC environment? Will their software licensing agreement allow them to move to the cloud? How much faster will their operational processes run? Is their data secure? And most importantly – How will moving to the cloud impact their bottom line?

Fortunately, market forces will compel cloud vendors to start speaking the language of business and telling the right stories to potential customers. Hopefully, DMR and nascent cloud brokers will help by pushing them in the right direction.

But just as confusion is guaranteed, there is 100 percent certainty the fog will begin to lift in 2013 allowing organizations to understand that HPC in the cloud will be a productive asset to their business, if they give it a chance.

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