Dell’s Goal: Democratize HPC
Dell hopes to do for HPC what it did for personal computers: Democratize high-performance computers across a broad swathe of enterprise applications.
"HPC is at the core of everything we do. It's just different HPC. It's not nuclear reactors. You're not designing weapons systems. You're gaining insights that are actionable in real-time," said Paul Perez, chief technology officer for Dell's Enterprise Solutions Group, in an interview.
During last week's Dell Innovation Days, top company executives and engineers laid out the developer's current and future plans for its high-performance solutions which are gaining traction beyond the traditional comfort zones of engineering, research and development, and academia, Onur Celebioglu, director of HPC & SAP HANA solutions, Engineered Solutions and Cloud at Dell, told Enterprise Technology during a tour of the Engineered Solutions Lab.
"Dell sees HPC as a one of the highly strategic markets we're going to grow in. We're also putting a lot more emphasis on making HPC accessible," he said. "We want to remove the complexity and make HPC available to the masses."
It's all about making data – and, therefore, insight – accessible to an organization's users, noted Jim Ganthier, vice president and general manager, Dell Engineered Solutions and Cloud.
"Not only can we make it more cost-effect, more accessible. It's not only about crunching. It's about the crunching, the predicting, and making it into actionable insights so now the next golf ball design, the next car part designer… see it as a set of opportunities," he said in an interview.
Dell leverages a commonality of design across systems, large and small, both as a branding tool and also to simplify management, education, and implementation for IT professionals as organizations scale up, executives said. Although Dell most likely will not pursue the largest supercomputer opportunities, it already plays in the top 500 listing, said Ashley Gorakhpurwalla, vice president and general manager, Dell Server Solutions, in an interview. And Dell is using the resources gleaned from its spectrum of products and services to further expand its HPC reach, he said.
"I don't think you'll see us chasing the largest of the largest, the top 10, unless it makes economic sense. We have nine of the top 500. But right below that there is an enormous opportunity where we can go help because we have a lot of experience on how to build things at scale, at how to provision and automate," Gorakhpurwalla said.
Overwhelmed by the amount, size, and types of information they're collecting, storing, and analyzing for big data applications, enterprises increasingly look to HPC to efficiently and cost effectively glean speedy insight, Dell executives said. These HPC investments pay off in vastly measurable results. For big data analytics in life sciences, for example, HPC allowed genetic sequencing to be completed in four hours per patient, compared with four days – making a huge improvement to the lives of patients, their families, and their treatment plans, Celebioglu said.
"Telling patients to wait four weeks for their results is not an option," he added.
Dell offers genomic sequencing professionals a fully integrated HPC solution that arrives pre-configured, said Celebioglu. "The whole focus is on taking the guesswork out of configuration," he said. "We're looking at all the different HPC markets."
CAD/CAE, for example, is also ripe for HPC implementation, said Celebioglu, due to its compute, processing, and storage demands. But even among more horizontal applications, Dell finds a growing number of enterprises require the benefits HPC delivers, he said.
"The message of high performance computing resonates with CIOs very well," said Celebioglu. "The number of days saved, that's relevant."
By integrating its solutions, along with partners' technologies, Dell provides clients with HPC systems that are easier to implement, maintain, and operate, added Tom Burns, vice president and general manager of Dell Networking and Enterprise Infrastructure, in an interview. "Our strong focus and one of our strongest differentiators at Dell is we have all three legs – compute, networking, and storage," he said.
Data Center Solutions
Through its Data Center Solutions (DCS) group, Dell works hands-on with a small number of clients such as eBay. Dell's DCS engineers interact with eBay's advanced engineering and hyperscale team on powerful custom-designed systems based on Dell technologies such as the XA90 storage server, a 4U chassis that holds up to 90 3.5-inch disks or two dual-socket Haswell drives, and 720TB of data.
"Between us and the customer, we are really optimizing their environment," said Jyeh Gan, director, product management and strategy, Data Center Solutions at Dell, during a tour of the DCS Lab.
The developer also teams up with other vendors, testing out future products and next-generation technologies to determine how and if they fit into customers' solutions, he said.
Added Shane Kavanagh, senior principal engineer, Data Center Solutions Architecture: "A lot of our work is optimizing software, optimizing workloads. We work very closely with [clients'] IT datacenter folks. We let their engineering teams do what they're best at."
In turn, Dell uses the lessons it learns from DCS and looks to extend some of them into broader product or market categories, as applicable. Dell can use its knowledge from the tightly built relationships with eBay and up to about 14 other DCS hyperscale clients to further democratize HPC into enterprise applications, Gan said.
"We're trying to expand the DCS business to more and more customers," he said. "They want agility and nimbleness from Dell. A lot of people are moving from the traditional IT space and they're moving into the cloud … and there are a lot of paths they can take."
But one path enterprises don't want to take is starting fresh. IT must determine how best to protect their original investments while now leveraging HPC, cloud, big data, and other solutions that benefit their businesses.
"The mantra we have around here is around future-ready enterprise. Customers are concerned about the future. Even though the future looks bright there is a lot of uncertainty of how to get there, how to get from A to B. And this is in the context of customers having a business to run," said CTO Perez. "How do they transform their IT operation without disrupting the business?"
Open standards alleviate a lot of concerns about compatibility and Dell has many people involved in this area, he said.
"Future- ready is the ability to help the customer... have an infrastructure that works today and also works tomorrow," added Ganthier.