As the technology of high performance computing becomes more complex, for example, with the arrival of GPU accelerators, Intel co-processors, and so on – and as customers’ needs become more complex – what is the scope for integrators to serve the market?
My view is that integrators are vital, because there is no one Tier 1 provider such as IBM or Fujitsu that supplies the whole HPC solution. The solutions themselves are now far more complex than they were previously. There is a requirement to balance the compute and the I/O to make the system efficient, and to get intelligent scheduling to ensure that time is not wasted – there isn’t a Tier 1 that does all that.
But it is not just the technology that is becoming more complex. The purposes to which users put their systems are also evolving. Systems are now becoming multipurpose and are required to be production machines serving internal customers – like an internal cloud. There’s a far greater requirement for things other than the ‘tin’ to make it work efficiently. That’s why there needs to be an integrator, as opposed to a reseller. The HPC system needs to be ‘designed’ not just sold for purpose.
Post-sales support is also a key role in high-performance computing – whereby for every system supplied, customers have a support requirement and that will vary. Some customers need far more support than others, so we integrators are needed in project-development workshops to work out what the best level of support for a customer is. It is, in the end, this ability to get close to, and, understand the customer, that is the secret of success for integrators.
The value of the integrator sits above the hardware and software – it’s the skills we have in designing the solution, pulling it together, and supporting it. We have a library of 1000s of scripts written over the years that help the systems to run better. An integrator needs to be professional all the way through and its services now need to be ‘enterprise class’. Without the services of a good integrator you’ll get the bag of bits, instead of a system.
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