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A High-Performance Computing Association to Help the Expanding Supercomputing Industry

Richard Bassin

Richard Bassin has been a pioneer in the development of relational database-management systems throughout Europe, having introduced this important new technology to a wide array of influential and successful international organizations. In 1988, Mr. Bassin joined nCUBE Corporation, a leading supplier of massively parallel computing systems, where he served as Vice President of Sales until April 1991. Starting in 1983, Mr. Bassin spent five years helping build the European Division of Oracle Corporation, where he was General Manager of National Accounts. During this time, Mr. Bassin also developed and was a featured speaker in an extremely successful series of relational database-management seminars, entitled Fourth Generation Environments for Business and Industry. This series is today a vigorously functioning institution and constitutes the worldwide standard as a forum for the exchange of information on innovations in database management. Before working in the database-management field, Mr. Bassin was a Technical Manager for Computer Sciences Corporation.

It is evident to me that there are a lot of people fighting for a very small supercomputer marketplace. It is a growing marketplace, but it is still not big enough. The number of vendors represented among the presenters in


this session confirms a relatively small marketplace. If we are talking about a billion dollars, it's a relatively small marketplace.

We need to expand that marketplace if we're going to have strength in high-performance computing. I would state that the High Performance Computing Initiative (as opposed to the supercomputing initiative), as the government calls it, is probably a better angle because a lot of people already have a misconception of what supercomputing is.

But we need to expand because people need higher-performance computing. We need to expand it to a greater degree, especially in industry. Both vendors and users will see advantages from this expansion. Vendors will have the financial security to drive the R&D treadmill from which users benefit.

There has been a lot of discussion over the last few days about the foreign threat, be it Japanese, European, from the Pacific rim, or otherwise. Again, if we expand the industry, as Steve Wallach suggests in his presentation, we have to go worldwide. We must not only be concerned about the billion dollars the government has made available to the community, but we must also look at the worldwide market and expand it. And we must expand out within the national market, getting supercomputing into the hands of people who can benefit from it. There's not enough supercomputing or high-performance computing on WallStreet. Financial analysts, for instance, could use a lot of help. Maybe if it were available, they would not make some of their most disastrous miscalculations on what will go up and what will go down.

How do we strengthen that marketplace? How do we expand it? Well, in my view, there's a need for the vendors to get together and do it in concert—in, for example, a high-performance computing association, where the members are from the vendor community, both in hardware and in software. That organization, based in places like supercomputing centers, should represent the whole high-performance computing community and should work to expand the entire industry rather than address the needs of an individual vendor.

All too often, government is influenced by those most visible at the moment. If we had an association that would address the needs of the industry, that would probably be the best clearing-house that the government could have for getting to know what is going on and how the industry is expanding.

It would also provide an ideal clearing-house for users who are confused as to what's better for them and which area of high-performance computing best suits their needs. Today, they're all on their own and


make a lot of independent decisions on types of computing, price of computing, and price/performance of computing relative to their needs. Users could get a lot of initial information through an association.

The last thing I would say is that such an association could also propose industry-wide standards. We have a standard called HIPPI (high-performance parallel interface), but unfortunately we don't have a standard that stipulates the protocol for HIPPI yet. A lot of people are going a lot of different ways. If we had an organization where the industry as a whole could get together, we might be able to devise something from which all the users could benefit because all the users would be using the same interface and the same protocol.

I am a firm believer in open systems. Our company is a firm believer in open systems. Open systems benefit the industry and the user community, not just the user community.

In conclusion I will tell you that we at nCUBE Corporation have discussed the concept of a high-performance computing organization at the executive level, and our view is that we will gladly talk to the other vendors, be they big, small, or new participants in high-performance computing. We have funds to put into an association, and we think we should build such an association for the betterment of the industry.


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