As I was unpacking boxes of books recently, as part of my move to Microsoft, I opened my copy of the collected stories of Eudora Welty. This awakened memories of my southern childhood and two anecdotes about Ms. Welty, one technical and another cultural.
In the current issue of HPCWire, John West has some thoughtful comments on the HPC procurement process. In an article entitled, "HPC Innovation in the Era of 'Good Enough'," he analyzes the competitive pressures on vendors and procurements and the small margins available to fund non-recurring engineering costs (i.e., vendor research and development).
In the article, Jon references my Congressional testimony on the universality of computing as an intellectual amplifier. I recently reprised some of those comments in an essay for SIAM News, discussed in this blog entry. John also quotes me as saying one cannot build a national strategy on a series of point procurements. Let me expand on that observation.
I believe we need to recognize that innovation has real costs, which must be jointly borne by academia, industry and government. We also must view hardware procurements in a larger context, where their acquisition is driven by both a coherent R&D strategy and by an innovation-driven deployment rationale.
The "mine's bigger than yours" bragging associated with machoFLOPS is counter-productive. Let's measure new systems by the innovation they enable, in new technology, scientific discovery and competitiveness. More to the point, let's integrate over periods longer than the latest benchmarks and deployment milestones.
Like many of you, I give lots of public (and not so public) presentations, on a variety of topics. A couple of those were recently captured and placed on the web. The first was one of the opening talks at the Big Data Symposium, recently held at Yahoo!, as part of the Computing Community Consortium (CCC) big ideas series. If you are struggling to sleep, you can catch the video here.
The second was an open-ended discussion on Microsoft's Channel9. I rambled on about multicore processors, big data center design challenges and a bit of web history. If the first video didn't put you to sleep, you can get the double feature effect here