Low-end systems saved HPC market in Q2

Investments have shifted from supercomputers to sub-$250,000 systems, IDC said

Increasing sales of cheaper systems helped fuel growth in the high-performance computing (HPC) sector during the second quarter, while interest in high-end supercomputers cooled.

The total worldwide revenue for the HPC server market jumped by 7.9 percent to nearly US$2.6 billion in the second quarter, up from $2.4 billion in the same period last year, IDC said on Wednesday.

Much of that growth was due the low-end segment of the HPC market, which IDC defines as systems sold for under $250,000. This segment was hit especially hard by the global economic recession that began in 2008, as many purchases were postponed or canceled. But buying began to recover in the first three months of the year and continued during the second quarter, according to IDC.

The brightest spot was systems selling for less than $100,000. Revenue in this segment grew by 45.1 percent year on year to reach $414.7 million, according to IDC. Systems priced from $100,000 to $249,000 grew by 33.8 percent to $928.3 million. These systems are used for high-performance data analysis in areas such as bio-life sciences, IDC said.

On the other hand, systems selling for more that $500,000 didn't do as well. Second quarter revenue dropped to $883.2 million from $1.17 billion a year earlier.

That stands in stark contrast with last year when sales of high-end HPC systems were doing well and revenue grew by 29.3 percent over 2011 to $5.6 billion, after the race for having the world's most powerful supercomputer became a national concern. A major component of the increase was very large systems sold by Fujitsu, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Cray.

A single Fujitsu supercomputer, the "K" system installed at Japan's Riken Advanced Institute for Computational Science, accounted for more than $500 million of the total, according to IDC. When the latest list of the world's 500 most powerful systems was published in June, Riken was ranked fourth -- trailing the Chinese Tianhe-2 and two U.S. systems, the Titan and the Sequoia.

IDC said earlier that it didn't expect the supercomputer segment to maintain last year's steep growth, although there will be other growth periods in the future and the global race for leadership in the petascale and exascale era will heat up during the rest of the decade.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Mikael Ricknäs

IDG News Service
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