On Speed Racer and the High-Performance Computing Market

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speed_racer_image__3_ When I was a kid, I loved Speed Racer, the cartoon series just recently brought to the big screen by the Wachowski brothers. The thing I remember most about the cartoon was its extremely liberal use of the word "chasm"–that simply wasn’t a word you heard very often growing up in New York City.

Many a rainy day was passed with my best friend and I running around the house playing Speed Racer, jumping from sofa to loveseat, reenacting one chasm scene or another, much to my Mom’s chagrin.

Perhaps my early fondness for Speed and the Mach-5 played a role in establishing my passion for bringing emerging technologies to market, because the notion of  "the chasm" figures as strongly in my world now as it did then.

HPC and the Chasm

For those of you who haven’t read Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore’s seminal book about the technology adoption lifecycle, "crossing the chasm" describes the transition from a market dominated by early adopters to one composed of the more mainstream "early majority".

I was reminded of Moore’s work when I read a fantastic tidbit buried deep in a recent eWeek article, Why HPC is Flying High, by Chris Preimesberger. (Thanks, Jeffrey!):

According to IDC, a leading market research firm, the worldwide market for HPC goods and services reached $11.5 billion in 2007 and is growing at 19.5% per year.

The IDC data immediately brought to mind the idea that high-performance computing was crossing the chasm, expanding beyond its roots as a niche technology for academics and researchers to one embraced by a wide variety of mainstream enterprises.

Pieces of the Puzzle

It’s been a while since I’ve read Crossing the Chasm, but some of the key points I remember that enable a technology to make the leap are:

  • a healthy ecosystem that provides a complete solution to the customer
  • visible success stories that help reassure the risk averse majority
  • a level of accessibility that makes the technology more easily adoptable

In the case of HPC, all these pieces have fallen into place, particularly with the advent and success of modern grid-based software products that are significantly easier to use than the Grid of the past.

The Other Side

Inherent in the Chasm model is the idea that the early adopter and early majority have very different use cases and requirements for any technology. In order for a technology to make the leap, it must appeal to mainstream users and solve the problems that they need to solve at a low enough cost and with a low enough risk profile.


This is exactly what we’re seeing happing in the modern grid market, as I touched on recently in "Is grid relevant? Modern grid computing and today’s enterprise."

The maturity of the offerings in the space, coupled with industry trends like cloud computing, is continuing to drive HPC and grid-like technologies into the mainstream.

Here is a sampling of what some Appistry customers are up to. How is your company planning to take advantage of these technologies?

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