Council on Competitiveness and IDC Release Pioneering Studies on Migration From Desktop Computers to High Performance Computing

WASHINGTON, DC and FRAMINGHAM, MA – April 14, 2008 – Today, the Council on Competitiveness and its research partner, market analyst firm IDC, released two new studies ( that identify the barriers large and small firms face in moving from desktop computers to High Performance Computing (HPC) servers.

Previous Council reports show that businesses that have adopted HPC reap major competitive benefits. The new studies investigated why the many U.S. companies that use desktop computers (PCs, Macs, workstations) for product design and technical computing activities have not advanced to more-powerful HPC servers. Both studies were co-sponsored by the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute (USC-ISI), DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Users of HPC, also called technical computing, play a key role in designing and improving many industrial products — from automobiles to airplanes, pharmaceutical drugs, microprocessors, computers, implantable medical devices, golf clubs, and household appliances — as well as industrial business processes such as finding and extracting oil and gas, manufacturing consumer products, modeling complex financial scenarios and investment instruments, planning store inventories for large retail chains, creating animated films, and forecasting the weather.

The first of the two new studies, "Reveal: Council on Competitiveness and USC-ISI Broad Study of Desktop Technical Computing End Users and HPC," found among other things that:

— Most (57%) of the 77 surveyed firms have important problems they

cannot solve with desktop computers.

— 34% of the sites see the benefits of using HPC, but one or more major

barriers are keeping them from using HPC servers.

— 10% of the sites see the benefits of applying HPC and plan to deploy

HPC servers in the near future. These sites have barriers, but feel that

they can overcome these roadblocks.

— As a group, these companies face three major barriers to HPC adoption:

uncertainty about the availability of software that will run their

applications on HPC servers, lack of people skilled in using HPC hardware

and software systems, and cost constraints associated with moving to HPC.

— The firms need an "enabling function," in the form of a larger outside

party or parties willing to help overcome the systemic barriers to HPC

adoption. The Council on Competitiveness believes that new partnership

program with universities and/or national labs may be needed to provide

this enabling function.

— 22 of the surveyed firms (29%) said they are willing to pay an outside

organization to help them understand HPC and how it can lead to superior,

better-selling products.

The second new study, "Reflect: Council on Competitiveness and USC-ISI In-Depth Study of Technical Computing End Users and HPC," focuses on a predefined group of desktop and entry-level HPC users in a specific domain to identify any significant differences from the broader Reveal study. The respondents for this study were representatives of 29 member companies of the Edison Welding Institute (EWI), a materials joining R&D organization that serves small and midsize companies in the aerospace, automotive, government, energy, chemical, heavy manufacturing, medical, and electronics industries. This study's findings largely echoed those of the broad Reveal study and included these highlights:

— About half of the surveyed firms (48%) said HPC could dramatically

boost their competitiveness.

— Most of these companies also have important problems they cannot solve

with their current computers.

— These firms face the same barriers as those in the broad study: lack

of strategic software, lack of adequate HPC talent, and cost constraints.

Both studies revealed that the key drivers for HPC adoption are customer requirements and competitive threats, but that even when these drivers are present, an enabling function is needed to help the companies overcome the barriers.

"HPC is a game-changing technology and earlier Council studies confirm that it is essential to the business survival of the companies that have embraced it. These studies reveal the opportunity to extend HPC's benefits to the broader industrial base," said Council on Competitiveness Vice President Suzy Tichenor, who heads the organization's High Performance Computing Initiative. "By addressing the challenges outlined, we will strengthen critical U.S. supply chains and the competitiveness of many U.S. industries. This will require continued cooperation between industry, hardware and software manufacturers, academia, and our national labs."

According to Jie Wu, research manager in IDC's HPC group, the market for high performance computing (HPC) servers grew 15% in 2007 to reach a record $11.6 billion. Over the five-year period from 2002 to 2007, the HPC server market grew an aggregate 134% at an average annual compounded rate (CAGR) of 18.4%. IDC projects that this market will reach $16 billion by 2011. Most of the market growth is from repeat buyers of HPC systems.

"IDC research shows that first-time users of HPC require 'ease-of-everything,' from software availability to HPC expertise and ready access to HPC systems," said Earl Joseph, IDC program vice president for HPC. "Although HPC is one of the fastest-growing IT markets and much of the growth is happening at the low end and midrange, these studies confirm that important barriers are limiting the migration of desktop technical computing users to HPC." IDC is ramping up its entry-level research in 2008.

Tichenor will deliver a presentation on the two new studies at the HPC User Forum meeting, April 14-16, 2008 in Norfolk, Va. To see the agenda for this IDC-operated event, go to The new studies and the 2004 study can be downloaded without charge from the Council on Competitiveness website (

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