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3D Web will save high-performance computing industry, Intel CTO says

Web advances will fuel insatiable demand for HPC capacity

By , Network World
November 17, 2009 05:02 PM ET

Network World - Three-dimensional Web technologies will save the high-performance computing industry from its current state of financial stagnation, Intel CTO Justin Rattner predicted at the SC09 supercomputing conference in Portland, Ore. Tuesday.

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Delivering the opening address, Rattner said the HPC market is struggling, with a compound annual growth rate of about 3.6%. Based on current trends, there is no sign of a future upswing.

"This is not a healthy business," he said. Demand for high-performance computing capability is limited to small markets, but Rattner believes that virtually the entire population can benefit from HPC if given the right platform.

"High-performance computing doesn't need a killer app as much as it needs a killer application framework," Rattner said. "It needs a platform in which people can leverage the power of high-performance computing to do just about anything they can imagine."

That "killer application framework," Rattner said, is the 3D Web, powered on the back end by cloud technologies and the HPC industry. The 3D Web technologies will not only power virtual worlds we know today like Second Life, but create ways for people to interact with each other and new platforms for businesses to test products, he said.

To illustrate the 3D Web's potential Rattner brought on several guest speakers from fields as varied as biology and fashion. Aaron Duffy, a biology researcher at Utah State University, made an appearance via a virtual world video feed, in which he explained that he is using 3D simulations to study how environmental conditions affect fern populations over multiple generations. The video panned out over many fields of virtual ferns that help Duffy understand the plant populations.

"Each fern possesses a genetic code that controls how well it adapts to environmental conditions," Duffy said, speaking through his virtual avatar.

Another guest speaker, this one appearing in the flesh, was CEO Shenlei Winkler of the Fashion Research Institute, who explained that 3D modeling and simulation programs are reducing design times by 75% and sample costs by 65%. Winkler said the Institute is working on cloth models to more accurately represent different kinds of textiles and how they fit on the human body.

"The apparel industry is one of the last $1.7 trillion industries that has not, in fact, been heavily computerized," Winkler said.

The fashion industry advances are taking place with just first-generation 3D Web technologies, Rattner noted. Further development will enable all kinds of new applications and in the process create insatiable demand for high-performance computing, he predicted.

"This is the killer application infrastructure platform that will power growth and increase R&D capability in high-performance computing," Rattner said. "In my opinion there is nothing more important to the long-term health of the HPC industry than the development and widespread use of 3D web technologies."

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