How to sell performance computing in 2013

I would rather gamble on our vision than make a ‘me, too’ product. 
Steve in the movie Jobs


  1. Offer Open Ended Performance  Solutions, not products
  2. Listen
  3. Know who you want to please
  4. Be different: resist the hype temptations
  5. Offer the best there is in technology, wherever you find it
  6. Make User Experience a priority
  7. Generate and collect "Aha" testimonials
  8. Seed for follow up business

Until now, the HPC (High Performance Computing)  was the consumer side in the realm of  Government (mainly Defense, Intelligence Agencies, and Science such as energy, agriculture, weather). ambitious political leaders and Academia. Large System builders with deep pockets offer the supply side, often bearing the a substantial part of the costs and hardly making any profits.

High Performance Computing is just one of the terms used to define problems so big, that the ordinary Enterprise Computing is unable to handle. These are usually the Super Computers as ranked by the TOP500 list. The current number 1 is Tianhe-2. This is not a computer normal HPC customers  can handle. Over three million cores  (about the same as the population of Los Angeles).  No one knows how much it costs to build. No software details and no application details are known.

Fig. 1: The Demographics - Behavior - Goals for classic HPC Super Computing market
Beside HPC, we have HTC (High Throughput Computing), a technology used extensively in the search for the Higgs particle at CERN.

Then we have Big Data , a buzz word in the industry, by  very real in High Energy Physics. IDC latest HPC Sites report "reveals that two-thirds of high-performance computing sites are conducting big data analysis as part of their HPC workloads" .

How to recognize the people interested in performance computing.

In 2013, The Demographics - Behavior - Goals of the performance computing, might look like this;
Fig. 2: Sample Demographics - Behavior - Goals for high performance computing
Each organization selling high performance computing must create a similar chart. This chart is dynamic and must be reviewed regularly. It is not so much marketing as it is intuition.

Offer Open Ended Performance  Solutions, not products

No organization or company has a complete list of products and services to solve all high performance desires. I look at HP.com and the way they present their Grid Computing. The link to "What is Grid Computing" takes one to page with wordings from enterprise marketing fluff . The link to Grid innovation for cloud computing, leads to this page

Fig 3. HP grid innovation page: "oops, we can not find this page for you"
The model in the picture is still waiting for it

Listen

You may hear someone who absolutely needs next-generation sequencing (NGS)
NGS is computation intensive and will require cluster computing. Eventually all genome research will be NGS. 

Or you hear or some research on cancer that may require nearly 40 years of processing at cost of $44 millions, we are told. What about reducing this  from  $ 44 millions to about 5,000 dollars and getting the results in 8 hours and not 40 years.

A large financial corporation uses Monte Carlo simulations to do a risk reports that requires 2.5 million hours on a single computer. What about doing it over the weekend?

Know who  you want to please

In performance computing, rarely is the CEO. They are the strategists and scientists who make things happen and who are hands on. The one who will re-assure the CEO that you know what you are doing

Be different: resist the hype temptations

Assume no other solutions are good enough. Deep in your heart, how would you do it? For a moment, all these letters and acronyms mean nothing (HTC, HPC, grid, cluster). Here is a quote from recent paper Perspectives on Grid Computing
We should not waste our time in redefining terms or key technologies: clusters, Grids, Clouds... What is in a name? Ian Foster recently quoted Miron Livny saying: "I was doing Cloud computing way before  people called it Grid computing", referring to the ground breaking Condor technology. It is the Grid scientific paradigm that counts!
Quoting Miron Livny
Solving “real-life” end-to-end problems makes you hype resistant

Offer the best there is in technology, wherever you find it

Now, after you have all clear, make the proposal. The best ever assets in performance computing are your engineers and consultants. People buy software to have your know-how behind it.

The utility HPC is a reality. What is not a reality it is its widespread usage. For now, the ability to offer utility HPC  / HTC / Big Data processing is big competitive advantage.

Always consider open source software. For example R statistical software, open source, has over 50% market share compared to the commercial offering (SAS, SPSS)

Keep the bottom line in black

Make User Experience a priority

ISO 9241-210  standard defines user experience as 
"A person's perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service"
The technology to achieve these result is not new. It is based on the teachings  of The Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab . Quote:
The Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab creates insight into how computing products ... can be designed to change what people believe and what they do
There is no other field in computing so ripe for this change. 

Generate and collect "Aha" testimonials

Ask: How do  you go from "I'll try this out" to "This is amazing"?

Seed for follow up business

Your body language must say all the time the same invisible words: "We are nice people to do business with."

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