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Altair Interview with CIO Asia

Malaysian organisations of all sizes open up to High Performance Computing Though High Performance Computing (HPC) appears to be in the shadow of current buzzwords such as Cloud Computing, Mobile and Big Data in the Malaysian enterprise IT leaders' current agenda, Altair's vice president for APAC, Enterprise Computing, Rajesh Chhabra, said that adoption has been quietly increasing in Malaysia and across Asia.

Computerworld Malaysia asked him why and where HPC technologies are beginning to deliver benefits across different sectors and sizes of organisations at this time.
Founded in 1985, product and engineering design solutions firm Altair is headquartered in Troy Michigan USA with regional operations throughout 22 countries and a staff of more than 2,000 innovative employees. The Malaysia subsidiary is an MSC [Multimedia Supercorridor] Malaysia status firm.

To kick off, could you say why high performance computing technologies are important to businesses in Malaysia and Asia?
HPC technology, in many cases is the infrastructure backbone, making a difference in every aspect of doing business and thereby ensuring organisations stay ahead of their competition. Malaysia's prime industries such as Oil & Gas, Manufacturing, and Palm Oil Research are the domains where HPC makes a real difference.

Basically, HPC provides a robust platform, powering various application software and ensuring reduced 'time to market' through rapid product development cycle. Similarly in the case of Oil & Gas, which requires high accuracy of oil reserves prediction, HPC enables running complicated algorithms related to computer simulations of the earth samples and conditions to provide appropriate insights.

Many smaller organisations we've spoken to feel under-informed about High Performance Computing (HPC). Is the concept of HPC making any head way in Malaysia - and in Asia generally?

The HPC concept is definitely making a head way in Malaysia although at most times it gets lost amongst the popular buzz words like Cloud Computing and Big Data. It is when we examine carefully the problems being solved that we realise that the solutions are based on High Performance Computing concepts. HPC in Asia is at different stages of adoption in different countries, with Japan in clear lead.

The other countries are sure catching on, and quickly so, with mid-sized enterprises and R&D groups in Universities contributing to the growth.

So what sort of companies and business sectors can benefit from HPC solutions?

HPC is about accomplishing computing tasks faster, utilizing optimum resources, and keeping the cost of operations low.

For instance, if a task takes say 10 hours on a computer; HPC allows you to connect more computers and make them work in tandem, to ensure you complete it in one hour. It is not only about connecting random computers alone; it is also about making optimum utilization of the available resources through appropriate job allocation, CPU power and memory. And running multiple jobs on that same infrastructure as well to ensure reduced costs.

As mentioned earlier the Oil & Gas, Manufacturing, Palm Oil R&D institutes can greatly benefit from HPC solutions. Life science and Animation domains are the other popular sectors which make use of HPC successfully. It is an incumbent necessity for them to harness the power of HPC to stay ahead of the competition or even to just complete the amount of tasks in expected time frame to stay viable in the industry.

The Finance domain also has use of HPC technologies and we've seen Institutes related to finance and banking in Malaysia starting to make use of HPC.

Local smaller companies are seen to be very cautious when it comes to adopting new technology: on a scale of 1 of 10, how would you rate Malaysian businesses in accepting and adopting utility computing?

Malaysia traditionally in most cases figures either as a pragmatist or a conservative on the technology adoption bell curve, meaning it is willing to invest in matured stable proven technologies.

The change that we are seeing now is some organisations taking lead to be part of early markets, willing to experiment with newer hitherto, not so proven technologies. For HPC, on the scale of 1-10 of technology adoption, I feel the march has begun from 5 towards 10 already. The speed of this transformation will be a result of right partnerships and the level of confidence in the technology partners.

What evidence does Altair that HPC solutions actually work for smaller organisations?

Altair has successfully deployed HPC solutions, including in small and medium enterprises, worldwide, with customer base running into hundreds. HPC is not a want anymore; it is a natural fit to fulfil the advanced computing requirements that small and medium sized enterprises need. HPC allows smaller organisations to play in the "flatter world", competing with large enterprises and sharing common markets.

Most of these small firms are already using advanced workstations to perform Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) and use various other simulation software for engineering design. Often many of these firms miss out in competitive scenarios, not because of a lack of domain knowledge or engineering capabilities, but because they do not have the necessary infrastructure to ensure quicker turnaround times on the assignment.

Even in cases where the small firm is a sub-contractor for a larger engineering enterprise, it will increasingly require HPC infrastructure to deliver on time. Beyond engineering, there are also many smaller Life science organizations involved in a certain niche of the industry and use HPC to stay differentiated.

The good news is that many have realised this inherent need and are taking active steps to deploy HPC.

What advice would you give to companies that are considering adopting the HPC solutions?

For the right direction that these organisations have decided to embark upon, congratulations are in order. We also strongly encourage them to talk to multiple people in the know of this technology before deciding on the final solution.

While it can be an overwhelming experience learning a completely new jargon, it is equally important that the HPC Vendor too understands the domain requirements of the adopting organisation. Hence speaking to the right people is a critical first step in evaluating any specific HPC technology.

To handle this and give a jump start to Engineering SME, Altair has launched a solution where for a fixed annual fee we provide HPC ready Hardware with pre-installed and configured Software. It is called HyperWorks Unlimited. This solution allows companies to focus on their core strength - business domain. Meanwhile Altair takes care of their entire HPC needs - compute, storage, networking, software, services and more.

Many other vendors in the market are offering HPC solutions and services, how would Altair rate against similar providers?

Vendors in the market often specialize in limited offerings - they are either HPC hardware vendors, or HPC software specialists, or in some cases end user application vendors. Altair is uniquely placed in this market with its in-house developed HPC suite of products (PBSWorks), end user applications (HyperWorks for CAE, CFD, EM, etc.), and even a hardware appliance based solution (HyperWorks Unlimited).

With a strong 700+ in-house consulting team - one-third of Altair - using our own HPC resources of thousands of CPU Hours daily to power application development and provide engineering consulting worldwide; it is in itself a strong testimony to the robustness and reliability of our HPC solution. It also proves our credibility as a very strong HPC consultant in the market place.

Looking ahead: How do you think the HPC adoption landscape in Malaysia will change in years to come?

Malaysia has already embarked on steady adoption of HPC, with Oil & Gas, Life Sciences, and to an extent the Manufacturing sector, taking the lead. And the pace will pick up, thanks to the necessity to stay at the industry forefront as well as with the confidence in availability of stable technologies.

Increasingly, the Finance and Animation industries too are actively pursuing HPC adoption to meet their growing needs.

At Altair it is our effort to take lead in evangelizing and educating the market about HPC, and handhold organisations in establishing their own HPC infrastructure aligned to their respective business requirements. We also strongly believe that Malaysia can really benefit with more government funded HPC programs for various universities and even SMEs to fuel the growth.

See more at: http://www.cio-asia.com/tech/applications/malaysian-organisations-of-all-sizes-open-up-to-high-performance-computing-altair-interview/#sthash.KFBBGEOS.dpuf

About Altair
Altair is focused on the development and broad application of simulation technology to synthesize and optimize designs, processes and decisions for improved business performance. Privately held with more than 2,300 employees, Altair is headquartered in Troy, Michigan, USA, and operates more than 45 offices throughout 23 countries. Today, Altair serves more than 5,000 corporate clients across broad industry segments. To learn more, please visit www.altair.com.

Altair Corporate/Americas
Jennifer Korail