Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

HPC Users Mull Licensing Issues

Software licensing is a major hurdle in the development of ultra-high end supercomputers, warned execs at this weeks High Performance Computing User Forum at the Oak Ridge National Lab.

A number of organizations are currently shifting to what are described as "petascale" machines -- supercomputers with the capacity to perform a thousand trillion operations a second (a petaflop) (see Oak Ridge Plans Petaflop Supercomputer). But, in order to build these monsters, users are boosting their processor capacities, potentially into the tens of thousands, creating a software licensing headache.

Many software packages are priced on a per-processor basis, which poses a real dilemma, according to one supercomputing site manager from the U.S. government sector, who asked not to be named. “It’s a problem,” he said. “We’re reaching a point where software becomes much more costly than hardware.”

The exec is concerned about the possible impact on his internal users, particularly when he shifts applications to a larger number of processors. “What we don’t want [is for] users to crash because there’s no license (in place).”

Andrew Jones, high-end computing development manager at Manchester University, echoed these fears. “The current assumption is that petaflop [supercomputers] will be thousands of processors,” he says. “Your software licensing costs might be a few thousand dollars now, but they will be millions of dollars then.”

  • 1