[Beowulf] Manchester Guardian column on Cray and Windows HPC

Lux, James P james.p.lux at jpl.nasa.gov
Thu Oct 9 08:45:07 PDT 2008

        From: beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org [mailto:beowulf-bounces at beowulf.org] On Behalf Of John Hearns
        Sent: Thursday, October 09, 2008 7:38 AM
        To: beowulf at beowulf.org
        Subject: [Beowulf] Manchester Guardian column on Cray and Windows HPC

        As a Guardian reader, I have been reading the Thursday Technology supplement for many years.
        On the train this morning, I opened it to find Jack Schofield has an article on Windows HPC and the
        Cray deskside supercomputer.

        Has Jack been reading the Beowulf list?

>From the article:
"For example, Faenov says Excel 2007 supports "transparent parallelism", so that an HPC machine can speed up everyday workflows in financial institutions where they have spreadsheets that take hours or even days to run. (Crazy, I know.)"

No doubt, those models were used to do interesting things like calculate expected risk of default for the multiple tranches in various securitized debt obligations.  I'm not sure that, philosopically, more speed is good in this area.  It's one thing for a mathematical proof to be so big only a computer can do it (e.g. 4color map theorem), or when you want to run numerical models of weather or fluid dynamics.  At least in those areas, there's a fair amount of work that goes into validation of the underlying numerics.

Excel, on the other hand, is probably not the best tool in the world for hard core numerical analysis (what with *interesting* phenomena like the famous  850*77.1= 100000 bug, ... Yes it was fixed, but it's not like there's some rigorous verification of Excel's computations that's available for inspection)http://www.lomont.org/Math/Papers/2007/Excel2007/Excel2007Bug.pdf has an explanation

And, as it happens this particular HPC application space (long running spreadsheet calcs) does exist.  Many years ago, my sister had a job at a bank where part of the task was running Lotus 1-2-3 worksheets on a PC that took hours to recalc on a PC/AT. I actually contemplated designing and building an ECL IBM PC emulator for this market, but then Intel came out with the 386, etc.. Much better system solution to solve it in silicon.


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