The iPhone Effect

Author: Dave Jackson, CTO Adaptive Computing

For years, HPC, grid, and other compute management technologies have lumbered forward, attempting to harness the massive compute power of modern data centers and deliver this power to a variety of workloads. Whether modeling the weather, delivering the latest movie to your tablet, or determining the interest rate on your next auto loan, managed compute centers impact every aspect of our modern lives. The solutions to managing these systems were highly focused on delivering the best intelligence, flexibility, control, and optimization possible. These were the metrics by which success or failure was measured.
Comparing workload management solutions involved looking at the competing policies, algorithms, and options of each contestant to see who came out on top. Perhaps it was a challenge to install and configure the solution. Perhaps the tool could not be used without taking a one week course. Perhaps end users needed to have a general Linux background to make sense of the environment, but that was the price to pay so as to leverage a cutting edge machine.
It’s funny how Apple could change an industry it wasn’t even participating in… but it did. The iPhone changed expectations for a new generation of HPC users. Like the user of HPC, the user of an iPhone is leveraging data center and cloud technology. They are installing and launching applications. They are inputting data and processing results … and they are being very productive. True, they may be running Instagram or sending tweets, but they are being very effective in using the infrastructure to send tweets. There is no down time, and there is no ‘coming up to speed’. They know what they want to accomplish, and with no training, they utilize this massive cloud infrastructure.

What’s amazing is that they are being productive without ever knowing what is happening behind the scenes. A 6 year old child can install and run Angry Birds without any knowledge of the complexities of the compute backend. A smartphone is powerful and yet, engaging with it is so simple that there is no requirement for a user manual.
Not only has Apple shown it is possible to abstract away the compute platform, it has actually changed expectations. New users of HPC and data centers come into the world expecting everything to mirror their smartphone experience. Suddenly, ease of use is king!
The HPC world has not been slacking, but the ‘iPhone Effect’ is causing a shift in priorities, from powerful algorithms to ease of use. True, Apple is only part of the motivation for the shift. HPC is front and center everywhere the world over, penetrating every major industry and facet of life. Users of these systems are required to be ‘subject matter experts’ in order to be productive, in order to know what needs to be understood and evaluated. However, the need to be a cluster expert or Linux expert, or OpenStack expert is not a requirement… not with the proper interfaces in place.
This is the new priority in workload management, a system so simple that a child can install it and a novice can use it. A system so simple that it requires a subject matter expert to know his subject matter, know his inputs and outputs, and nothing else. A system with familiar graphical interfaces which can be leveraged anywhere at any time. A system which requires no user manual because it is that easy.
The game is changing and this is the new target. Adaptive is making great strides in ease-of-use with ‘click’ base installation and an infinitely simplified end user experience… and we’re just getting started. HPC, cloud, grid, and everything else must be abstracted away. It must disappear from the minds of the end user. The end user must be allowed to focus solely on what they need to accomplish, not how to accomplish it. Hiding these complexities is the secret to the next break out in the use of these ever more powerful compute platforms.