Peer 1: Supercomputing holdouts will embrace hosting

Vancouver-based managed service firm Peer 1 Network Enterprises Inc. says 2011 will be the year that supercomputing tasks begin moving off-site to managed services players.

This summer, the company began offering cloud-based graphical processing units (GPUs) at its newly opened Toronto hosting facility. The firm’s offering, which is powered by Nvidia Corp.-hosted GPUs, can allow oil and gas, financial, 3D modeling and pharmaceutical companies to farm out their graphical processing needs to Peer 1.

The company said that GPU-intensive apps like graphic rendering, quantitative processing, and genetic sequencing has typically been deemed “too complex” to run off-site by large organizations.

“I see supercomputing as the last holdout,” said Robert Miggins, senior vice-president of business development at Peer 1. “These companies say ‘this is really complex stuff and we should leave this to the experts in-house.’”

Miggins said Nvidia first connected with Peer 1 on the project after hearing from a variety of its customers who were looking to add more GPUs, but scale back on hardware.

“Gradually we’ve seen larger enterprises get more interested,” he added.

Peer 1’s strategy comes at the same time when Autodesk Inc. — a company which builds highly specialized and compute intensive software for engineering, architecture and 3D firms — is making its own push toward moving all of its software to the cloud.

At its annual user conference last month, Autodesk said it envisions a world in the near future where leaders on engineering or construction projects will be able to access all of their designs and processes for a given project in the cloud.

But while the company’s cloud push is expected to be well received by many of its customers, Autodesk CEO Carl Bass said the move to the cloud could be a tougher sell for its biggest customers.

“The largest customers are not the sweet spot right now,” he said in response to a question from ComputerWorld Canada. He added that while some large customers have embraced the concept, many still want to build out their own data centres and rendering farms.

Miggins suggested that this hesitance will start to change in the coming year, as IT teams faced with shrinking budgets will look toward any solution that gets them away from buying new hardware.

In fact, he added, Peer 1 heard this sentiment expressed among Autodesk’s own customers as the company was the only hosting provider to set up a booth at the engineering software firm’s conference.

In addition to the focus on moving its software to the cloud, Autodesk also spent a great deal of energy hyping iPad and Android-based versions of its software for mobile workers.

Miggins said the mobile trend has also impacted the hosting business as app developers are starting to realize the benefits of hosting their custom built apps with global data centre providers.

He said that an enterprise with workers scattered all over the world would benefit from a hosting provider with data centres in a variety of markets. In that scenario, Miggins said, mobile workers would be connected into their organization’s hosted apps quickly even when working overseas.

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