Brunei, a country rich in oil and gas, is facing a crisis. Their oil & gas reserves are rapidly running dry and expected to be depleted within 2 decades. Their deep dependency on oil and gas, once the boon of their economy, is now the bane of their future.
Since 2000, I have been in and out of Brunei and got involved in several engagements there. It is a wonderful and peaceful country with friendly people, always welcoming visitors with open hearts. The country has prospered for decades, with its vast oil riches but in the past few years, the oil prices have been curbed. The profits of oil and gas no longer justify the costs of exploration and production.
2 years ago, I started pitching a new economy generator for the IT partners in Brunei. One that I believe will give a country like Brunei the ability to leapfrog their neighbours in South East Asia, which is to start build a High Performance Computing (HPC)-as-a-Service (HPC-as-a-Service) type of business.
Why HPC? Why do I think HPC will give a developing country like Brunei super powers in the digital economy?
There is a lot of innovations happening in HPC right now. For decades, HPC was confined to traditional industries such as Oil & Gas, Manufacturing Design, Health & Life Sciences and other worldly scientific applications. However, in recent years, new applications related to Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning/Deep Learning, Analytics are bringing sexy to HPC, and it is exciting to see these new developments.
Everybody is doing cloud computing these days. AWS, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure are on everyone’s lips, and Alibaba Cloud is doing its world domination, starting with several Asia South countries including Malaysia and Indonesia. But the generic cloud platforms and cloud services are not going to help developing countries such as Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam become world beaters and great innovators in their digital economy transformation. Yes, it will help the economies of these countries to grow in some exponential ways, but it will not have that multiplier effect that HPC could bring.
Several Asian countries are now investing heavily in HPC. Some of the projects are in Japan, China, Korea and Singapore. 2 of the fastest super computers in the world are from China, as of the November 2017 Top500 list. Japan Open Innovation Lab have RIKEN and Tsubame 3.0 AI super computers. Korea have EXObrain and Deep View projects. China’s Baidu has one of the largest AI teams in the world and Singapore announced the AI@Singapore initiative – a USD110 million project funded by their National Research Foundation to power their economy into the next generation of digital innovation and acceleration.
Investing in HPC development will become the catalyst to developing countries with both direct and indirect benefits. The technology advancement could bring countries to be on-par, and probably even surpass the developed countries with innovations and breakthroughs in research and development. It will definitely escalate these countries with a high level of intellectual development in various industry sectors, bringing a large pool of technology talents and human resource. In addition, there are going to be spill-over effects that would benefit the economic and social development of the country.
HPC-as-a-Service, which I mentioned earlier, can also be “exported”. It does not have to be confined to the country’s borders. As long as data sovereignty law applies, data can be processed and computed in HPC platforms procured for the high performance data processing and computing, and the applications that run on the HPC platforms.
I am beginning to see uptick in the interest of Cray, nVidia, HPE SGI and Intel Lustre in the past 12-18 months, and it is a good thing. But for countries which still very dependent on natural resources such as Oil & Gas, in the likes of Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, HPC and Super Computing could be the economic booster – one that can give them the leapfrog effect in the race to become a developed nation.
My company, Katana Logic, is in talks with ThinkParq. They are the creator and the purveyor of BeeGFS, a leading parallel cluster file system, developed with a strong focus on performance and designed for very easy installation and management. We are also working with Mellanox, to complete the next-generation low latency, high throughput networks that power most HPC implementations in the world. I have blogged about RDMA, the protocol that Mellanox is very good at to achieve the high performance networks.
As we go through the motion to be certified and sales-ready, we hope to become the HPC consultant for upcoming HPC projects in the South East Asia region. BeeGFS and Mellanox are a good combination, and with our prowess in storage technology, the pieces of the jigsaw are coming together.
I am a great believer that when you push the boundaries, and when you test to break the limits of boundaries, you become greater than what you can be.