Firm launches with supercomputing appliance

Criterion HPS steps forward with a small, mobile and energy-efficient high performance computer

A new player in the supercomputer field steps into the market this week with the strategy of pushing computing power beyond the edges of the cloud.

Criterion HPS, of Vienna, Va., is launching a new product, the Phantom, this week as part of its coming out party as a separate company under the Criterion Systems Inc. umbrella.

Criterion began incubating the supercomputer company in 2007 when it took on a project for a classified customer.

“We found an unsatisfied need for high-performance computing out on the edge of the cloud,” said Michael Dillard, president and chief operating officer of Criterion HPS.

The result of that work is a small supercomputer that can fit inside an unmanned aerial vehicle. With an onboard supercomputer, the UAV can process the information it is collecting from various sensors or even other UAVs and then beam it to the ground, Dillard said.

This allows important intelligence data to get into the hands of users much more quickly, he said.

The latest iteration is the Phantom and it delivers more than one teraflop of processing power and has 16 terabytes of internal storage. All of that is packed into a chassis that measures 5.25 inches by 17 inches by 19 inches. It weighs 50 pounds and can run off a single 110 volt-20 amp circuit.

The company is marketing the device as a very green product because of its low energy consumption and low cooling requirements.

Another driver for a compact supercomputer is the growing complexity of software packages, particularly analytics, Dillard said.

The company is working with software developers such as SAS Institute and ESRI, which load their software on the device and then fine-tune it. The device is then sold as Criterion appliance running SAS or ESRI, he said.

“Most software firms are looking for appliances,” Dillard added. “Look at Oracle and Sun. Companies are starting to combine hardware with their products because it makes it easier to install and tune.”

The company sees software developers are an important go-to-market strategy along with working directly with large system integrators.

In addition to the edge of the cloud applications, Criterion also sees demand for this kind of computing power in areas such as computer forensics, electronic discovery and genomics research.


About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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