I am back home from SC ’07, my fifth Supercomputing conference. I saw some really impressive new technology from market leaders old and new. I heard remarkable claims and forecasts from analysts, pundits, and marketing flacks alike. I learned a lot, and contributed what I could.
Yet at this conference, full of the so-called thought leaders in high-performance computing, I once again ran into many instances of unthinking knee-jerk Microsoft bashing. While much of the IT world has come to grips with the fact that Microsoft (like gravity) is likely to be around a while, the Supercomputing crowd still has some holdouts. Literally, I heard people claim that “nobody” would use Windows for high-performance computing (provably incorrect), and that positive coverage of Microsoft’s HPC offerings was “bought, not earned” (unsubstantiated rubbish). Another blogger in this field (John West of insideHPC.com) told me that he’s had “…readers take the time to send me an email saying they would never read my stuff again if I kept covering MS’s CCS products and their entry into HPC positively.” What?!?
It is amazing to me the level of religious ferver that Microsoft still inspires. The bashers out there can be perfectly calm and reasonable about a wide range of topics – but say the word “Microsoft,” and they turn bright red and irrational. I have watched this phenomenon for years, and still find it inexplicable. Microsoft is a company. That company makes software. Some of their software is very, very good. Some of it is remarkably bad. I don’t understand why some people find it so hard to remain objective (or even civil) when discussing their products and market presence.
Many Microsoft bashers think that all of us at Digipede are mouthpieces for the Evil Empire, and that we are just pawns of the Microsoft machine. On the other hand, while we have plenty of fans within Microsoft, there are also some Microsoft employees who think we are difficult annoying troublemakers (especially me).
In fact, none of us at Digipede love or hate Microsoft – we work with Microsoft. We do so for real-world business reasons that help us change the world for the better while building a great company. We work with other companies too, but Microsoft occupies a special place in the technology landscape, and we work very, very hard to understand how to work with them to our mutual benefit. There are some great people there doing great things, and the bashers only hurt themselves by blinding themselves to these very real contributions.
Microsoft’s HPC initiatives in the past three years have greatly increased their presence in the HPC market at a time when that market is expanding rapidly. Their HPC offerings have some advantages and disadvantages compared to other products in the market, and should be evaluated on those terms. Microsoft bashing lowers the level of discourse to a useless level, at a time when we can all benefit from a more objective and reasoned discussion of how they affect our market.
I’ll stop there for now, and climb into my asbestos suit…