Maui Discussion

LETTER: Maui High Performance Computing Center is a Disaster

July 1, 2011, 4:40 PM HST
* Updated September 2, 10:34 AM
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Opinion pieces, analyses and letters are intended to provide a diverse range of views from our community. They are not intended to represent the views of Maui Now.

The following reader letter is in response to our story, UH Alliance Pursues Maui High Performance Computing Contract.

MHPCC Mana largest Supercomputer on the South Maui

MHPCC officials unveil the Mana, the largest Supercomputer on the South Maui campus. The Supercomputer was dedicated in August of 2009, doubling the center’s computing power. File photo by Wendy Osher.

I think the UH rebid will be successful. Whether right or wrong, there’s a lot of inertia behind maintaining the status quo. Any company capable of winning against the incumbent would hopefully possess the level of acumen necessary to avoid the MHPCC like the disaster it is. And speaking of disasters, I think the Pacific Disaster Center should lend its name to the computing center and find a new one for itself.

The MHPCC is a stunning example of cargo-cult thinking — if we build a big enough computer, important jobs will come. But that thinking is backwards — the key to nurturing innovations in supercomputing is creating an environment for innovative PEOPLE, not innovative computers. You can’t call 1-800-“Dude, you’re gettin’ a supercomputer!” to make magic happen. In fact, it really doesn’t matter where on earth the physical computer is installed. The internet works, let’s stop pretending it doesn’t exist. Speaking of supercomputing, I would love to know how much “computing” has happened at the MHPCC in the last decade. I’m guessing it’s equivalent to 89-cents of Amazon EC2. Ok, that’s not fair. I can’t compare the MHPCC to EC2. After all, Amazon doesn’t have to pay the highest electric rates in the country. Why on Earth would they do that? Really, why would they? One more time for dramatic flair… Why would Amazon install a computing facility on an island with the highest electric prices in the US? Oh yeah, they wouldn’t, because that would be insane!

I guess I’ll just go ahead and say it… the MHPCC is indefensible as a practical concern. It was born and nurtured by a man every American should feel proud of. But the political winds will shift, and his support will not be part of the MHPCC’s future. The center cannot stand on its own — it has no raison d’etre, no reason to exist.

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Even if weren’t for the death knell of the monthly power bill, there is the center’s toxic culture. A culture that somehow manages to kill any good ideas or projects that come its way. The cancer that is the security department exercises Orwellian control through fear of reprisals. It maintains its power with indiscriminate and unmeasured personnel actions in the guise of policy enforcement. It has tendrils in the leadership and lives and breathes through personal relationships in the defense security service. This metastatic disease cannot and will not be cured. Any company wishing to inherit this mess is clearly misguided.

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I don’t know much about the rebid, and I don’t know which companies have dogs in the fight. I don’t want to know. I’ve seen dogs fight over a dirty diaper and it’s disgusting.

You don’t need a supercomputer to predict the weather in Kihei — it’s not going to be much different tomorrow than it was today. Tomorrow it will be 80 and sunny, and it doesn’t matter who’s in charge of the MHPCC because it’s going to suck for most of the same reasons that it does today.

Good luck to the companies wishing to unseat UH from its control of the MHPCC. May God grant each of you the divine favor of an unanswered prayer.

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-Captain Obvious

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