Getting to Know: Mike Woodacre

November 06, 2017 • Staff Writer • Blog Post


  • Former Chief Engineer at SGI, Mike Woodacre, sheds light on HPE's acquisition, as well as the market driver behind HPE Superdome Flex
  • As businesses are bombarded with data daily and only creating more it can be difficult to extract real value from this information in real-time
  • HPE Superdome Flex is designed to organize data and anticipate computing needs to help businesses make immediate adjustments to improve efficiency

Distinguished Technologist Mike Woodacre shares his team's journey to build the most scalable and modular in-memory computing platform

The world's most scalable and modular in-memory computing platform, HPE Superdome Flex, is poised to transform the hybrid IT environment for enterprises of any size.

But what was its genesis?

Hewlett Packard Enterprise's acquisition of SGI last November positioned the company to accelerate the development of new solutions in the fast-growing high performance data analytics segment of the server market. And as a Distinguished Technologist at HPE, Mike Woodacre, formerly a Chief Engineer at SGI, recounts in this Q&A a blended team of engineers and scientists hit the ground running as soon as the deal closed.

The result of their efforts? HPE Superdome Flex.

Can you share your professional journey, up until the HPE acquisition of SGI?

Mike: I started working in microprocessor design in the UK in the 1980s, and then spent a decade living in Silicon Valley. Over time, I transitioned to working on systems design, including SGI's first distributed shared memory product, the Origin2000. It was groundbreaking work -  leveraging research from Stanford University and became the foundation of our path to memory driven computing.

As my role transitioned from working directly on the technology to becoming a Chief Engineer at SGI, I spent more time with customers - understanding the challenges they face and the opportunities presented to them by advanced technology.

I was happy when HPE and SGI came together, because I knew we were working on parallel paths. And that we could make something even better than either company could do on its own.

Was Superdome Flex your first project with HPE?

Mike:Yes. Right after the deal closed, we got to work on our product roadmap. It was really exciting because I could see that our SGI and HPE engineering teams were very much aligned on the technology direction.

In this business, not every acquisition goes well. But this one has been pretty smooth. By combining the companies, we've been able to accelerate the sum of the parts. Fundamentally, HPE Superdome Flex is a combination of products each company was already working on. Together, we made it that much better.

What was the market driver behind the development of Superdome Flex?

Mike: Businesses are swamped with data - whether it's operational, social, driven by instruments or simulations or sensors. And it increases every day. They have all this data, and they want to extract value from it. That's the driving force - to gain real-time insights by looking at the associations between all of your data, very quickly.

You don't want a report that tells you what your business did last month. You want one about how your business is doing today, to make adjustments that shape your business immediately. And the fastest way to do that is through an advanced in-memory database system.

What do you expect customer reaction to HPE Superdome Flex will be?

Mike: I think they will really like it. Building on the mission critical heritage from HPE Integrity Superdome X, the key is really in the "Flex" part of the name.

You can start with a relatively small unit, say a 4-socket building block with less than 1TB of memory, and you can scale up to 32 sockets and 48TB of memory. And potentially, even higher. HPE Superdome Flex will scale as your business scales. We've got a decade of innovation ahead of us with this architecture.

It gives you the flexibility to start small and grow incrementally - without having to invest in a large, monolithic infrastructure that you may never use. So, it shouldn't be seen as a technology that's just for the very largest multinational companies.

It's been quite a year for you. What's next on the horizon for high performance and mission critical computing?

Mike: We're very excited to get this first product out to the market. But there's so much more to come. As large memory technology continues to develop, the use cases will broaden as more industries take advantage of very large memory sets with tremendous speed.

The people on our team driving this technology have decades of experience in high performance computing systems. They are very passionate in what they do, and have come together well, despite the challenges you always face in bringing any system to market, combined with the challenge of merging teams through the acquisition.

Our customers can be confident that there's a strong future ahead as we bring to market more innovations that will address their most challenging needs.