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May 25, 2010

The Cloud Forecast for HPC: Preview of ISC’10

Nicole Hemsoth

While cloud computing is certainly not a brand new, cutting-edge movement, this year there’s been an increasing amount of news about HPC and the cloud. Compared to this time last year, general news releases related to cloud computing from companies in all areas of HPC — from storage vendors to application developers — are becoming more frequent. This means it’s an exciting time to sit back and observe the transformation and watch as one vendor after another adds to a suite of cloud-based offerings to diversify and stretch the ability to reach scientific and large-scale enterprise clients.If the recent uptick in the amount of news on a daily basis related directly to HPC and cloud is any indication, the next year will bring an even richer set of announcements aimed at providing infrastructure and software as a service for researchers and those involved in any number of enterprises.

There are other signs that cloud computing and HPC are meshing together at a rapid rate, one of which can be gleaned simply by scanning the list of exhibitors who are expected to attend the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) that will be held in Hamburg, Germany from May 30th to June 3rd. While many of the exhibitors have had a presence in the past, this year it’s remarkable just how many of them actually have news to share on the cloud front. In fact, well over half of the companies on the show floor have at least one item of significant interest for HPC and cloud.

The cloud connection will be hard to ignore, even at a venue that’s been the traditional gathering place for general supercomputing in research and enterprise. This year, the floor will be bustling with vendors, end users, and organizations of all sizes as it hosts a record-breaking attendance list that includes 25 percent more advance registrants than last year.

Since this publication will have a presence and provide live, in-depth coverage of the event with newsmaker interviews, timely blog posts, and analysis of announcements and revelations, it seemed appropriate to present an overview of what organizations will be present and what they hold of value in terms of HPC and cloud.

Clouds Over Hamburg: What We’ll be Watching at ISC 2010

The following is a list of some of the exhibitors that will be in Hamburg for ISC with a brief description of what they have available for those interested in the cloud space as it relates to HPC. The list is not comprehensive by any means, if that was attempted it would leave no time to pack and read reviews of Hamburg restaurants — both of which are required. Suffice to say, this is more of a pre-ISC highlights just for those hoping to tune in to coverage of the event to see how cloud is being addressed by the international HPC community.

Adaptive Computing – Adaptive Computing is no stranger to HPC or cloud and is one of many companies that will be present at the conference with feet in both waters. Of great interest are its Moab line of HPC products that provide solutions for standard and cloud-based HPC as well as its work with particularly noteworthy HPC and cloud projects, including their work with the financial services industry and its large-scale computing needs.

Altair Engineering – Founded in the late 1980s, Michigan-based Altair Engineering straddles the line between traditional HPC services and cloud in terms of its on-demand offerings that appeal to those in engineering among other specializations. The company’s PBS Grid Computing division is of particular interest as is the on-demand model for the company’s widely-used HyperWorks product.

AMD – You might not have expected to see them listed here since the focus of this list is on companies with more significant cloud computing offerings, but take one look at this AMD blog post about the nearly 2 million Opteron processors that are engaged in cloud clusters. A chat with AMD might reveal a side to HPC in the cloud that we have yet to consider in depth.

Arista Networks – A pioneer in the data center Ethernet switch industry, Arista partners with several cloud computing initiatives including Greenplum Software to help them implement 10GbE networking on the grand scale for private cloud environments.

BCC Group – A German software company with distinct focus on the financial services industry, the BCC Group might provide some interesting information about providing software as a service for their target market. Although it appears that most of their offerings are not delivered via the cloud, an analysis of some of their strategic partners looks promising. More to come on this company as discussions follow.

Blade Network Technologies – Blade markets 1 and 10 Gigabit Ethernet blade switches in addition to RackSwitch products, VMready network virtualization and Smart Server Control software with distinct focus on the enterprise data center. 

BlueArc – Specialists in storage and data management for enterprises. One of the reasons why BlueArc is at the top of the list is because of their reach into several areas relevant to HPC, including life sciences, oil and gas, government, and even entertainment. Of particular interest are their Titan and Mercury Series servers as well as more generally, their virtualization framework and virtualized storage pools with parallel RAID striping. Discussions with BlueArc will likely revolve around the topic of diverse uses of virtualized servers in the HPC space.

Boston Limited – Of interest will be Boston Fenway Virtualization Solutions and discussions about their carbon-cutting efforts in the context of virtualization. This may be more of an ethereal chat about topics that are a little off their radar but it will be interesting to see if Boston Labs has any news on the cloud front.

Bright Computing – Specialists in the cluster management software and services for HPC (Bright Cluster Manager is the one that springs to mind) this San Jose, CA-based company provides its products and services to several universities and institutions. Of special interest is the application of their Bright Cloud Manager software in private, hybrid and public cloud environments—this has not yet been released but hopefully we will be able to gain some insight about the process during the conference.

Chelsio Communications – I first saw a connection between cloud computing and Chelsio in the announcement about a seminar on 10GbE converged network and storage technologies and what this means for cloud computing. The company’s Director of Application Engineering has significant experience with cloud and storage architectures and has patented several products aligned with his research areas. In the very overview of their company, Chelsio states that massive data centers, equipment density and power consumption are more critical than ever and “at the same time, cloud computing and server virtualization are driving the need for more uniform designs than the traditional data center architectures can offer.” Agreed, Chelsio—hope to see you there.

ClusterVision – This Netherlands-based company has designed and implemented several large-scale clusters and has built several complex computational, storage, and database clusters in Europe and the Middle East. Of particular interest is the grid-enabling of clusters for HPC as well as their theory on this process. Conversations with ClusterVision will likely revolve around the grid, which as we all know is very closely associated with what we are covering here. Also of interest is the company’s subsidiary GridVision, which offers virtual laboratories, making testing and development a bit more within reach.  Since so much of their news is centered outside of the United States they are not always on our radar but hopefully we will be able to pick up some news about this interesting company as it has its tentacles spread far across traditional HPC.

DataDirect Networks – DDN is not a newcomer to the HPC space; they are considered to be storage specialists for big data operations, including markets like financial services and airlines as well as genetic sequencing. This company has significant offerings in the cloud storage and HPC space. Would like to spend time discussing DDN Cloud Storage Environments for what they call “Extreme Storage” for large-scale computational tasks on a centralized cloud infrastructure.

Dell – Stopping by to meet and greet folks from Dell is definitely on the to-do list with the hopes that we can have a discussion about the PowerEdge C6100. For starters, to see why this is of extreme interest to HPC and the Cloud, view Barton’s Dell blog to see a post (aptly entitled “The HPC and Cloud Machine“) where there is a video tour and discussion.

eStella Creative Consultants – This consulting group, which is based in New Mexico, will be discussing eStella, which is a GPU accelerated cloud service that has been designed to “democratize high performance computing to all strata within the scientific and engineering research communities allowing for greater innovation, faster computations, and low costs to those previously excluded from access to high-performance computing” and so yes, amen, looking forward to a chat.

Force10 Networks – Headquartered in San Jose, California, Force10 Networks is on the priority list for the visit to ISC to look at practical HPC in the cloud environment. The self-described focus of the company is on the “high performance solutions that are designed to delivery new economics by virtualizing and automating Ethernet networks.” While this can describe several other companies in the space, one of the reasons why Force10 Networks has been on the radar for some is because of their host of well-written, insightful, and somewhat sales-overkill white papers that do an excellent job of discussing the challenges of cloud computing networks among other topics relevant to HPC and cloud more generally. The emphasis of this company is definitely cloud-driven and hopefully we will have the chance to talk to some of their representatives who are well-versed on this topic as it relates to HPC in the cloud.

Fujitsu – This has been the official year of Fujitsu in the cloud. With the recent release of their own cloud platform and expanded array of offerings for the manufacturing industry’s leap to the cloud, this company could provide some valuable insights about providing IaaS and about their industry specialization.

Gridcore AB (Gompute) – Gompute is a high performance computing on-demand service that is run by its parent company, Gridcore AB. There are a host of reasons to explain why it would be worthwhile to sit down with representatives from Gridcore AB, but most of them are directly related to the Gompute HPC Cloud Platform, which is used by the likes of Saab among others. Of interest would be to learn how other industries are making use of high-performance computing in an on-demand fashion and what the company sees coming next in the arena.

Hewlett-Packard – HP has been making some major announcements of interest to the HPC and cloud community as of late, all of which are aligned with their view that we are shifting toward an “everything as a service” society—both in terms of HPC and mainstream computing. HP’s interests are best aligned with the large-scale enterprise, especially in terms of their enterprise cloud software platform, Cirious. It will be interesting to chat with the company about new areas of research and ways that they are seeing customers leverage their products in the HPC and large-scale enterprise space.

IBM – This one is kind of a no-brainer, isn’t it? If not, skim our “This Just In” section for about 20 seconds to see why. Lots of acquisitions, lots of news on the enterprise cloud front. IBM is poised to become one of the biggest players in cloud and HPC for industry and science and is willing to bet billions on it. Literally.

Intel – There are about a million questions that one could ask Intel, but since time will be limited and they’ll be among some of the most popular kids at the party, I’ll have to keep it short and limit the discussion to one key item of interest—the Single-Chip Cloud Computer.

Isilon Systems – Based in the UK, this company designs and sells systems and software for digital content and other unstructured data, including audio, digital images, computer models, and test or simulation data. They have a wide array of clients in oil and gas, manufacturing, the life sciences, and other areas. Of particular interest is the possibility that they might take advantage of the cloud to handle these massive chunks of data for reasons of scalability and cost. If limited time is available, I would like to discuss how customers have deployed Isilon scale-out NAS to power enterprise cloud infrastructure as some, including SoftLayer, have done in recent weeks.

Mellanox Technologies – Mellanox has been a continuous newsmaker as one of the leading suppliers of end-to-end connectivity solutions for servers and storage. The company also has made a significant amount of news on the HPC and cloud fronts and has a large selection of materials on its website dedicated to discussing virtualization, and Infiniband in light of its line of products and services. Ideally, conversations with representatives of this company would revolve around Infiniband and cloud computing — low hanging fruit, sure, but there is quite a bit to discuss in this arena.

Microsoft – You saw this one coming, didn’t you. Again, as with some of the other major players with a presence at ISC, the news keeps pouring out from different angles — Azure, supercomputing for everyone, Windows HPC Server — the fun never stops.

NextIO – This Austin, Texas-based company is another in the I/O virtualization market for data centers. At issue will be the vConnect Platform which offers the ability to virtualize I/o technology on any server, OS, hypervisor and storage architecture and cutting the need to over-provision resources. This will be a great company to talk to about the sexy side of HPC — big cost savings without performance lags.

Numascale – Numascale just released some news that was timed nicely with this article and will make for some interesting conversation at ISC. Between demonstrations, one might hope we can find time to discuss NumaConnect, which enables scalable servers for quite a bit less in terms of cost of typical enterprise SMP systems. This technology provides one system image to a cluster of x86 commodity servers by providing support for virtualization of processing, memory and IO.

NVIDIA – Aside from making PC gaming even more of an immersive experience than it was to begin with (okay, will leave the personal asides out for now) NVIDIA’s Tesla will be one of the stars of the show this year at ISC. Most of my discussions with this company will be centered on some of the applications of NVIDIA’s GPU technology in a more generalized sense. In addition to discussions about their RealityServer, Cloud 3D, here will probably be some hopping and clapping on my end as this is just some really, really cool stuff.

Oracle – This might be another one of those “well, of course” spots on the circuit as I peruse the offerings on the HPC and cloud front at ISC, but it’s certainly for good reason. Before grid was grid and cloud was becoming a major force in the industry, Oracle has been a key player. Conversations with Oracle would be focused on the future of cloud — the big issues.

Panasas – There has been a lot of talk lately about how the future of cloud storage is NAS. A company specializing in high performance scale-out NAS storage for enterprise with the PanFS storage operating system that is in use in several sectors, including energy, government, finance, manufacturing, bioscience, and others. One particular subject that would be of interest is Panasas NAS Storage for Los Alamos National Laboratory — at least for a case study. Since HPC in the cloud needs to look for end users and case studies on the storage front, Panasas seems like a good starting point, even though there are other key players in the same space with many of the same solutions. This company has not released news in quite some time so it will be interesting to see what their trajectory will be in coming months.

Penguin Computing – A recognized player in integrated HPC clustering solutions, Penguin has extended its reach across industries beginning with its Beowulf Cluster architecture and leading up to its Penguin On-Demand cloud computing service. Just today Penguin made an announcement about its expansion into the European market with news that it has made strategic partnerships with Life Technologies and several other European research, academic, and engineering organizations, including the Fraunhofer Institute. Penguin has experienced some remarkable growth with a 35 percent uptick last year and — get this — 300 percent growth in the first quarter of this year alone. It will be worthwhile to get to the heart of their success and see what they’re doing differently in HPC and cloud.

Platform Computing – Platform Computing is another company with its roots in cluster and grid management software and with an ever-expanding presence in HPC and cloud. Platform’s partners include other major industry leaders, including Cray, Dell, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft among others. Of particular interest at ISC discussions will be Platform ISF, which creates provide cloud infrastructure to help manage application workloads across several virtual and physical platforms. While Platform’s CEO, Songnian Zhou will not present at the conference, we have an in-depth interview with the founder appearing in early June.

ScaleMP – ScaleMP delivers software for virtualizing and aggregating x86 systems, even in the cloud, into larger CPU and memory configurations to add computational boost during critical times of need. One of the best ways to demonstrate why ScaleMP’s insights will be useful is to take a look at the vSMP Foundation for Cloud that fully describes how HPC and cloud have been at odds, what challenges exist, and how it is possible to overcome some of these issues. Although it is certainly a piece written to explain the concept to potential buyers, it will likely form the basis of any discussions we have at the conference.

SGI – Another recognizable name in HPC, of course, especially in the scientific computing arena. SGI has a number of interesting offerings in terms of virtualization and cloud. The topic of discussion will most certainly center on SGI’s Cyclone, which offers cloud computing for technical applications. Their IaaS and SaaS offerings are geared toward scientific and engineering markets in particular as Cyclone supports many widely-used applications in computational fluid dynamics, finite element analysis, computational chemistry and materials, and computational biology among others.

Supermicro – Specializing in application-optimized server solutions, Supermicro presented a discussion and demonstration of its cloud-optimized Twin architecture server solutions for HPC in Bejing in April that caught some attention and is worth discussing further in addition to their other offerings.

And the List Continues

Companies like QLogic, T-Platforms, Versant, and Voltaire are others who didn’t get the mention they deserved here in hindsight but still, if you’ve skimmed through this list you’ll see that the division between the cloud and HPC is shrinking. By next year’s conference it will be interesting to gauge how many others have jumped on board and entered into the cloud race.

For now, let this serve also as a guide to coverage for the event. You are now armed with an overview of what companies you’re likely to see discussed during the conference and as always, you’re welcome to send along specific questions you’d like to hear addressed or direct any comments about companies that may not have been mentioned here.

Stay tuned for live coverage of the event beginning next week…

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