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May 31, 2010

HPC and OS Virtualization : Josh Simons at ISC

Nicole Hemsoth

Before the official start of the International Supercomputing Conference in Hamburg, Germany yesterday, there were a number of speakers who presented discussions for the HPC Advisory Council’s European Workshop.

The purpose of the HPC Advisory Council is, among other stated goals, to “bridge the gap between high-performance computing and its potential, and to bring the beneficial capabilities of HPC.” With this in mind, many of the presenters selected by the Council to speak on various topics did address broader issues related to improving the current state of HPC. In addition to its keynote speaker (including Richard Graham from Oak Ridge National Lab) and keynote session on the “Large-Scale Experience at the Julich Supercomputer Center” from Dr. Norbert Eicker, the one-day workshop event also featured some industry players, including representatives from Dell, HPC, Panasas, and others. 

For the purposes of our publication, it seemed that the discussion by Platform Computing’s Dr. William Lu was going to be the focus of an extensive post but while his presentation on Cloud through virtualization and HPC technologies was indeed interesting, the discussion about the future of virtualization in HPC from Josh Simons was among some compelling material as well.

Simons, formerly of Sun and now with VMware, talked at length about the host of complex issues surrounding virutalizing HPC. Simons is currently running a new HPC effort at VMware that revolves around this topic, although the exact details of what he is working on have not been revealed. Even still, Simons did not give a talk that was at all focused on any particular VMware-related solutions related to virtualizing HPC but instead presented a succinct overview of the challenges in this space, what the costs might look like and of course, what the return on such costs might yield.

The video above is from the introduction of the talk by Josh Simons, which introduces his understanding of how virtualization is used in the enterprise, how we can bring it to HPC, and what the opportunities are for virtualization in HPC. As Josh put it, his presentation was more of a statement of intent about the future of HPC and virtualization rather than a revelation about how it was currently being adopted. Simons stated that while he believes there is great potential for virtualization of the HPC space, it’s not capable of solving all of HPC’s issues across the board, just as other speakers during the day suggested. As Simons notes in the video of his introduction below, HPC is a diverse field and what’s happening at the mid-range and low end at the enterprise-level is far different from what’s being done at the high end. Accordingly, virtualization is not completely applicable now, thus this presentation is what Simons calls more of a “statement of intent” versus a direct statement about the progress of this at the current moment.

For more from Josh Simons on OS virtualization from the same presentation, view the video below: