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January 10, 2011

Key Trends on the Horizon for HPC Clouds in 2011

Scott Clark

As we begin a new year, it’s time to take a look at the current environment and try to determine the shape of what’s to come. So to kick off 2011, let’s begin with some predictions of things to come in 2011 for HPC and the computing industry in general.

One-year predictions however, must be about things that are already underway, so these may not be “predictions” to everyone, but these can, at the very least, serve as commentary on the shape of things to come.

While it would take a novel-length manifesto to go into depth about the following points, we can at least identify a host of key trends to watch as 2011 unfolds.

Infrastructure Management Evolution

• Infrastructures are reaching a capacity and complexity point that manual intervention no longer makes sense. Much like we don’t write machine code to execute programs, we will generate policy, and policy will execute low level constructs at the system level to implement changes

• Events that were previously not policy criteria begin to be integrated into management schema. Storage performance tiers (IOPS, throughput, capacity), compute performance tiers (over clocked, latest generation, core width, GPGPU), network performance tiers (IB, 10GbE, 1GbE), contiguous memory footprint are examples of criteria integrated into policy decision trees.

• Virtualization performance inefficiencies are partially addressed, allowing HPC environments to consider use of virtualization.

Network Evolution

• WAN bandwidth approaches commodity pricing

• Usage models evolve to thin clients with data hosted from centralized, consolidated datacenters. While this may seem to not directly apply to the HPC market (most HPC shops have been doing thin client for years), the efforts and research in this space may enable very different futures provided sufficient success.

• Significant efforts are invested in data centric cached distribution models.

• Thin client software will evolve to present a more real time experience, narrowing the gap between remote execution and local execution performance.

• Device aware content delivery progresses. There will be work invested in sensing the configuration of the client device to determine the quality of the experience.

Compute Evolution

• Overclocking goes mainstream. This year we will see a couple different flavors of overclocked solutions emerge to allow a premium performance option on the compute front.

• Larger variety of performance tiers. There will need to be accommodations on the provisioning side to allow for computational performance specification (overclocked, bin1, bin2, GPGPU) and prioritization.

• DRAM capacities catch up (finally), but sill lag on the performance side.

Storage Evolution

• SSD technologies integrate into enterprise storage solutions. This will add a performance component that has been sorely missing in spindle based solutions.

• File systems start to look at performance characteristics and capacities of components as a storage decision criteria. Additional work will be invested in historical tracking of access patterns in order to fully flush out this capability.

• Storage solution start taking part in policy based solutions. Policies will enable real time creation of cache copies of oversubscribed data sets, will constrain workload use of saturated file server resources, will migrate data to higher capacity, lower performing storage based on policy at a file, directory, or volume level.

Business Evolution

• IT is recognized as a business enabler. Business will reassess how IT is funded, staffed, and reports
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• Continued growth of infrastructure drives reassessment of acquisition and management practices (getting too big, too complex with linear growth).

• Internal IT organizations will evolve to address transforming into a management function, looking to outsource significant portions of technology consumption.

• Purpose built clouds emerge to address specific business vectors. Over time, consolidation of these clouds can occur to accomplish additional cost benefit with the guidance of customer businesses.

This rounds out the list of what to watch in 2011 and provides some insight about some of the emerging trends in this rapidly-evolving space. While some of these movements may be well underway, we can expect to see greater maturation of clouds as a whole this year—for high-performance computing and beyond.