The Grid-Based Proof-of-Concept Project

By By Rich Wellner, Contributing Author

July 18, 2005

My previous couple of articles, “Getting a Direction in the Sea of Grid” and “Preparing for the Grid,” dealt with the process of beginning to address the advantages of Grid computing in an enterprise setting. With some of those first steps out of the way, the next step is to determine the efficacy of a Grid solution in a way that doesn't expose the business to an overly large risk. As with other flavors of IT, one good way to do this in the Grid space is with a proof-of-concept (POC) project.

There are many different descriptions using the word “Grid” out in the marketplace of ideas. As Pawel Plaszczak and I pointed out in our book Grid Computing: The Savvy Manager's Guide, while it is useful to consider a data Grid, compute Grid, instrument Grid, partner Grid, enterprise Grid or any of the other flavors talked about in various venues, it is also worth keeping in mind that these are really subsets of the larger thing known as “the Grid.” A financial firm creating an Internet-based Grid application that uses many compute resources is often referred to as a compute Grid. While this is certainly true in the common vernacular, it is also true that many of these applications run on a public network, use open protocols and demonstrate non-trivial levels of service. Thus, it is also accurate to say that it is an application on the Grid at large. In effect, the financial firm is a business creating a virtual organization and using resources on the Grid. The distinction can be important when discussing proof-of-concept (POC) projects because, while the concepts of data Grid or compute Grid may be handicaps in building an enterprise Grid solution, they are of great benefit when scoping a POC project. An enterprise architect might be missing the boat by thinking about compute Grids and failing to take advantage of the ability of the broad array of solutions available in the larger Grid space. That same architect can, however, use the smaller scale of a compute Grid point solution to demonstrate some key capability and prove out an idea before investing large amounts of time and money into a full Grid solution.

Currently, most POC efforts are taking place surrounding the areas of compute Grids and data Grids. These two areas are prime targets for a number of reasons:

  • Most intuitive.
  • Most existing literature.
  • Many products to chose from.
  • Easy to demonstrate smaller scale solutions.


Compute Grid POCs

There are many organizations that would benefit from the application of Grid technology. Among the most long-standing, with examples dating back to the beginning of the industry, are those that make use of an enormous amount of compute power. Within this group, there are two broad classes of applications: those that are embarrassingly parallel (e.g., those applications that execute the same instructions over many pieces of data); and those that run on a cluster and require a lot of communication between various pieces of the application (e.g., Message Passing Interface (MPI) applications). For each of these, the fashion in which one constructs a POC is a little bit different.

Embarrassingly Parallel Applications

In an embarrassingly parallel application, the primary goals for the POC are to demonstrate the discovery of available resources and the mechanisms used to distribute jobs to the various resources. The bulk of the POCs being done at this time answer the discovery part of the equation by either scavenging CPU time from various desktops around a lab or using an existing farm or cluster to demonstrate CPU provisioning in a dedicated shared facility. The various advantages and disadvantage of scavenged CPU versus dedicated shared CPU is beyond the scope of this article, but it is worth noting that many of the world's top IT organizations are choosing to go the path of dedicated shared CPU for manageability reasons. As the global IT marketplace is currently going through another round of desktop consolidation, it isn't clear what the ongoing support for scavenged CPU will be.

The embarrassingly parallel POC will, once the resources have been cataloged in the system, dispatch jobs to the available resources and gather the results. Compared to serializing these kinds of jobs on a typical computer, or even supercomputer, the improvement in turn-around time for this class of application can be quite startling.  We've seen applications that took 15 hours to run be completed in 15 minutes by distributing the work among many nodes.

Even in the POC, the advantages of a compute Grid for embarrassingly parallel applications are easily demonstrable. If a single node takes 15 hours, two nodes 7.5 hours and eight nodes a bit under two hours, then the concept of using Grid technology has been quite well proven for that application. There is no need to deploy a 64-node farm to demonstrate the concept.

Cluster Applications

Many people confuse clusters with Grid computing, so it is worth repeating here that a cluster is not a Grid. A cluster is a resource on a Grid. As such, there are some interesting demonstrations that can be done making clusters available via a Grid infrastructure like Globus.

As with embarrassingly parallel applications, the goal of the POC is to demonstrate discovery of resources and execution of jobs on those resources. Broadly speaking, this is what all execution management is about. In the case of the cluster application, the resource is simply a cluster instead of an individual node. In a POC of such applications, it isn't necessary to have many nodes in each cluster. In fact, a single physical cluster will often times be logically partitioned into multiple smaller clusters. This allows the 128-node system to be viewed logically as four 32-node clusters. With various tools, these individual clusters can be made to appear available for jobs or not, with the dispatch of jobs demonstrated to the stakeholders in the project.

Data Grid POCs

The compute Grid POC process is pretty interesting because there are a couple different ways to go about proving value for the enterprise. Similarly, with data Grid POCs, there are the reasonably distinct goals of “fire and forget” and “high speed transfer.”

Fire and Forget

One interesting piece of the Globus Toolkit is a service known as Reliable File Transfer (RFT). RFT is designed to allow a user or application to request that a set of files be moved, and then leave RFT to do the actual provisioning of that data movement. Interested parties can then check back to see the status of the requests. This is a great facility in situations where links are slow and there are many files to move. It is also a pretty good demonstration in the lab.

What a POC on this front can do is tell RFT about two days worth of data to move and then walk away. When the demonstration completes many thousands of transfers over the course of a few days, people can intuit the power of the service. Similarly, pulling the plug between a pair of machines and then, the next day when the cable is reconnected, have the transfers resume as if nothing had happened is also a cool way to show the robustness of the platform.

High Speed Transfer

GridFTP is a protocol for doing high efficiency data movement across fast WAN connections. A POC on this front can consist of demonstrating other transport protocols and GridFTP across the same link. GridFTP, because of it's support for handling real world packets drops in an efficient manner, will outperform most older mechanisms by a wide margin in many of these tests. Another way to demonstrate this without blasting data down a production WAN is to build a WAN simulator in a lab. These kinds of tools also have the advantage of presenting a controlled failure in the network layer. It is really compelling to do a demonstration of a long WAN transfer and be able to show that even if the number of packet errors is increased substantially, there is only a modest decrease in GridFTP througput. Again, these results can be compared to something like naïve FTP or other transfer protocols.

While there can be a lot demonstrated in print, there is something very useful about going through the steps necessary to build a POC like those above. Understanding what it takes to install the software, configure the systems, manage the demonstration and administer the various services to the point of being able to successfully demonstrate this kind of functionality is a powerful tool for proving that Grid technology is capable of meeting the challenges at hand.

About Rich Wellner

Rich Wellner is the enterprise architect for Univa Corp., specializing in Globus solutions for large-scale challenges.  He is the author, with Pawel Plaszczak, of the upcoming book Grid Computing: The Savvy Manager's Guide. He can be reached at [email protected].

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Mira Supercomputer Enables Cancer Research Breakthrough

November 11, 2019

Dynamic partial-wave spectroscopic (PWS) microscopy allows researchers to observe intracellular structures as small as 20 nanometers – smaller than those visible by optical microscopes – in three dimensions at a mill Read more…

By Staff report

IBM Adds Support for Ion Trap Quantum Technology to Qiskit

November 11, 2019

After years of percolating in the shadow of quantum computing research based on superconducting semiconductors – think IBM, Rigetti, Google, and D-Wave (quantum annealing) – ion trap technology is edging into the QC Read more…

By John Russell

Tackling HPC’s Memory and I/O Bottlenecks with On-Node, Non-Volatile RAM

November 8, 2019

On-node, non-volatile memory (NVRAM) is a game-changing technology that can remove many I/O and memory bottlenecks and provide a key enabler for exascale. That’s the conclusion drawn by the scientists and researcher Read more…

By Jan Rowell

What’s New in HPC Research: Cosmic Magnetism, Cryptanalysis, Car Navigation & More

November 8, 2019

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Machine Learning Fuels a Booming HPC Market

November 7, 2019

Enterprise infrastructure investments for training machine learning models have grown more than 50 percent annually over the past two years, and are expected to shortly surpass $10 billion, according to a new market fore Read more…

By George Leopold

AWS Solution Channel

Making High Performance Computing Affordable and Accessible for Small and Medium Businesses with HPC on AWS

High performance computing (HPC) brings a powerful set of tools to a broad range of industries, helping to drive innovation and boost revenue in finance, genomics, oil and gas extraction, and other fields. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Atom by Atom, Supercomputers Shed Light on Alloys

November 7, 2019

Alloys are at the heart of human civilization, but developing alloys in the Information Age is much different than it was in the Bronze Age. Trial-by-error smelting has given way to the use of high-performance computing Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

IBM Adds Support for Ion Trap Quantum Technology to Qiskit

November 11, 2019

After years of percolating in the shadow of quantum computing research based on superconducting semiconductors – think IBM, Rigetti, Google, and D-Wave (quant Read more…

By John Russell

Tackling HPC’s Memory and I/O Bottlenecks with On-Node, Non-Volatile RAM

November 8, 2019

On-node, non-volatile memory (NVRAM) is a game-changing technology that can remove many I/O and memory bottlenecks and provide a key enabler for exascale. Th Read more…

By Jan Rowell

MLPerf Releases First Inference Benchmark Results; Nvidia Touts its Showing

November 6, 2019

MLPerf.org, the young AI-benchmarking consortium, today issued the first round of results for its inference test suite. Among organizations with submissions wer Read more…

By John Russell

Azure Cloud First with AMD Epyc Rome Processors

November 6, 2019

At Ignite 2019 this week, Microsoft's Azure cloud team and AMD announced an expansion of their partnership that began in 2017 when Azure debuted Epyc-backed ins Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Launches Credit Card-Sized 21 TOPS Jetson System for Edge Devices

November 6, 2019

Nvidia has launched a new addition to its Jetson product line: a credit card-sized (70x45mm) form factor delivering up to 21 trillion operations/second (TOPS) o Read more…

By Doug Black

In Memoriam: Steve Tuecke, Globus Co-founder

November 4, 2019

HPCwire is deeply saddened to report that Steve Tuecke, longtime scientist at Argonne National Lab and University of Chicago, has passed away at age 52. Tuecke Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Spending Spree: Hyperscalers Bought $57B of IT in 2018, $10B+ by Google – But Is Cloud on Horizon?

October 31, 2019

Hyperscalers are the masters of the IT universe, gravitational centers of increasing pull in the emerging age of data-driven compute and AI.  In the high-stake Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray Debuts ClusterStor E1000 Finishing Remake of Portfolio for ‘Exascale Era’

October 30, 2019

Cray, now owned by HPE, today introduced the ClusterStor E1000 storage platform, which leverages Cray software and mixes hard disk drives (HDD) and flash memory Read more…

By John Russell

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

DARPA Looks to Propel Parallelism

September 4, 2019

As Moore’s law runs out of steam, new programming approaches are being pursued with the goal of greater hardware performance with less coding. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency is launching a new programming effort aimed at leveraging the benefits of massive distributed parallelism with less sweat. Read more…

By George Leopold

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Intel Confirms Retreat on Omni-Path

August 1, 2019

Intel Corp.’s plans to make a big splash in the network fabric market for linking HPC and other workloads has apparently belly-flopped. The chipmaker confirmed to us the outlines of an earlier report by the website CRN that it has jettisoned plans for a second-generation version of its Omni-Path interconnect... Read more…

By Staff report

Kubernetes, Containers and HPC

September 19, 2019

Software containers and Kubernetes are important tools for building, deploying, running and managing modern enterprise applications at scale and delivering enterprise software faster and more reliably to the end user — while using resources more efficiently and reducing costs. Read more…

By Daniel Gruber, Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Debuts Pohoiki Beach, Its 8M Neuron Neuromorphic Development System

July 17, 2019

Neuromorphic computing has received less fanfare of late than quantum computing whose mystery has captured public attention and which seems to have generated mo Read more…

By John Russell

Rise of NIH’s Biowulf Mirrors the Rise of Computational Biology

July 29, 2019

The story of NIH’s supercomputer Biowulf is fascinating, important, and in many ways representative of the transformation of life sciences and biomedical res Read more…

By John Russell

Xilinx vs. Intel: FPGA Market Leaders Launch Server Accelerator Cards

August 6, 2019

The two FPGA market leaders, Intel and Xilinx, both announced new accelerator cards this week designed to handle specialized, compute-intensive workloads and un Read more…

By Doug Black

When Dense Matrix Representations Beat Sparse

September 9, 2019

In our world filled with unintended consequences, it turns out that saving memory space to help deal with GPU limitations, knowing it introduces performance pen Read more…

By James Reinders

With the Help of HPC, Astronomers Prepare to Deflect a Real Asteroid

September 26, 2019

For years, NASA has been running simulations of asteroid impacts to understand the risks (and likelihoods) of asteroids colliding with Earth. Now, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing for the next, crucial step in planetary defense against asteroid impacts: physically deflecting a real asteroid. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This