The Sweet Sound of Grid Computing

By By Brooklin Gore, Contributing Author

August 15, 2005

Many of you likely remember being challenged on your first day of philosophy class with the question: “If a tree falls in a forest but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Today's philosopher might better engage students by asking: “If a PC is sitting on a desk, but no one is around to use it, does it make a sound?” The answer is a resounding “yes” — if that PC is on the Grid.

Grid computing allows for the coordination and sharing of distributed hardware resources — like enterprise desktop PCs — which opens up new solutions for complex computing problems. This article discusses how small, incremental investments in desktop PC performance will yield dramatic benefits in an enterprise Grid computing environment. You will also get an answer to your burning question: “What the heck does the sound of a PC have to do with Grid computing?”

An increasing number of enterprises are experimenting with Grid computing; production applications are being deployed every day. However, many of these “Grid” deployments simply couple a distributed resource manager (like Condor) with a cluster of dedicated machines. The real Holy Grail of Grid computing involves tapping the vast legion of desktop PCs, oftentimes referred to as “shared” machines because the compute cycles available to a Grid application must be shared with the primary owner of that machine. This type of Grid design is often called opportunistic computing.

And what an opportunity it is. Consider that a collection of 10,000 PCs acquired over the last four years (not all brand spanking new, high-end systems, mind you) can have an aggregate Floating Point Operations Per Second (FLOPS) rating on the order of 5 teraflops. Compare that to the world's fastest supercomputer (IBM's BlueGene/L as of June 2005) at 136 teraflops. Said another way, a 5 teraflop computer would rank 57th in the Top 500 List of Supercomputers. Not a bad showing for just “gluing together” the computing power of the thousands of PCs found in many enterprises. And gluing together individual computers to form a unified computing resource is just what Grid software does. Granted, you can not solve exactly the same types of problems that high-end, purpose-built machines can, but a Grid's aggregate kiloflop rating is indicative of the computing work that can be accomplished.

Now simply gluing a bunch of PCs together into a “supercomputer” with Grid software is kind of like having a bow without an arrow. A Grid without applications is as useless as a bow without arrows! While computer applications can, and obviously have for years, run without the benefit of a Grid, the Grid lends speed and power to computer applications as a bow adds speed and power to arrows.

When you envision (or better yet, deploy) a Grid harnessing thousands of desktop PCs in your enterprise, interesting ideas will surface. You will find applications whose job queues can be broken into hundreds or thousands of parts that can be worked on simultaneously. You will consider many possible solutions to problems that become feasible with a thousand workers. You will deploy two, three, four of these applications which now consume two, three, four thousand desktop PCs. And then you will have the revelation that occurs to every bow hunter in bear country: If a long bow is good, a compound bow is better — much better. And there is no learning curve. You are immediately more capable.

Consider the long bow vs. compound bow analogy in terms of enterprise desktop PC performance. Many enterprises use a tiered PC procurement strategy based on the following reasoning: Most workers can get by with a pretty basic machine (a single processor and a little memory), some folks require more power (a faster processor and more memory), and a small number of workers — like engineers, designers and planners — might need beefy machines with two processors and lots of memory. If you are a Grid application developer and have a choice of running your application on these three types of machines, which would you prefer? The highest-performance ones, right? Unfortunately, because of today's typical PC procurement strategy, those machines are the most scarce. However, depending on the Grid application, PC performance may no longer be a matter of preference, but one of necessity. In fact, in 2005 alone, this author deployed three Grid applications that required fast machines with lots of memory.

Recent discussions with another large enterprise revealed that limited desktop PC performance was actually delaying a shift from cluster Grid computing to opportunistic Grid computing for “short data, long compute” applications. If you are considering deploying an opportunistic enterprise Grid, you may wish to update your PC procurement process. Consider two primary changes: 1) consolidate from three performance classes to two by eliminating the low-end tier, and 2) upgrade each PC to a minimum memory content of 1GB per processor — an amount that experience shows is sufficient for hosting Grid applications with minimal impact on the machine owner.

Aligning your PC procurement strategy to optimize Grid performance provides several benefits. Every machine that is replaced with a higher-performance machine increases the overall capability of the enterprise Grid. The expense of upgrading the enterprise Grid is incremental and avoids a more expensive mass upgrade. The incremental cost of purchasing more capable machines will be offset by enhanced productivity of the primary machine owner. As you deploy computationally intensive Grid applications on an enterprise Grid of performance-enhanced desktop PCs, you will reap unprecedented benefits from your IT investment. This author's experience attests to that fact. You will also begin running those desktop PCs at aggregate CPU and memory utilization rates never before reached.

And now for the answer to your burning question: Today's PCs have CPU temperature sensors and variable speed cooling fans. The more a CPU is used, the hotter it becomes. The hotter the CPU becomes, the faster the fan runs. Some users have never heard their PC's fan run until their machines started running Grid applications! So, yes, a PC does make a sound when no one is around — if it's on the Grid.

About Brooklin Gore

Brooklin Gore is a senior fellow with Micron Technology Inc., a manufacturer of semiconductor products including DRAM, flash and image sensors. Gore has been researching and implementing enterprise Grid technologies for the past four years to create Micron's global Grid infrastructure, which runs over 20 production applications today. In Gore's 17 years with Micron, he has served as product engineer, computer-aided design group manager, network manager and general manager of Micron's Internet Services Division. Gore has been issued several U.S. patents and is a senior member of the IEEE. He holds Bachelor of Science degrees in computer science and electrical engineering from the University of Idaho and a Masters of Science in computer science from the National Technological University.

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!

Hyperion: AI-driven HPC Industry Continues to Push Growth Projections

November 21, 2019

Three major forces – AI, cloud and exascale – are combining to raise the HPC industry to heights exceeding expectations. According to market study results released this week by Hyperion Research at SC19 in Denver, Read more…

By Doug Black

At SC19: Bespoke Supercomputing for Climate and Weather

November 20, 2019

Weather and climate applications are some of the most important uses of HPC – a good model can save lives, as well as billions of dollars. But many weather and climate models struggle to run efficiently in their HPC en Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Microsoft, Nvidia Launch Cloud HPC Service

November 20, 2019

Nvidia and Microsoft have joined forces to offer a cloud HPC capability based on the GPU vendor’s V100 Tensor Core chips linked via an InfiniBand network scaling up to 800 graphics processors. The partners announced Read more…

By George Leopold

Hazra Retiring from Intel Data Center Group, Successor Not Known

November 20, 2019

Rajeeb Hazra, corporate VP of Intel’s Data Center Group and GM for the Enterprise and Government Group, is retiring after more than 24 years at the company. At this writing, his successor is unknown. An earlier story on... Read more…

By Doug Black

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU-accelerated computing. In recent years, AI has joined the s Read more…

By John Russell

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

Data Management – The Key to a Successful AI Project

 

Five characteristics of an awesome AI data infrastructure

[Attend the IBM LSF & HPC User Group Meeting at SC19 in Denver on November 19!]

AI is powered by data

While neural networks seem to get all the glory, data is the unsung hero of AI projects – data lies at the heart of everything from model training to tuning to selection to validation. Read more…

SC19 Student Cluster Competition: Know Your Teams

November 19, 2019

I’m typing this live from Denver, the location of the 2019 Student Cluster Competition… and, oh yeah, the annual SC conference too. The attendance this year should be north of 13,000 people, with the majority attende Read more…

By Dan Olds

Hyperion: AI-driven HPC Industry Continues to Push Growth Projections

November 21, 2019

Three major forces – AI, cloud and exascale – are combining to raise the HPC industry to heights exceeding expectations. According to market study results r Read more…

By Doug Black

At SC19: Bespoke Supercomputing for Climate and Weather

November 20, 2019

Weather and climate applications are some of the most important uses of HPC – a good model can save lives, as well as billions of dollars. But many weather an Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hazra Retiring from Intel Data Center Group, Successor Not Known

November 20, 2019

Rajeeb Hazra, corporate VP of Intel’s Data Center Group and GM for the Enterprise and Government Group, is retiring after more than 24 years at the company. At this writing, his successor is unknown. An earlier story on... Read more…

By Doug Black

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU Read more…

By John Russell

Top500: US Maintains Performance Lead; Arm Tops Green500

November 18, 2019

The 54th Top500, revealed today at SC19, is a familiar list: the U.S. Summit (ORNL) and Sierra (LLNL) machines, offering 148.6 and 94.6 petaflops respectively, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ScaleMatrix and Nvidia Launch ‘Deploy Anywhere’ DGX HPC and AI in a Controlled Enclosure

November 18, 2019

HPC and AI in a phone booth: ScaleMatrix and Nvidia announced today at the SC19 conference in Denver a joint offering that puts up to 13 petaflops of Nvidia DGX Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann Read more…

By John Russell

SC19: Welcome to Denver

November 17, 2019

A significant swath of the HPC community has come to Denver for SC19, which began today (Sunday) with a rich technical program. As is customary, the ribbon cutt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann Read more…

By John Russell

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

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