Supplying Hardware for the Hyper-Scale War

By Derrick Harris

April 28, 2008

You can try to hide from cloud computing, but let’s be honest: As the ecosystem continues to define itself, there’s just far too much going on for cloud computing to fly under the radar. Currently, we are seeing the base of that ecosystem solidify, as big-time vendors are beginning to emerge as the “arms dealers” supplying the hardware that will power these seemingly unstoppable clouds.

It should come as no surprise that IBM, who with its Blue Cloud line is leading the cloud charge in large part, also was the first to make a big announcement of a line of servers directly targeting cloud computing. With its new iDataPlex line, IBM is allowing owners of massive distributed datacenters to fit more servers in their racks while saving significantly on the power and cooling fronts. When combined with IBM’s Tivoli-based Blue Cloud software, customers are ready to be serious players in this emerging market.

But IBM isn’t alone. In fact, I spoke last week with Dell, who has its own plans to dominate hyper-scale datacenter landscapes worldwide. Formed in March 2007, Dell’s Data Center Solutions (DCS) division started as a way to address the specialized needs of the company’s Internet search customers (three of the top five in the United States), and now serves what it calls the hyper-scale market — cloud computing/Web 2.0 service providers and users deploying 5,000-plus-node HPC clusters. The DCS business actually is quite simple, says Todd Brannon, market development manager for DCS, in that the division does “very intimate” consulting with its customers and then integrates the resultant designed-to-order equipment into their environments.

And DCS isn’t hurting for either ambition or business. “We’re absolutely determined to be the best, kind of honest arms dealer for folks who are trying to build these hyper-scale environments,” said Brannon. “So far, we’re really [experiencing] a lot of success.”

Like IBM, the servers Dell’s DCS supplies its cloud customers are optimized to fit the demands of the market. In fact, Dell’s solutions are designed to meet the specific demands of each customer. Because of the varying natures of their applications, Brannon says every customer has its own ideals in terms of power supply, fans, and CPU:RAM:disk capacity ratios, and they don’t want to pay a feature tax for components they’re not going to use. Dell’s standard PowerEdge servers, for example, are often far overprovisioned for what Web 2.0 customers need. All operating in x86 hyper-scale environments, Brannon says DCS’s customers simply want low memory costs for big footprints and high-performance, low-power processors.

With Dell’s “COTS-plus” model, he says, customers can be assured they’re getting the best components “out of the entire universe of available parts,” as well as Dell’s expertise in power and thermal control and overall systems engineering. “We could shave 30-40 percent off the power profile in a single system,” he said. The result, Brannon claims, is a shorter implementation time due to less validations and overall development; higher density, if needed; and millions of dollars in OPEX savings if you’re deploying tens of thousands machines and running them for a few years — not an uncommon occurrence among major Web sites and services.

Although the real magic behind cloud computing is in the software, Brannon says hardware is critical for business offering computing as a service, or simply those needing to power their highly trafficked portals or social networking sites, because it’s what drives a good portion of their costs. “For customers in this space, the datacenter is really their factory,” he analogized. “If you think about Google, they’ve got somewhere around the order of 300,000-400,000 systems in production and datacenters all over the place, and that’s what drives a good chunk of their OPEX, at least if you looked at their search P&L.”

Even smaller Web presences like MySpace (as well as HPC customers in industries like financial services and oil & gas), he said, have a significant portion of their overhead related to the datacenter. “To the degree they can shave power consumption out, they can really impact their bottom line quite directly,” he said.

On the software side, Dell feels it just as well positioned as all-in-one competitors like IBM. This confidence comes in large part from Dell’s stable of technology partners, which includes PAN Manager purveyor Egenera. “It’s kind of early days, in a lot of ways in cloud [computing],” Brannon says. “IBM has Blue Cloud out there, but if you took what we have with Egenera, VMware, and Altiris and put them together, it’s the same type of capability in terms of being able to offer a customer all the components they need to put together their own compute cloud for internal use.” Most of the Internet giants pushing cloud-based services to the masses utilize their own homegrown software, he noted.

As its customers moved into the hyper-scale world, DCS realized it also could save them money by coming up with some different service models. As opposed to the traditional model, where technicians are on-call and responding to server problems in near real-time, the massive scale of cloud environments allows for a more laidback attitude. Brannon says DCS generally puts a “parts cage” in customers’ facilities so their systems administrators can make repairs, and Dell sends a technician out once a week on a “milk run,” or scheduled on-site service, just to make sure everything is running smoothly.

DCS also offers capacity on-demand services to end-users who need more machines and don’t have anywhere to put them, but Brannon assured me Dell hasn’t taken the plunge into becoming a public cloud service provider. We’re watching the space, he said, but the current model is “if they come, we will build it.”

Overall, Brannon says Dell sees serious potential in cloud computing and the subsequent need for hyper-scale infrastructures — citing as evidence a statistic claiming 500,000 people worldwide get on the Internet for the first time every day — but although it has done some deep-thinking exercises on the future of computing, the company isn’t ready to drastically alter its business model just yet. “Dell gets it,” he said. “We understand that cloud computing is a paradigm that is going to continue to grow and is going to continue to make more and more sense as [data] transport gets cheaper and as compute power becomes easier to control in a virtualized environment. … [I]t definitely opens up a lot of questions for us, but for right now we’re really focused on being the best infrastructure provider we can.”

Dell has launched a blog called “In the Clouds: Condensing Ideas on the Future of Cloud Computing” in order put its thoughts out in the open and stimulate discussion among cloud stakeholders.

Two down, two to go, right? With IBM and Dell officially coming out as cloud arms dealers, Sun Microsystems and HP can’t be far behind. The conventional wisdom, actually, is that Sun’s family of technologies, from Solaris to SPARC, is ideal for hyper-scale environments, so, especially given Sun’s track record with being on the cutting-edge in terms Internet technologies, I’m somewhat surprised we haven’t seen them directly attack this market yet. Obviously, there are (and will continue to be) smaller hardware vendors out in the market peddling their wares as the most advanced weapons available, but the consensus seems to be that it will be the stalwarts who really benefit from the cloud computing arms race. In the (albeit biased) opinion of Dell’s Brannon, the tier one providers can always catch up technologically, and their advantages in terms of supply chains and global footprints likely will be too much for smaller players to overcome.

Of course, the cloud ecosystem is diverse, and while companies like Dell and IBM are providing the base hardware, there is a whole slew of very specific service providers emerging, as well. In another cloud-based feature, Dennis Barker looks at some of the companies whose business models are to a great degree anchored in Amazon Web Services, particularly EC2. From RightScale to Enomaly to Elastra, the startup scene is laden with companies trying to both simplify your EC2 experience and let you take full advantage of its high-performance, scale-on-demand capabilities.

Elsewhere in this week’s issue, be sure to check out the following noteworthy items: “3Tera Intros Cloud Computing without Compromise”; “Sun Helps ISVs Do SaaS with ‘Solaris On Demand’”; “Terracotta Licenses Hyperic IT Management Technology”; “Kapow Rolls Out On-Demand Mashup, Web Harvesting”; “Government Technologists Concerned with Slow SOA Adoption”; “StrikeIron Introduces IronCloud”; and “RightScale Raises $4.5M to Advance Cloud Development Platform.”

—–

Comments about GRIDtoday are welcomed and encouraged. Write to me, Derrick Harris, 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!

House Bill Seeks Study on Quantum Computing, Identifying Benefits, Supply Chain Risks

May 27, 2020

New legislation under consideration (H.R.6919, Advancing Quantum Computing Act) requests that the Secretary of Commerce conduct a comprehensive study on quantum computing to assess the benefits of the technology for Amer Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

$100B Plan Submitted for Massive Remake and Expansion of NSF

May 27, 2020

Legislation to reshape, expand - and rename - the National Science Foundation has been submitted in both the U.S. House and Senate. The proposal, which seems to have bipartisan support, calls for giving NSF $100 billion Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Boosts Deep Learning Accuracy on Memristive Chips

May 27, 2020

IBM researchers have taken another step towards making in-memory computing based on phase change (PCM) memory devices a reality. Papers in Nature and Frontiers in Neuroscience this month present IBM work using a mixed-si Read more…

By John Russell

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even in the U.S. (which has a reasonably fast average broadband Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hats Over Hearts: Remembering Rich Brueckner

May 26, 2020

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Rich Brueckner. His passing is an unexpected and enormous blow to both his family and our HPC family. Rich was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on April 12, 1962. His Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Computational Fluid Dynamics on AWS

Over the past 30 years Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) has grown to become a key part of many engineering design processes. From aircraft design to modelling the blood flow in our bodies, the ability to understand the behaviour of fluids has enabled countless innovations and improved the time to market for many products. Read more…

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the dominant primate species, with the neanderthals disappearing b Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

$100B Plan Submitted for Massive Remake and Expansion of NSF

May 27, 2020

Legislation to reshape, expand - and rename - the National Science Foundation has been submitted in both the U.S. House and Senate. The proposal, which seems to Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Boosts Deep Learning Accuracy on Memristive Chips

May 27, 2020

IBM researchers have taken another step towards making in-memory computing based on phase change (PCM) memory devices a reality. Papers in Nature and Frontiers Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Q1 Earnings Top Expectations, Datacenter Revenue Breaks $1B

May 22, 2020

Nvidia’s seemingly endless roll continued in the first quarter with the company announcing blockbuster earnings that exceeded Wall Street expectations. Nvidia Read more…

By Doug Black

Microsoft’s Massive AI Supercomputer on Azure: 285k CPU Cores, 10k GPUs

May 20, 2020

Microsoft has unveiled a supercomputing monster – among the world’s five most powerful, according to the company – aimed at what is known in scientific an Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC in Life Sciences 2020 Part 1: Rise of AMD, Data Management’s Wild West, More 

May 20, 2020

Given the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive enlistment of major HPC resources to fight the pandemic, it is especially appropriate to re Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Epyc Rome Picked for New Nvidia DGX, but HGX Preserves Intel Option

May 19, 2020

AMD continues to make inroads into the datacenter with its second-generation Epyc "Rome" processor, which last week scored a win with Nvidia's announcement that Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hacking Streak Forces European Supercomputers Offline in Midst of COVID-19 Research Effort

May 18, 2020

This week, a number of European supercomputers discovered intrusive malware hosted on their systems. Now, in the midst of a massive supercomputing research effo Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

AMD
AMD
ASROCK RACK
ASROCK RACK
AWS
AWS
CEJN
CJEN
CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
IBM
IBM
MELLANOX
MELLANOX
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
SIX NINES IT
SIX NINES IT
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL
WEKAIO
WEKAIO

Contributors

Fujitsu A64FX Supercomputer to Be Deployed at Nagoya University This Summer

February 3, 2020

Japanese tech giant Fujitsu announced today that it will supply Nagoya University Information Technology Center with the first commercial supercomputer powered Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tech Conferences Are Being Canceled Due to Coronavirus

March 3, 2020

Several conferences scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, including Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC) and the Strata Data + AI conference, have Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Exascale Watch: El Capitan Will Use AMD CPUs & GPUs to Reach 2 Exaflops

March 4, 2020

HPE and its collaborators reported today that El Capitan, the forthcoming exascale supercomputer to be sited at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and serve Read more…

By John Russell

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cray to Provide NOAA with Two AMD-Powered Supercomputers

February 24, 2020

The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last week announced plans for a major refresh of its operational weather forecasting supercomputers, part of a 10-year, $505.2 million program, which will secure two HPE-Cray systems for NOAA’s National Weather Service to be fielded later this year and put into production in early 2022. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Supercomputers Run Simulations Illuminating COVID-19, DNA Replication

March 19, 2020

As supercomputers around the world spin up to combat the coronavirus, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is announcing results that may help to illumina Read more…

By Staff report

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