At the Nexus of Grid, Cloud and HPC

By Dennis Barker

October 17, 2008

What’s the big difference between cloud computing and grid computing? The goal of cloud computing is to put system administrators out of work.

That’s one way of looking at it, at least. Steve Armentrout, CEO of Parabon Computation, says that was the perspective tossed out by a couple of Google and IBM reps at a panel discussion in which he recently participated. Armentrout suggests a less Dickensian way of looking at it: cloud computing is about “providing a datacenter that is fully automated.” (More on cloud versus grid later.)

Armentrout sees cloud and grid as complementary in some ways — bipartisan, you might say — but he is an unapologetic grid partisan — especially when it comes to his company’s collection of solutions. “We have no intention of changing our grid stripes,” he says. “What Parabon provides is grid software as a service. We enable individuals with grid applications to scale them across a large infrastructure without having to go out and buy hardware. They can just buy capacity as it’s needed. It’s a pay-as-you-go model.”

Basically, Parabon’s Frontier Grid Services offering is a high-performance computing utility. If you need a few thousand nodes to run a financial risk model or some other long and winding analysis, Parabon will hook you up to the resources you need. “We broker computation,” Armentrout says. Like its customers, the company doesn’t own datacenters. What it has is contracts with universities and institutions with big server farms and HPC clusters to aggregate their unused capacity. “All that compute power we use to provide computation on demand,” explains Armentrout.

There’s a lot of computational capability sitting around doing nothing, Armentrout says. “You often hear the estimate that standard servers are typically running at anywhere from 5 to 20 percent capacity. Just think of 80 percent capacity going to waste. Even in a virtualized environment, seldom do you see capacity usage at over 50 percent. All that idle capacity allows us to deploy across a university datacenter, for example, and execute large-scale jobs in the background. Frontier is our technology that lets us capture that unused capacity and make it available as a grid service.”

Parabon’s technology can be used, as just described, across worldwide “public” resources like campus networks — that’s the Parabon Computation Grid — but can also be applied to a company’s own network as the Frontier Enterprise Grid.
 
Parabon built its platform around the Frontier Grid Server, which provides grid services and shared resources to users and developers, whether using the Internet-based Parabon Computation Grid or an in-house Frontier Enterprise grid. The Frontier Grid Server manages execution of jobs across hundreds or thousands of compute nodes. “It can scale up to arbitrarily large grids,” Armentrout says. “Tens of thousands of machines.” Frontier always reserves excess capacity to handle unexpected scale-out demands, he says.

The Frontier Compute Engine is the agnostic agent application that runs on each grid node to actually do the work. It executes tasks only when the resource, the virtual machine in many cases, is not handling a primary task. “Frontier runs as a low-priority process,” Armentrout says, “so if running in a virtualized datacenter — a cloud, you could say — the Compute Engine backs off if a request comes in from the cloud application. It takes precedence. But when resources are not busy, we can fully saturate the datacenter during that unused period of time.”

For example, Parabon might have an arrangement with a research facility in Australia to use its cluster when the scientists are home at night. That could be prime work time for scientists on the other side of the globe. That’s when Frontier could saturate compute nodes to calculate solutions more quickly.

Parabon just released a browser-based interface called the Dashboard that provides an intuitive front-end to the Frontier Grid Platform. “It lets you easily monitor a job, kill a job, assign resources, plus some back-office and accounting functions like looking up how much you’re paying for use,” Armentrout says.

Parabon’s pricing structure is better explained by the company, but the basic idea is that customers pay for units of computational power using a formula that involves kilo-cap hours.

The company provides an API and suite of tools to simplify adapting applications to take advantage of Frontier grid capabilities. And there’s a collection of Frontier-ready programs for applications, including data mining and biological modeling. “It’s kind of like Apple’s App Store but for distributed applications,” Armentrout analogizes. 

Parabon has been around since 2000, when it introduced “the first commercial grid,” Armentrout says. Customers include not just scientific researchers, but also financial analysts, commercial enterprises with high-end analytical demands, bioinformatics, traditional HPC users and government agencies. “Our customers are doing modeling and simulation with very large models, immense data sets,” he explains. “We enable them to run not just one complex scenario but 10,000 scenarios. With Frontier you can explore an entire space of possibilities at once instead of running one simulation, then another, then another.”

Grid vs. Cloud: Parabon-Style

“In terms of grid vs. cloud, there’s lots of confusion around those two terms,” Armentrout says. “But, honestly, the fact that cloud has so much hype surrounding it now makes it easier for us to clarify to customers the benefits of grid computing. Grid, I think, is becoming clearer in people’s minds, while cloud is still, if I might say it, a ‘cloudy’ term.”

There are certainly commonalities, he says: computational utility, virtualized use of computing resources, eliminating the need for dedicated resources and dramatically improved price/performance. “But cloud computing is more about auto-provisioning virtual machines,” explains Armentrout. “It’s about software that lets you go out into a cloud infrastructure, a virtualized datacenter, and say give me one or two VMs and get them in an automated and orderly way. It’s about a datacenter that is completely automated. Sure, customers can scale up and down — that’s one of the benefits of the model — but they typically don’t scale in large-scale numbers. That’s the nature of most Web applications, which is typically what runs in the cloud. In that environment, you still have a lot of capacity that’s available.” 

On the other hand, he believes that grid computing is all about massive parallelization and running large-scale jobs on unused capacity rather than dedicated capacity. The goal is to accelerate large jobs from days to minutes and hours to seconds, and grid computing can enable computations that “just aren’t possible,” he says.

“The folks we’re talking to understand they need grid-scale compute capacity, and that’s not something they’ll get from a pure cloud approach,” Armentrout says. “We routinely run jobs on several thousand machines. It’s that mass parallelization that you just wouldn’t run in the cloud. You want a job done in 5 minutes, not days. Our grid service reaches out to thousands and thousands of boxes and returns an answer in minutes.”

“We’ve got a high-performance solution that works for our customers. We can take advantage of a cloud infrastructure, but we don’t need to chase the cloud phenomenon.”

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!

Penguin Computing Brings Cascade Lake-AP to OCP Form Factor

July 7, 2020

Penguin Computing, a subsidiary of SMART Global Holdings, Inc., is announcing a new Tundra server, Tundra AP, that is the first to implement the Intel Xeon Scalable 9200 series processors (codenamed Cascade Lake-AP) in t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Cloud Debuts 16-GPU Ampere A100 Instances

July 7, 2020

On the heels of the Nvidia's Ampere A100 GPU launch in May, Google Cloud is announcing alpha availability of the A100 "Accelerator Optimized" VM A2 instance family on Google Compute Engine. The instances are powered by t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Q&A: HLRS’s Bastian Koller Tackles HPC and Industry in Germany and Europe

July 6, 2020

HPCwire: Let's start with HLRS and work our way up to the European scale. HLRS has stood out in the HPC world for its support of both scientific and industrial research. Can you discuss key developments in recent years? Read more…

By Steve Conway, Hyperion

The Barcelona Supercomputing Center Offers a Virtual Tour of Its MareNostrum Supercomputer

July 6, 2020

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to threaten the world and disrupt normal operations, facility tours remain a little difficult to operate, with many supercomputing centers having shuttered facility tours for visitor Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

What’s New in Computing vs. COVID-19: Fugaku, Congress, De Novo Design & More

July 2, 2020

Supercomputing, big data and artificial intelligence are crucial tools in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Around the world, researchers, corporations and governments are urgently devoting their computing reso Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AWS Solution Channel

Maxar Builds HPC on AWS to Deliver Forecasts 58% Faster Than Weather Supercomputer

When weather threatens drilling rigs, refineries, and other energy facilities, oil and gas companies want to move fast to protect personnel and equipment. And for firms that trade commodity shares in oil, precious metals, crops, and livestock, the weather can significantly impact their buy-sell decisions. Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Supercomputing the Pandemic: Scientific Community Tackles COVID-19 from Multiple Perspectives

Since their inception, supercomputers have taken on the biggest, most complex, and most data-intensive computing challenges—from confirming Einstein’s theories about gravitational waves to predicting the impacts of climate change. Read more…

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time last year, IBM announced open sourcing its Power instructio Read more…

By John Russell

Google Cloud Debuts 16-GPU Ampere A100 Instances

July 7, 2020

On the heels of the Nvidia's Ampere A100 GPU launch in May, Google Cloud is announcing alpha availability of the A100 "Accelerator Optimized" VM A2 instance fam Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Q&A: HLRS’s Bastian Koller Tackles HPC and Industry in Germany and Europe

July 6, 2020

HPCwire: Let's start with HLRS and work our way up to the European scale. HLRS has stood out in the HPC world for its support of both scientific and industrial Read more…

By Steve Conway, Hyperion

OpenPOWER Reboot – New Director, New Silicon Partners, Leveraging Linux Foundation Connections

July 2, 2020

Earlier this week the OpenPOWER Foundation announced the contribution of IBM’s A21 Power processor core design to the open source community. Roughly this time Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This yea Read more…

By John Russell

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Re Read more…

Top500 Trends: Movement on Top, but Record Low Turnover

June 25, 2020

The 55th installment of the Top500 list saw strong activity in the leadership segment with four new systems in the top ten and a crowning achievement from the f Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ISC 2020 Keynote: Hope for the Future, Praise for Fugaku and HPC’s Pandemic Response

June 24, 2020

In stark contrast to past years Thomas Sterling’s ISC20 keynote today struck a more somber note with the COVID-19 pandemic as the central character in Sterling’s annual review of worldwide trends in HPC. Better known for his engaging manner and occasional willingness to poke prickly egos, Sterling instead strode through the numbing statistics associated... Read more…

By John Russell

ISC 2020’s Student Cluster Competition Winners Announced

June 24, 2020

Normally, the Student Cluster Competition involves teams of students building real computing clusters on the show floors of major supercomputer conferences and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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

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

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

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

Contributors

Neocortex Will Be First-of-Its-Kind 800,000-Core AI Supercomputer

June 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC - a joint research organization of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh) has won a $5 million award Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘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

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

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 Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

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

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

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