Five Steps to Cloud Computing Nirvana

By Dennis Barker

November 7, 2008

Once you’ve started down the path of virtualization, you’re on the road to nirvana. Or at least cloud computing nirvana. At least according to rPath. According to the “cloud computing adoption model” the company recently made public, virtualization is the first step for organizations seeking to one day take advantage of cloud computing.

It’s not a big surprise that rPath would focus on this as the first step. The company provides tools for turning applications into virtual appliances, a process it calls application virtualization. Conceptually, however, it makes sense as a starting point for any development team or IT manager sketching out a cloud scenario, and it’s something with which many companies are familiar.

“Virtualization is critical because it allows you to decouple the application from the infrastructure,” said rPath chief strategy officer Billy Marshall during a presentation of the adoption model. “You have to do this to get the benefits of cloud computing, but you have to think about your infrastructure in a way to avoid locking yourself into one hypervisor platform.”

Beside the famous benefits of virtualization (e.g., hardware consolidation and power bills), virtualization can result in faster application deployment and, if done right, ability to scale up rapidly to meet business demands. “Once you’ve decoupled app from infrastructure, and it can be seamlessly deployed across any environment, you’ve completely simplified the process of spinning up a new app,” says Jake Sorofman, rPath’s vice president of marketing. “You’re closing the gap between development and production. It usually takes four to six months to deploy a new app; it’s an iterative, manual process because of the variability between application and underlying operating bits. With our virtualization technology, you can compress that process down to days instead of months.”

Because you can run into challenges when decoupling app from infrastructure, rPath says Level 2 should be “cloud experimentation.” The best place to do that, the company says, is Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud. “EC2 is a great way to get your feet wet and hands dirty,” Sorofman says. “We recommend companies get experience with EC2 as a way to become familiar with the cloud. The barrier of entry is so low you can afford to try things out.” (You can get a fingertip wet with a virtual appliance here.)

This phase is the time to build up knowledge about cloud computing, and Marshall believes it is important to have both the IT department and the line-of-business people involved in parallel. It’s also a time to start gathering metrics, identifying bottlenecks and putting issues on the table. Application architects should be thinking down the line about how to design software for this environment.

The heavy lifting begins with Level 3. This is where you lay the foundation for a scalable application architecture, Sorofman says. “Taking what you’ve learned from experimentation, start deploying real applications in the cloud,” he explains. “Work through provisioning apps on demand. Take your reference architecture and turn it into working processes.” This also is the time to come up with policies and best practices.

“Try to assess demand for an application, because that should determine how much infrastructure you’ll need,” Marshall says. Also, “operationalize an approach that lets you work with any hypervisor.”

Lifecycle management becomes crucial at this point, Sorofman says, because you want consistency, repeatability and maintainability of your virtualized application images. Otherwise, scalability is not going to work so well. “Adopt a lifecycle management system and become familiar with configuring and maintaining images. You also want a platform that guarantees that image updates can be pushed out to all cloud units simultaneously,” he says.

At Level 4, you really get down to it. This “cloud exploitation” stage means full-scale, broad-based deployment of applications in either an internal cloud or external cloud. At this point, you’re operating in the cloud as a production environment, Marshall says. This is time to tweak apps and revisit metrics. One warning from Marshall: “Keep in mind that not all apps are suited to run in the cloud, but being able to take advantage of cloud computing can deliver real ROI, savings in capital expenditures and so on.”

Then, in some undetermined future, following further technological developments, those who have mastered the four levels will be prepared for the “hypercloud” that dynamically shares workload and offers self-service provisioning. “Nirvana,” Marshall describes. “You’ll have the capability to dynamically select a target environment at runtime based on the needs of the application.” Load balancing tools will determine the best environment to dispatch operations, based on available compute power. Applications can automatically be sent to a cloud that’s never busy at night. Tools will be able to do instant cost comparisons and deploy applications on that basis. too.

“At this point, clouds will become a commodity,” Sorofman says. “You’ll be able to share workloads across clouds. Applications will move seamlessly. You’ll be able to pour across clouds, take advantage of cost differentials, or move according to business rules. You could also build composite apps that draw on different services from different clouds.” When this will happen “is hard to say,” Sorofman says, “but by the time most companies get to Level 4, the technologies to enable Level 5 could be mature enough.”

Seeding Clouds

The value that rPath brings to cloud computing is “foundational,” Sorofman says, in that the company provides tools to turn applications into virtual appliances that can run in EC2 or any other cloud environment. “We want to make it easy for companies to move apps to an on-demand environment.”

rBuilder simplifies the process of creating application images, he says. “We let you combine your application with any other components you need and just enough operating system to create an application image, an application appliance, that will run optimally on any virtualized infrastructure,” he explains.

rPath’s Lifecycle Management Platform automates configuration and maintenance, backup, and other image-admin tasks. “We provide policy-based definition to make sure images are exactly reproduced,” says Sorofman, “and being able to reproduce multiple images from a single image greatly reduces errors.”

rPath also offers rBuilder Online, which “walks developers through the process of packaging a Linux application as an Amazon Machine Image,” Sorofman says. The related rBuilder Catalog provides a simple interface for launching, managing and retiring EC2 application images.

KnowledgeTree, an rPath customer, provides document management systems for small and medium businesses. Its application was being downloaded about 15,000 times a month, but the company got the notion it could reach more customers if it could sell its software as a service, an on-demand offering. To save time and money, the company wanted to use as much of its current application as possible and not have to do extensive recoding. The company says turn its application into a virtual appliance running on Amazon EC2 took much less time than it would have to build from scratch, and it also saw development and maintenance costs drop by 40 percent. KnowledgeTree says the combination of rPath’s tools and Amazon Web Services allowed it to provide quickly an application that scales transparently to meet user demand.

Of course, not everyone will have the same results as easily, but rPath and other software developers — including companies with vastly different approaches like 3Tera and Elastra — are paving the on-ramp for applications to run in the cloud. With its adoption model, rPath also is trying to offer a “graduated” approach to attaining the full benefits of cloud computing, with users advancing along with the technology.

“I don’t know if this hypercloud is three years, five years or ten years away, but it’s not going to take a miracle to make it happen,” Marshall says. “It’s going to take people working together.”

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!

Supercomputer Research Reveals Star Cluster Born Outside Our Galaxy

July 11, 2020

The Milky Way is our galactic home, containing our solar system and continuing into a giant band of densely packed stars that stretches across clear night skies around the world – but, it turns out, not all of those st Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Max Planck Society Begins Installation of Liquid-Cooled Supercomputer from Lenovo

July 9, 2020

Lenovo announced today that it is supplying a new high performance computer to the Max Planck Society, one of Germany's premier research organizations. Comprised of Intel Xeon processors and Nvidia A100 GPUs, and featuri Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Xilinx Announces First Adaptive Computing Challenge

July 9, 2020

A new contest is challenging the computing world. Xilinx has announced the first Xilinx Adaptive Computing Challenge, a competition that will task developers and startups with finding creative workload acceleration solutions. Xilinx is running the Adaptive Computing Challenge in partnership with, a developing community... Read more…

By Staff report

Reviving Moore’s Law? LBNL Researchers See Promise in Heterostructure Oxides

July 9, 2020

The reality of Moore’s law’s decline is no longer doubted for good empirical reasons. That said, never say never. Recent work by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers suggests heterostructure oxides may b Read more…

By John Russell

President’s Council Targets AI, Quantum, STEM; Recommends Spending Growth

July 9, 2020

Last week the President Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met (webinar) to review policy recommendations around three sub-committee reports: 1) Industries of the Future (IotF), chaired be Dario Gil (d Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

Best Practices for Running Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Workloads on AWS

The scalable nature and variable demand of CFD workloads makes them well-suited for a cloud computing environment. Many of the AWS instance types, such as the compute family instance types, are designed to include support for this type of workload.  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…

Penguin Computing Brings Cascade Lake-AP to OCP Form Factor

July 7, 2020

Penguin Computing, a subsidiary of SMART Global Holdings, Inc., announced yesterday (July 6) a new Tundra server, Tundra AP, that is the first to implement the Intel Xeon Scalable 9200 series processors (codenamed Cascad Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Max Planck Society Begins Installation of Liquid-Cooled Supercomputer from Lenovo

July 9, 2020

Lenovo announced today that it is supplying a new high performance computer to the Max Planck Society, one of Germany's premier research organizations. Comprise Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

President’s Council Targets AI, Quantum, STEM; Recommends Spending Growth

July 9, 2020

Last week the President Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met (webinar) to review policy recommendations around three sub-committee reports: 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 family on Google Compute Engine. The instances are powered by the HGX A100 16-GPU platform, which combines two HGX A100 8-GPU baseboards using... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

July 6, 2020

In this exclusive interview for HPCwire – sadly not face to face – Steve Conway, senior advisor for Hyperion Research, talks with Dr.-Ing Bastian Koller about the state of HPC and its collaboration with Industry in Europe. Koller is a familiar figure in HPC. He is the managing director at High Performance Computing Center Stuttgart (HLRS) and also serves... 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

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

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

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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers


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

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

‘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

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

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

$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

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