Grids or Clouds for HPC?

By Wolfgang Gentzsch

November 2, 2009

Time and again, people ask questions like “Will HPC move to the cloud?” or “Now that cloud computing is accepted, are grids dead?” or even “Should I now build my grid in the cloud?” Despite all the promising developments in the grid and cloud computing space, and the avalanche of publications and talks on this subject, many people still seem to be confused and hesitant to take the next step. I think there a number of issues driving this uncertainty.

Grids didn’t keep all their promises

Grids did not evolve (as some of us originally thought) into the next fundamental IT infrastructure for everything and for everybody. Because of the diversity of computing environments we had to develop different middleware stacks (department, enterprise, global, compute, data, sensors, instruments, etc.), and had to face different usage models with different benefits. Enterprise grids were (and are) providing better resource utilization and business flexibility, while global grids are best suited for complex R&D application collaboration with resource sharing. For enterprise usage, setting up and operating grids was often complicated. For researchers this characteristic was seen to be a necessary evil. Implementing complex applications on HPC systems has never been easy. So what.

Grid: the way station to the cloud

After 40 years of dealing with HPC, grid computing was indeed the next big thing for the grand challenge, big-science researcher, while for the enterprise CIO, the grid was a way station on its way to the cloud model. For the enterprise today, clouds are providing all the missing pieces: easy to use, economies of scale, business elasticity up and down, and pay-as you go (thus getting rid of some CapEx). And in cases where security matters, there is always the private cloud. In more complex enterprise environments, with applications running under different policies, private clouds can easily connect to public clouds — and vice versa — into a hybrid cloud infrastructure, to balance security with efficiency.

Different policies, what does that mean?

No application job is alike. Jobs differ by priority, strategic importance, deadline, budget, IP and licenses. In addition, the nature of the code often necessitates a specific computer architecture, operating system, memory, and other resources. These important differentiating factors strongly influence where and when a job is running. For any new type of job, a set of specific requirements decide on the set of specific policies that have to be defined and programmed, such that any of these jobs will run just according to these policies. Ideally, this is guaranteed by a dynamic resource broker that controls submission to grid or cloud resources, be they local or global, private or public.

Grids or clouds?

One important question is still open: how do I find out, and then tell the resource broker, whether my application should run on the grid or in the cloud? The answer, among others, depends on the algorithmic structure of the compute-intensive part of the program, which might be intolerant of high latency and low bandwidth. This has been observed with benchmark results. The performance limitations are exhibited mainly by parallel applications with tightly-coupled, data-intensive inter-process communication, running on hundreds or even thousands of processors or cores.

The good news is, however, that many HPC applications do not require high bandwidth and low latency. Examples are parameter studies often seen in science and engineering, with one and the same application executed for many parameters, resulting in many independent jobs, such as analyzing the data from a particle physics collider, identifying the solution parameter in optimization, ensemble runs to quantify climate model uncertainties, identifying potential drug targets via screening a database of ligand structures, studying economic model sensitivity to parameters, and analyzing different materials and their resistance in crash tests, to name just a few.

A Grid in the cloud 

One great example of a project that has built a grid in the cloud is Gaia, a European Space Agency funded mission which aims to monitor one billion stars. Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) were configured for the Oracle database grid and processing software (AGIS). The result is an Oracle grid running inside the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). To process five years of data for 2 million stars, 24 iterations of 100 minutes each translates into 40 hours of 20 EC2 CPU instances. Benefits include reduced costs (50 percent compared to the in-house solution) and massive scalability on demand without having to invest in new
infrastructure or train new personnel. And only a single line of source code was changed in order to get it to run in the cloud.

HPC needs grids and clouds

According to the DEISA Extreme Computing Initiative (DECI), there are still plenty of grand challenge science and engineering applications that can only run effectively on the largest and most expensive supercomputers. In DEISA, a European HPC grid, also called the HPC Ecosystem, is made up of 11-teraflops nodes.

Today, nobody would build an HPC cloud for these particular applications. It simply wouldn’t be a profitable business, the “market” (i.e., the HPC users) is far too small and thus lacks economy of scale. In some specific science application scenarios, with complex workflows of different tasks (nodes), a hybrid infrastructure might make sense: cloud capacity resources and HPC capability nodes, providing the best of both worlds.

About the Author

Wolfgang Gentzsch is Dissemination Advisor for the DEISA Distributed European Initiative for Supercomputing Applications. He is an adjunct professor of computer science at Duke University in Durham, and a visiting scientist at RENCI Renaissance Computing Institute at UNC Chapel Hill, both in North Carolina. From 2005 to 2007, he was the Chairman of the German D-Grid Initiative. Recently, he was Vice Chair of the e-Infrastructure Reflection Group e-IRG; Area Director of Major Grid Projects of the OGF Open Grid Forum Steering Group; and he is a member of the US President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST-NIT).

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!

What’s New in HPC Research: September (Part 1)

September 18, 2018

In this new bimonthly feature, HPCwire will highlight newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Check back every Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and development. Among other things it would establish a National Quantu Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Accelerates AI Inference in the Datacenter with T4 GPU

September 14, 2018

Nvidia is upping its game for AI inference in the datacenter with a new platform consisting of an inference accelerator chip--the new Turing-based Tesla T4 GPU--and a refresh of its inference server software packaged as Read more…

By George Leopold

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

A Crystal Ball for HPC

People are notoriously bad at predicting the future.  This very much includes experts. In the Forbes article “Why Most Predictions Are So Bad” Philip Tetlock discusses the largest and best-known test of the accuracy of expert predictions which show that any experts would do better if they make random guesses. Read more…

NSF Highlights Expanded Efforts for Broadening Participation in Computing

September 13, 2018

Today, the Directorate of Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) of the NSF released a letter highlighting the expansion of its broadening participation in computing efforts. The letter was penned by Jam Read more…

By Staff

House Passes $1.275B National Quantum Initiative

September 17, 2018

Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the National Quantum Initiative Act (NQIA) intended to accelerate quantum computing research and developm Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Accelerates AI Inference in the Datacenter with T4 GPU

September 14, 2018

Nvidia is upping its game for AI inference in the datacenter with a new platform consisting of an inference accelerator chip--the new Turing-based Tesla T4 GPU- Read more…

By George Leopold

DeepSense Combines HPC and AI to Bolster Canada’s Ocean Economy

September 13, 2018

We often hear scientists say that we know less than 10 percent of the life of the oceans. This week, IBM and a group of Canadian industry and government partner Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Rigetti (and Others) Pursuit of Quantum Advantage

September 11, 2018

Remember ‘quantum supremacy’, the much-touted but little-loved idea that the age of quantum computing would be signaled when quantum computers could tackle Read more…

By John Russell

How FPGAs Accelerate Financial Services Workloads

September 11, 2018

While FSI companies are unlikely, for competitive reasons, to disclose their FPGA strategies, James Reinders offers insights into the case for FPGAs as accelerators for FSI by discussing performance, power, size, latency, jitter and inline processing. Read more…

By James Reinders

Update from Gregory Kurtzer on Singularity’s Push into FS and the Enterprise

September 11, 2018

Container technology is hardly new but it has undergone rapid evolution in the HPC space in recent years to accommodate traditional science workloads and HPC systems requirements. While Docker containers continue to dominate in the enterprise, other variants are becoming important and one alternative with distinctly HPC roots – Singularity – is making an enterprise push targeting advanced scale workload inclusive of HPC. Read more…

By John Russell

At HPC on Wall Street: AI-as-a-Service Accelerates AI Journeys

September 10, 2018

AIaaS – artificial intelligence-as-a-service – is the technology discipline that eases enterprise entry into the mysteries of the AI journey while lowering Read more…

By Doug Black

No Go for GloFo at 7nm; and the Fujitsu A64FX post-K CPU

September 5, 2018

It’s been a news worthy couple of weeks in the semiconductor and HPC industry. There were several HPC relevant disclosures at Hot Chips 2018 to whet appetites Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

TACC Wins Next NSF-funded Major Supercomputer

July 30, 2018

The Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) has won the next NSF-funded big supercomputer beating out rivals including the National Center for Supercomputing Ap Read more…

By John Russell

IBM at Hot Chips: What’s Next for Power

August 23, 2018

With processor, memory and networking technologies all racing to fill in for an ailing Moore’s law, the era of the heterogeneous datacenter is well underway, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Requiem for a Phi: Knights Landing Discontinued

July 25, 2018

On Monday, Intel made public its end of life strategy for the Knights Landing "KNL" Phi product set. The announcement makes official what has already been wide Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Deep Learning Algorithm Solves Rubik’s Cube

July 25, 2018

Solving (and attempting to solve) Rubik’s Cube has delighted millions of puzzle lovers since 1974 when the cube was invented by Hungarian sculptor and archite Read more…

By John Russell

AMD’s EPYC Road to Redemption in Six Slides

June 21, 2018

A year ago AMD returned to the server market with its EPYC processor line. The earth didn’t tremble but folks took notice. People remember the Opteron fondly Read more…

By John Russell

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

Pattern Computer – Startup Claims Breakthrough in ‘Pattern Discovery’ Technology

May 23, 2018

If it weren’t for the heavy-hitter technology team behind start-up Pattern Computer, which emerged from stealth today in a live-streamed event from San Franci Read more…

By John Russell

Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave Breaks New Ground in Quantum Simulation

July 16, 2018

Last Friday D-Wave scientists and colleagues published work in Science which they say represents the first fulfillment of Richard Feynman’s 1982 notion that Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Pledges First Commercial Nervana Product ‘Spring Crest’ in 2019

May 24, 2018

At its AI developer conference in San Francisco yesterday, Intel embraced a holistic approach to AI and showed off a broad AI portfolio that includes Xeon processors, Movidius technologies, FPGAs and Intel’s Nervana Neural Network Processors (NNPs), based on the technology it acquired in 2016. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TACC’s ‘Frontera’ Supercomputer Expands Horizon for Extreme-Scale Science

August 29, 2018

The National Science Foundation and the Texas Advanced Computing Center announced today that a new system, called Frontera, will overtake Stampede 2 as the fast Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

GPUs Power Five of World’s Top Seven Supercomputers

June 25, 2018

The top 10 echelon of the newly minted Top500 list boasts three powerful new systems with one common engine: the Nvidia Volta V100 general-purpose graphics proc Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Machine Learning Hype Cycle and HPC

June 14, 2018

Like many other HPC professionals I’m following the hype cycle around machine learning/deep learning with interest. I subscribe to the view that we’re probably approaching the ‘peak of inflated expectation’ but not quite yet starting the descent into the ‘trough of disillusionment. This still raises the probability that... Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

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