SGI Whips Up Cyclone Cloud Service for HPC

By Michael Feldman

February 11, 2010

System vendor SGI today announced “Cyclone,” a cloud service aimed specifically at technical computing. Although the company has sold hardware that ended up in other peoples’ clouds, Cyclone represents SGI’s first foray into the cloud as a service provider. The idea is to provide a purpose-built HPC cloud, wrapped with third-party application software, and backed up by SGI’s considerable HPC expertise. “We expect great things out of Cyclone,” says Geoffrey Noer, SGI’s senior director of product marketing.

First the hardware. Cyclone will encompass three different SGI platforms: scaled-out InfiniBand/x86-based clusters (Altix ICE), “hybrid” CPU-GPU servers (Altix XE with a GPU option), and SMP-style shared-memory systems. Disk storage will be supplied by SGI’s own InfiniteStorage line. For the shared memory systems, SGI will initially offer its Itanium-based system, presumably the Altix 4700s. But with the Nehalem-EX-based Altix UltraViolet (UV) due to be shipped in the second quarter, it’s implied that SGI’s newest shared-memory machines will be available for renting later this year. In the case of the hybrid platform, both NVIDIA Tesla GPUs and AMD/ATI FireStream graphics hardware will be offered to juice floating point performance. Interestingly, SGI’s press release also mentions a Tilera processor option for integer acceleration. The company is not quantifying the in-house resources that will be applied to the Cyclone cloud, but according to Noer, the initial deployment will be on the order of “thousands of CPUs.”

The system software relies on a mix of SGI and third party packages. At the OS level, it’s Linux, with a choice of either SUSE or Red Hat. Cluster management is provided courtesy of SGI’s own ISLE Cluster Manager, with ProPack included to tune performance. Altair’s PBS Pro is used for job scheduling. From the top to bottom, it’s pretty much what you’d expect from an SGI-equipped HPC environment.

Note that Cyclone provides a non-virtualized environment. That’s a model that promises to squeeze maximum performance out of the hardware and eases at least some of the security concerns. On the downside, a non-virtualized model makes the infrastructure less elastic since individual applications may end up wasting resources.

The list price for computer time on Cyclone is $0.95 per core-hour — that’s right, per core not per CPU, so systems based on those upcoming 8-core Nehalem EX chips will be twice as expensive as their quad-core counterparts. Storage is also provided, with 500 GB of disk capacity included with the rental of the first node. More storage can be bought at a rate of $0.20 per GB per month.

Noer says those are the base prices for the infrastructure, with the idea that better rates can be had by buying in bulk. The base rate also doesn’t apply to the GPU-accelerated servers (graphic processors have hundreds of “cores” so the per core model doesn’t make sense). For the time being, SGI isn’t quoting pricing for the hybrid systems, preferring to negotiate those on a customer-by-customer basis. Noer says they intend to offer a “reasonable” deal on the hybrid systems, inasmuch as they view these as development platforms for both ISVs and customers.

For a rough comparison, consider that a High-CPU Instance on Amazon’s EC2 cloud offers the equivalent to 8 cores on a 2.5GHz to 3.0 GHz 64-bit x86 processor. That instance is priced at for $0.68 per hour on Linux/UNIX or $1.16 for Windows. Even better deals can be had if you take advantage of the Reserve Instance or Spot Instance models. Obviously, this is much less expensive than what SGI is offering, but with the Amazon infrastructure, you don’t get InfiniBand or NUMAlink connectivity, which relegates these setups to HPC applications that are embarrassingly-parallel and don’t rely on tight coupling between servers. The use of bona fide HPC systems in the Cyclone cloud is one of SGI’s main differentiators from its generic cloud competitors.

But besides the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) model, Cyclone is also providing software-as-a-service (SaaS). Initially SGI will offer 18 HPC applications across five domains, and provide them as a value-add service on top of the infrastructure. Commercial codes will entail an additional fee over and above the IaaS rental, although some of the open source codes may be offered gratis, at least for academic users. The specific pricing on the various SaaS offerings has not been made public and will be a function of SGI’s licensing agreements with the various software providers.

The five initial software domains in Cyclone are computational biology, computational chemistry and materials, computational fluid dynamics, finite element analysis, and ontologies (semantic Web and data mining). SGI has partnered with a number of ISVs and non-commercial code providers to offer popular science codes like BLAST, HMMER, Gromacs, Acusolve, LS-DYNA, and about a dozen others. SGI plans to grow this collection of software packages as well as the range of application domains as more providers are signed up.

Although the OEM-as-cloud-provider is not a common route for HPC vendors, SGI is certainly not the first. IBM has been offering a Computing on Demand service for years, which started out as a way to rent time on IBM supers, but has evolved into a more general-purpose cloud offering. Last year Linux cluster vendor Penguin Computing launched its own HPC as a service, called Penguin On Demand (POD). Both of these services still seem to be alive.

A less happy fate befell Sun Microsystems’ Network.com service, aka the Sun Grid Compute Utility. Like SGI’s Cyclone, Network.com provided both Sun infrastructure and third-party software for HPC customers. The base rate to use the Sun grid was $1 per CPU-hour. Although Sun was able to sign up 40 software providers, the venture was shut down in late 2008.

At best, the model is unproven. In general, though, it seems reasonable to think that doing technical computing in a cloud will require a purpose-built HPC infrastructure, at least for a significant subset of these applications. Whether there’s a long-term business model for that by OEMs, large-scale public cloud providers, or anyone else, is still unclear.

“SGI’s clear market targeting should help the company differentiate itself from ‘cycles for nothing’ providers, and its value-added software and service components should lead to higher margin business opportunities for the company,” says Chris Willard, chief research officer at InterSect360 Research. “That said, the HPC utility computing market, despite a long and storied past, has not yet captured significant market share, and it is unclear if the addition of Internet-based communications will be enough to tip the balance in favor of cloud computing.”

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!

Advancing Modular Supercomputing with DEEP and DEEP-ER Architectures

February 24, 2017

Knowing that the jump to exascale will require novel architectural approaches capable of delivering dramatic efficiency and performance gains, researchers around the world are hard at work on next-generation HPC systems. Read more…

By Sean Thielen

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Feb. 23, 2017)

February 23, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

HPE Server Shows Low Latency on STAC-N1 Test

February 22, 2017

The performance of trade and match servers can be a critical differentiator for financial trading houses. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Financial Update (Feb. 2017)

February 22, 2017

In this recurring feature, we’ll provide you with financial highlights from companies in the HPC industry. Check back in regularly for an updated list with the most pertinent fiscal information. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

O&G Companies Create Value with High Performance Remote Visualization

Today’s oil and gas (O&G) companies are striving to process datasets that have become not only tremendously large, but extremely complex. And the larger that data becomes, the harder it is to move and analyze it – particularly with a workforce that could be distributed between drilling sites, offshore rigs, and remote offices. Read more…

Rethinking HPC Platforms for ‘Second Gen’ Applications

February 22, 2017

Just what constitutes HPC and how best to support it is a keen topic currently. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDC: Will the Real Exascale Race Please Stand Up?

February 21, 2017

So the exascale race is on. And lots of organizations are in the pack. Government announcements from the US, China, India, Japan, and the EU indicate that they are working hard to make it happen – some sooner, some later. Read more…

By Bob Sorensen, IDC

ExxonMobil, NCSA, Cray Scale Reservoir Simulation to 700,000+ Processors

February 17, 2017

In a scaling breakthrough for oil and gas discovery, ExxonMobil geoscientists report they have harnessed the power of 717,000 processors – the equivalent of 22,000 32-processor computers – to run complex oil and gas reservoir simulation models. Read more…

By Doug Black

Advancing Modular Supercomputing with DEEP and DEEP-ER Architectures

February 24, 2017

Knowing that the jump to exascale will require novel architectural approaches capable of delivering dramatic efficiency and performance gains, researchers around the world are hard at work on next-generation HPC systems. Read more…

By Sean Thielen

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDC: Will the Real Exascale Race Please Stand Up?

February 21, 2017

So the exascale race is on. And lots of organizations are in the pack. Government announcements from the US, China, India, Japan, and the EU indicate that they are working hard to make it happen – some sooner, some later. Read more…

By Bob Sorensen, IDC

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Drug Developers Use Google Cloud HPC in the Fight Against ALS

February 16, 2017

Within the haystack of a lethal disease such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / Lou Gehrig’s Disease) there exists, somewhere, the needle that will pierce this therapy-resistant affliction. Read more…

By Doug Black

Azure Edges AWS in Linpack Benchmark Study

February 15, 2017

The “when will clouds be ready for HPC” question has ebbed and flowed for years. Read more…

By John Russell

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

What Knights Landing Is Not

June 18, 2016

As we get ready to launch the newest member of the Intel Xeon Phi family, code named Knights Landing, it is natural that there be some questions and potentially some confusion. Read more…

By James Reinders, Intel

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This