Yes, You Too Can Eclipse Netflix

By Nicole Hemsoth

April 21, 2010

When we’re talking about strict hardware-related HPC, defining high-performance computing is usually straightforward. However, when we extend the concept of HPC into the cloud and then to even further complicate the matter by adding in discussion about how HPC and cloud are being utilized in commercial and large-scale enterprise class settings, the roots of those concrete hardware definitions start to peel away.

Every business wants supercomputer capacity on-demand. And who could really blame them? It seems that most enterprises need vast, scalable capacity to remain competitive. For smaller businesses, getting competitive out of the gate is finally an option since the law of “he with the most start-up capital for tech infrastructure wins” is on the wane.

After skimming some HPC and cloud-related news I chose, at first anyway, to ignore, I started to think about these things a little more in-depth. With a big group of engineers coupled with some general HPC backing, cloud power, and an Ultra Marketing Bot 5000 (not a real product but thought a Nexus 6 Publicity Model would have been too vague), could just anyone compete with a company like, say, Netflix?

If every enterprise’s capacity suddenly becomes unlimited, then does it all just boil down to who has the best architects and the finest sales force to convince the world it’s better than what already exists in droves?

Netflix Cloud Adoption in the News

When I first saw this New York Times news story about Netflix’s shift to the cloud I was reticent to draw everyone’s attention to it by sticking into the “This Just In” section here on HPC in the Cloud because it didn’t seem…relevant. After all, this is the mail-order movie business — the post office is involved, for crying out loud. Where’s the gritty HPC in that?

But you know, I didn’t think my omission of Netflix through, so I decided to go back and revisit it in this blog.

So rewind and let’s retroactively pop this into the April 18th This Just In…

When Netflix announced that it had moved into the public cloud space and was housing some of its operations with Amazon Web Services, the burning question was to what extent their operations had gone to the cloud already and how much — what percentage, that is — would be heading cloud-ward over the two-year implementation.

The New York Times and others touted this as a use case of a large-scale data-intensive operation going full-blown into the cloud, but following an interview this morning with Steve Swasey, Vice President of Corporate Communications at Netflix, this shift into the cloud isn’t quite as comprehensive as it seems — at least not yet.

The company has moved some of its major power-gobbling processes to Amazon Web Services’ public cloud, but the really good and juicy stuff — that’s all hoarded away on Netflix’s own internal servers. And that’s probably not going to change, according to Swasey.

From what it sounds like, Netflix took one particular type of process (the encoding of new film into the system to make it available as a stream on demand) and since it would have been foolhardy from a resource, time (and therefore cost) perspective not to do so, they plunked it down on AWS. While Swasey didn’t go into detail about other major operations in the public cloud, he did suggest that anything remotely sensitive was stored in-house. Other search tools, customer queues, and more customer-facing (versus internal) will be hosted in the cloud — but the buck stops there.

Netflix isn’t just shipping and receiving movies using snail mail and some scattered company PCs on an internal network, after all. There are multiple arms of this business that require vastly different resources and that also require immense scalability since there are most likely times and days of peak demand for instantly-available streaming movies on a PC. When coupled with the other side of the Netflix operation — the shipping, receiving and storing of films in over 50 centers throughout the United States that send automatic messages in vast quantities to its huge database of users alone is complex. When we factor in encoding video and then turning around to deliver it on demand, there are whole new levels of resource and scheduling issues.

According to Swaysey, the adoption of AWS took place quite rapidly; Netflix began testing Amazon’s public cloud at the beginning of 2010 and analyzed test results to gauge progress. The company found that it significantly reduced dependency on its own data centers as well as cut back on time and engineering time, especially for one of the critical functions of the Netflix service — taking the raw film from production houses and handling all of the encoding in-house so that the films could be streamed to customers on-demand at the touch of a button.

Until comfort in the cloud grows — something that we will monitor closely here — companies with wide-ranging, large-scale, data-intensive needs will likely experiment with the cloud to outsource resource-heavy operations but in the end, security and protection of sensitive data seems to be the biggest hurdle. Companies like Netflix are willing to bear the much higher costs of IT resources as they keep their special data close to home.

Does that mean that the quickest way for new enterprises who start with the cloud (versus having to be talked into migration) to get a head start is by taking the plunge and sending all (even the juicy, private, confidential, secure stuff) into a public cloud?

While Swayse was tight-lipped about anything in the way of specifics in terms of the compute environment, it just took some thinking-through for me to see that they are managing, scheduling, and balancing the same large-scale, data-intensive, mission-critical workloads “real” enterprises in science and research are — the difference is, well, it’s “just” movies.

If your startup costs were minimal and you relied on pure ground-up cloud architecture and a gaggle of really, really smart friends, would it be possible to compete with a Netflix? Will it all just boil down to who has the most innovate marketing versus the best capacity if everyone has unlimited capacity?

If only I had more time.

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!

Google Gets First Dibs on New Skylake Chips

February 27, 2017

As part of an ongoing effort to differentiate its public cloud services, Google made good this week on its intention to bring custom Xeon Skylake chips from Intel Corp. Read more…

By George Leopold

Thomas Sterling on CREST and Academia’s Role in HPC Research

February 27, 2017

The US advances in high performance computing over many decades have been a product of the combined engagement of research centers in industry, government labs, and academia. Read more…

By Thomas Sterling, Indiana University

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 Extreme Performance Solutions

Manufacturers Reaping the Benefits of Remote Visualization

Today’s manufacturers are operating in an ever-changing atmosphere, and finding new ways to boost productivity has never been more vital.

This is why manufacturers are ramping up their investments in high performance computing (HPC), a trend which has helped give rise to the “connected factory” and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) concepts that are proliferating throughout the industry today. Read more…

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

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

Thomas Sterling on CREST and Academia’s Role in HPC Research

February 27, 2017

The US advances in high performance computing over many decades have been a product of the combined engagement of research centers in industry, government labs, and academia. Read more…

By Thomas Sterling, Indiana University

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

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

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

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

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