Digipede Sticks to Its Grid Computing Roots

By Michael Feldman

July 1, 2010

Grid computing vendor Digipede is something of an enigma in the HPC world. The company has built its distributed computing offering, Digipede Network, atop the highly popular Windows/.NET platform, and in the process has become an unrepentant Microsoft booster. For traditional HPC users, anything not Linux plus MPI or OpenMP is mostly looked upon as an eccentricity, and in some corners, partnering up with Microsoft is seen as treason.

Even though Digipede hasn’t embraced the HPC community’s open source cultural value, the company has made it work. Founded in 2003, it remains one of the few pure-play grid computing vendors left. Because Digipede Network is built for .NET apps, and uses a different work management model than traditional job schedulers, it has little competition from other grid computing products. 

The Digipede Network  solution is rather straightforward. It consists of a Digipede Server and one or more Digipede Agents. The Server parcels out client requests to the Agents, which are responsible for managing the resources at the node level (servers or desktop clients). Like any grid computing solution, the idea is to distribute a compute-intensive job across multiple cores, processors and compute boxes, with minimal changes to the application source code.

The secret sauce for the company is the Digipede Framework SDK. It enables Windows .NET developers to take single-threaded, object-oriented apps and transform them into distributed computing programs. According to Digipede this can be accomplished with just a smattering of source changes — about 20 lines of new code. That allows conventionally-trained programmers and their legacy applications to make the jump to distributed computing with a minimal amount of pain.

That may seem like the Holy Grail of programming, but Digipede picks its apps carefully. Rather than attempting to parallelize any kind of software, the technology is focused on what Digipede CEO John Powers refers to as “delightfully parallel” codes, or in conventional parlance, embarrassingly parallel. These are applications that can be easily split up into many tasks that have little dependency upon each other. This model of parallelization can lead to near linear speedups in performance. “That’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” laughs Powers.

Digipede Network runs on all modern Windows client and server platforms, from XP to Windows HPC Server, and is well integrated into the componentry of Microsoft’s software empire. Besides the .NET framework itself (and Parallel Extensions), Digipede is interoperable with Visual Studio and all the server-side technology. Keeping up with the latest and greatest from Microsoft is a full-time job, but keeping the .NET developers happy is the prime directive at Digipede.

The company’s latest release, Digipede Network 2.4, moves the technology up to .NET 4 and adds Windows 7 certification. The new version also includes API improvements, finer control of multicore computing, as well as performance improvements under the hood.

Although the company doesn’t focus strictly on HPC-style technical computing applications, a lot of its customers’ codes fall into that category. Probably the biggest single industry for Digipede is financial services, especially hedge funds. Companies in this vertical do market risk simulations for a living and the vast majority are on Windows platforms. Other big customers include defense firms and electric utility companies.

Up until 2007 especially, financial services drove the success of the company. When the industry imploded with the Great Recession, some of Digipede’s most important accounts disappeared. “Our biggest customer in 2007 was Countrywide and they didn’t make it to 2008,” notes Powers. The hedge fund companies held their own through the economic downturn, though, and today the financial space still accounts for about half of Digipede’s revenues.

The electric utility space is an emerging market for the Digipede, and Powers says this industry has taken off in 2010. The applications themselves — risk management and market simulation models — are much like those in the financial arena, and thus well-suited to Digipede-style distributed computing. System size is still relatively small though, generally in the 10 to 20 node range.

As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Digipede receives plenty of support from the software giant to help build its accounts, but its the Windows HPC Server offering that is aligned particularly well with Digipede’s strategy. The HPC product is offered at a steep discount (compared to the standard Window Server) in order to be competitive with the corresponding Linux offerings from Red Hat and Novell. The only license restriction is that you can’t run other Microsoft server components like SQL, Exchange, and SharePoint under the HPC banner. It essentially levels the playing field with Linux, cost-wise, in the high performance computing arena. “The HPC Server is the best thing that’s ever happened to us because it’s a way to buy Microsoft’s best OS technology at 80 percent off,” explains Powers.

Besides the Microsoft fixation, the other distinguishing characteristic of Digipede’s strategy is its resistance to jump into the cloud computing space. Unlike many grid vendors that are expanding into cloud management, Digipede still views itself as a distributed computing vendor. According to Powers, there’s very little going on in the cloud space to make it easier to deploy .NET applications right now. Even Microsoft has been very slow to talk about it, he says.

Azure may eventually turn out to be the avenue for .NET in the cloud, but Microsoft seems more interested in capturing new applications. “If I were building the next Facebook, I’d head for Azure in a shot,” says Powers. “But if I had an existing legacy application that burned through a lot of compute cycles, I think Azure has a ways to go before it tackles that.”

Digipede Network can run in cloud environments as well as it can run on dedicated clusters and workstations, according to Powers. So at least for the time being he seems content to dance with the one that brung them. “We view cloud as being a deployment choice as much as anything,” explains Powers. “People talk about it as this profound revolution. In terms of org charts at most enterprises, it will be profound. But in terms of software development, our platform runs great in a cloud or runs great right here on the ground. We leave it up to our customers to figure out where they want to deploy.”

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!

Data Vortex Users Contemplate the Future of Supercomputing

October 19, 2017

Last month (Sept. 11-12), HPC networking company Data Vortex held its inaugural users group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) bringing together about 30 participants from industry, government and academia t Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Self-Training Goes Forward at Google DeepMind

October 19, 2017

Imagine if all the atoms in the universe could be added up into a single number. Big number, right? Maybe the biggest number conceivable. But wait, there’s a bigger number out there. We're told that Go, the world’s Read more…

By Doug Black

Researchers Scale COSMO Climate Code to 4888 GPUs on Piz Daint

October 17, 2017

Effective global climate simulation, sorely needed to anticipate and cope with global warming, has long been computationally challenging. Two of the major obstacles are the needed resolution and prolonged time to compute Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Transforming Genomic Analytics with HPC-Accelerated Insights

Advancements in the field of genomics are revolutionizing our understanding of human biology, rapidly accelerating the discovery and treatment of genetic diseases, and dramatically improving human health. Read more…

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Cluster Competition coverage has come to its natural home: H Read more…

By Dan Olds

Data Vortex Users Contemplate the Future of Supercomputing

October 19, 2017

Last month (Sept. 11-12), HPC networking company Data Vortex held its inaugural users group at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) bringing together ab Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AI Self-Training Goes Forward at Google DeepMind

October 19, 2017

Imagine if all the atoms in the universe could be added up into a single number. Big number, right? Maybe the biggest number conceivable. But wait, there’s a Read more…

By Doug Black

Student Cluster Competition Coverage New Home

October 16, 2017

Hello computer sports fans! This is the first of many (many!) articles covering the world-wide phenomenon of Student Cluster Competitions. Finally, the Student Read more…

By Dan Olds

Intel Delivers 17-Qubit Quantum Chip to European Research Partner

October 10, 2017

On Tuesday, Intel delivered a 17-qubit superconducting test chip to research partner QuTech, the quantum research institute of Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. The announcement marks a major milestone in the 10-year, $50-million collaborative relationship with TU Delft and TNO, the Dutch Organization for Applied Research, to accelerate advancements in quantum computing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fujitsu Tapped to Build 37-Petaflops ABCI System for AIST

October 10, 2017

Fujitsu announced today it will build the long-planned AI Bridging Cloud Infrastructure (ABCI) which is set to become the fastest supercomputer system in Japan Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Chips – A Veritable Smorgasbord?

October 10, 2017

For the first time since AMD's ill-fated launch of Bulldozer the answer to the question, 'Which CPU will be in my next HPC system?' doesn't have to be 'Whichever variety of Intel Xeon E5 they are selling when we procure'. Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Intel Debuts Programmable Acceleration Card

October 5, 2017

With a view toward supporting complex, data-intensive applications, such as AI inference, video streaming analytics, database acceleration and genomics, Intel i Read more…

By Doug Black

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

NERSC Scales Scientific Deep Learning to 15 Petaflops

August 28, 2017

A collaborative effort between Intel, NERSC and Stanford has delivered the first 15-petaflops deep learning software running on HPC platforms and is, according Read more…

By Rob Farber

Oracle Layoffs Reportedly Hit SPARC and Solaris Hard

September 7, 2017

Oracle’s latest layoffs have many wondering if this is the end of the line for the SPARC processor and Solaris OS development. As reported by multiple sources Read more…

By John Russell

US Coalesces Plans for First Exascale Supercomputer: Aurora in 2021

September 27, 2017

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, in Arlington, Va., yesterday (Sept. 26), it was revealed that the "Aurora" supercompute Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Releases Deeplearn.js to Further Democratize Machine Learning

August 17, 2017

Spreading the use of machine learning tools is one of the goals of Google’s PAIR (People + AI Research) initiative, which was introduced in early July. Last w Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries Puts Wind in AMD’s Sails with 12nm FinFET

September 24, 2017

From its annual tech conference last week (Sept. 20), where GlobalFoundries welcomed more than 600 semiconductor professionals (reaching the Santa Clara venue Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphcore Readies Launch of 16nm Colossus-IPU Chip

July 20, 2017

A second $30 million funding round for U.K. AI chip developer Graphcore sets up the company to go to market with its “intelligent processing unit” (IPU) in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Amazon Debuts New AMD-based GPU Instances for Graphics Acceleration

September 12, 2017

Last week Amazon Web Services (AWS) streaming service, AppStream 2.0, introduced a new GPU instance called Graphics Design intended to accelerate graphics. The Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

EU Funds 20 Million Euro ARM+FPGA Exascale Project

September 7, 2017

At the Barcelona Supercomputer Centre on Wednesday (Sept. 6), 16 partners gathered to launch the EuroEXA project, which invests €20 million over three-and-a-half years into exascale-focused research and development. Led by the Horizon 2020 program, EuroEXA picks up the banner of a triad of partner projects — ExaNeSt, EcoScale and ExaNoDe — building on their work... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Delays, Smoke, Records & Markets – A Candid Conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro

October 5, 2017

Earlier this month, Tom Tabor, publisher of HPCwire and I had a very personal conversation with Cray CEO Peter Ungaro. Cray has been on something of a Cinderell Read more…

By Tiffany Trader & Tom Tabor

Cray Moves to Acquire the Seagate ClusterStor Line

July 28, 2017

This week Cray announced that it is picking up Seagate's ClusterStor HPC storage array business for an undisclosed sum. "In short we're effectively transitioning the bulk of the ClusterStor product line to Cray," said CEO Peter Ungaro. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Software Tools to Ease FPGA Programming

September 5, 2017

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) have a reputation for being difficult to program, requiring expertise in specialty languages, like Verilog or VHDL. Easin Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

IBM Advances Web-based Quantum Programming

September 5, 2017

IBM Research is pairing its Jupyter-based Data Science Experience notebook environment with its cloud-based quantum computer, IBM Q, in hopes of encouraging a new class of entrepreneurial user to solve intractable problems that even exceed the capabilities of the best AI systems. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Intel, NERSC and University Partners Launch New Big Data Center

August 17, 2017

A collaboration between the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), Intel and five Intel Parallel Computing Cente Read more…

By Linda Barney

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