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!

TACC Researchers Test AI Traffic Monitoring Tool in Austin

December 13, 2017

Traffic jams and mishaps are often painful and sometimes dangerous facts of life. At this week’s IEEE International Conference on Big Data being held in Boston, researchers from TACC and colleagues will present a new Read more…

AMD Wins Another: Baidu to Deploy EPYC on Single Socket Servers

December 13, 2017

When AMD introduced its EPYC chip line in June, the company said a portion of the line was specifically designed to re-invigorate a single socket segment in what has become an overwhelmingly two-socket landscape in the d Read more…

By John Russell

Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercialization of quantum. This week, Microsoft took the next step in advanci Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Explore the Origins of Space with COSMOS and Memory-Driven Computing

From the formation of black holes to the origins of space, data is the key to unlocking the secrets of the early universe. Read more…

ESnet Now Moving More Than 1 Petabyte/wk

December 12, 2017

Optimizing ESnet (Energy Sciences Network), the world's fastest network for science, is an ongoing process. Recently a two-year collaboration by ESnet users – the Petascale DTN Project – achieved its ambitious goal t Read more…

AMD Wins Another: Baidu to Deploy EPYC on Single Socket Servers

December 13, 2017

When AMD introduced its EPYC chip line in June, the company said a portion of the line was specifically designed to re-invigorate a single socket segment in wha Read more…

By John Russell

Microsoft Wants to Speed Quantum Development

December 12, 2017

Quantum computing continues to make headlines in what remains of 2017 as tech giants jockey to establish a pole position in the race toward commercialization of Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Iron, Soft, Data, People – It Takes an Ecosystem!

December 11, 2017

Cutting edge advanced computing hardware (aka big iron) does not stand by itself. These computers are the pinnacle of a myriad of technologies that must be care Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft Spins Cycle Computing into Core Azure Product

December 5, 2017

Last August, cloud giant Microsoft acquired HPC cloud orchestration pioneer Cycle Computing. Since then the focus has been on integrating Cycle’s organization Read more…

By John Russell

GlobalFoundries, Ayar Labs Team Up to Commercialize Optical I/O

December 4, 2017

GlobalFoundries (GF) and Ayar Labs, a startup focused on using light, instead of electricity, to transfer data between chips, today announced they've entered in Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE In-Memory Platform Comes to COSMOS

November 30, 2017

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is on a mission to accelerate space research. In August, it sent the first commercial-off-the-shelf HPC system into space for testing Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC17 Cluster Competition: Who Won and Why? Results Analyzed and Over-Analyzed

November 28, 2017

Everyone by now knows that Nanyang Technological University of Singapore (NTU) took home the highest LINPACK Award and the Overall Championship from the recently concluded SC17 Student Cluster Competition. We also already know how the teams did in the Highest LINPACK and Highest HPCG competitions, with Nanyang grabbing bragging rights for both benchmarks. Read more…

By Dan Olds

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

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

AMD Showcases Growing Portfolio of EPYC and Radeon-based Systems at SC17

November 13, 2017

AMD’s charge back into HPC and the datacenter is on full display at SC17. Having launched the EPYC processor line in June along with its MI25 GPU the focus he 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

Japan Unveils Quantum Neural Network

November 22, 2017

The U.S. and China are leading the race toward productive quantum computing, but it's early enough that ultimate leadership is still something of an open questi Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

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

Perspective: What Really Happened at SC17?

November 22, 2017

SC is over. Now comes the myriad of follow-ups. Inboxes are filled with templated emails from vendors and other exhibitors hoping to win a place in the post-SC thinking of booth visitors. Attendees of tutorials, workshops and other technical sessions will be inundated with requests for feedback. Read more…

By Andrew Jones

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

IBM Begins Power9 Rollout with Backing from DOE, Google

December 6, 2017

After over a year of buildup, IBM is unveiling its first Power9 system based on the same architecture as the Department of Energy CORAL supercomputers, Summit a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tensors Come of Age: Why the AI Revolution Will Help HPC

November 13, 2017

Thirty years ago, parallel computing was coming of age. A bitter battle began between stalwart vector computing supporters and advocates of various approaches to parallel computing. IBM skeptic Alan Karp, reacting to announcements of nCUBE’s 1024-microprocessor system and Thinking Machines’ 65,536-element array, made a public $100 wager that no one could get a parallel speedup of over 200 on real HPC workloads. Read more…

By John Gustafson & Lenore Mullin

Flipping the Flops and Reading the Top500 Tea Leaves

November 13, 2017

The 50th edition of the Top500 list, the biannual publication of the world’s fastest supercomputers based on public Linpack benchmarking results, was released 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

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