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!

Scalable Informatics Ceases Operations

March 23, 2017

On the same day we reported on the uncertain future for HPC compiler company PathScale, we are sad to learn that another HPC vendor, Scalable Informatics, is closing its doors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘Strategies in Biomedical Data Science’ Advances IT-Research Synergies

March 23, 2017

“Strategies in Biomedical Data Science: Driving Force for Innovation” by Jay A. Etchings is both an introductory text and a field guide for anyone working with biomedical data. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Launches New Machine Learning Journal

March 22, 2017

On Monday, Google announced plans to launch a new peer review journal and “ecosystem” Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HFT Firms Turn to Co-Location to Gain Competitive Advantage

High-frequency trading (HFT) is a high-speed, high-stakes world where every millisecond matters. Finding ways to execute trades faster than the competition translates directly to greater revenue for firms, brokerages, and exchanges. Read more…

Swiss Researchers Peer Inside Chips with Improved X-Ray Imaging

March 22, 2017

Peering inside semiconductor chips using x-ray imaging isn’t new, but the technique hasn’t been especially good or easy to accomplish. Read more…

By John Russell

LANL Simulation Shows Massive Black Holes Break ‘Speed Limit’

March 21, 2017

A new computer simulation based on codes developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) is shedding light on how supermassive black holes could have formed in the early universe contrary to most prior models which impose a limit on how fast these massive ‘objects’ can form. Read more…

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Ships Drives Based on 3D XPoint Non-volatile Memory

March 20, 2017

Intel Corp. has begun shipping new storage drives based on its 3D XPoint non-volatile memory technology as it targets data-driven workloads. Intel’s new Optane solid-state drives, designated P4800X, seek to combine the attributes of memory and storage in the same device. Read more…

By George Leopold

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the campaign. Read more…

By John Russell

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

New Japanese Supercomputing Project Targets Exascale

March 14, 2017

Another Japanese supercomputing project was revealed this week, this one from emerging supercomputer maker, ExaScaler Inc., and Keio University. The partners are working on an original supercomputer design with exascale aspirations. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Debuts HGX-1 for Cloud; Announces Fujitsu AI Deal

March 9, 2017

On Monday Nvidia announced a major deal with Fujitsu to help build an AI supercomputer for RIKEN using 24 DGX-1 servers. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC4Mfg Advances State-of-the-Art for American Manufacturing

March 9, 2017

Last Friday (March 3, 2017), the High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) program held an industry engagement day workshop in San Diego, bringing together members of the US manufacturing community, national laboratories and universities to discuss the role of high-performance computing as an innovation engine for American manufacturing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

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

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

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

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the campaign. Read more…

By John Russell

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

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

Intel and Trump Announce $7B for Fab 42 Targeting 7nm

February 8, 2017

In what may be an attempt by President Trump to reset his turbulent relationship with the high tech industry, he and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich today announced plans to invest more than $7 billion to complete Fab 42. Read more…

By John Russell

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