Amazon’s New HPC in the Cloud: Good Marketing or Real Progress?

By Wolfgang Gentzsch

July 17, 2010

A few days ago Amazon announced that it added HPC capabilities to EC2. This is great news indeed for the HPC community, because it further paves the way for HPC to becoming mainstream, which indicates there is cloud money to be made with HPC. Obviously, Amazon did a careful market analysis, and certainly got some requests from important users, and perhaps felt some pressure after rumors surfaced that Google’s server farmers are playing with Infiniband.

In more detail, Amazon added so-called Cluster Compute Instances (CCI) to EC2, each consisting of a pair of quad-core Intel X5570 (Nehalem) processors with a total of 33.5 ECU (EC2 Compute Units), 23 GB of RAM, and 1690 GB of local instance storage. CCIs are interconnected using a 10 Gbps Ethernet network. Within this network you can create one or more placement groups of type “cluster” and then launch CCIs within each group. Instances within each placement group of this type benefit from non-blocking bandwidth and low latency node to node communication. First benchmark results from LBNL show their HPC applications on CCIs ran 8.5 times faster than on the previous (vanilla) EC2 instance types.

So far so good. To me, in this context, there are two aspects which seem interesting: performance and price. Let’s look at performance first:

To achieve high performance, many HPC application programs have been optimized in the past for high execution speed, e.g. through parallelization of numerical algorithms, speeding up communication, overlapping communication with computation, and other sophisticated tricks. Thus an application programmer’s limits are mostly set by physical boundaries: e.g. if processors or interconnects are slow. Now that Amazon has added fast processors and Ethernet to its server farm, there is no surprise to see some interesting speedups over the standard EC2 servers and interconnection. But Ethernet is not Infiniband, and you still face the cloud’s virtualization layer, which may cause different parallel (virtual) processes sitting on different cluster compute instances which still may cause communication delays. Fair enough, Amazon admits that the only way to know if you got a genuine HPC setup for your specific application is to benchmark it, which is anyway a general wisdom in HPC (We should ask Ed Walker to repeat his NAS Parallel Benchmark tests from 2008 now on the new CCIs).

Looking closer into the TOP500 list, Amazon’s Linpack on 880 CCIs (7040 cores) and 41.82 TeraFLOPS is giving them the 146th position. Other Ethernet based supercomputers with a similar position have similar numbers of cores, no surprise. BUT, those with a similar position and with Infiniband interconnect need only about 4800 cores to achieve the same performance.

Therefore, my guess is that most of the average real HPC capability computing applications (e.g. in electronic design automation, automotive applications, or finite-element based material analysis) won’t show a big performance improvement over vanilla EC2 instances, especially those which really demand low latency and high bandwidh. But, fortunately, not all of the HPC applications have this demand; especially the many ones under the umbrella of  Capacity Computing with more loosely coupled parallelization (and thus moderate to no communication) might benefit from this improvement. And the fact that the Berkeley LBNL expert team has been involved in early beta, and certainly in consulting AWS and doing a lot of HPC benchmarking, gives the whole project real  credibility. I am sure we will soon see some good results, lessons learned, and recommendations from LBNL; at the latest when Kathy Yellick from LBNL will give her keynote at the ISC Cloud Conference in Frankfurt on October 29.

Another fact that Amazon seems to take HPC serious now is Cycle Computing’ s announcement to schedule HPC jobs on AWS Compute Clusters with Oracle Grid Engine resource manager which (as former Sun Grid Engine) is widely used today on HPC clusters and private clouds in research and industry.

Still the best solution for the HPC user would be if you were able to select between Ethernet and Infiniband, to switch virtualization on and off, and to chose between slower and faster CPUs, and multi-core optimization software such as MCOpt from eXludus. But building and maintaining such a variable cloud infrastructure for the small HPC community might not be economic, or might become much more expensive for the user than to maintain her own internal HPC cluster.

 The second important factor in this scenario is price. Let’s look at Amazon’s Linpack benchmark on its CCIs. Each CCI as described above costs $1.60 per hour. Amazon ran Linpack on 880 CCIs (7040 cores) and measured the overall performance at 41.82 TeraFLOPS giving them the 146th position on the TOP500 list. The cost for such a CCI cluster is 1.6*24*30*880  = $1M per month and $12M per year (and if you select Reserved Clusters the price will be 4.3M per year). Not cheap.

In industry, many HPC infrastructures are so well managed that they are at top utilization for almost all the time and their capacity is also tuned to be sufficient for their regular workloads. If capacity needs are trending upwards then they adjust.

But, there is one use case for which Amazon’s CCI can be very useful: What if a department has a fire-drill project for which additional resources are needed immediately, and if only for a restricted period of time? Today, nobody has a simple solution to address this. It takes six months on average to procure, deploy and activate new resources. So they either can’t do it, or they delay other work to free up capacity for the urgent project to run. That might work for a project requiring a few hours or days of access to resources but not for something requiring months. And apparently many companies have those fire-drill problems in some regularity.

And that’s exactly where they would like to use clouds. They’d have the ability to come back and say to the user: “the option we can offer to you is more expensive and has worse performance plus you need to be aware of certain security and data privacy issues but if you’re willing to put up with that then we can provide you a solution.” And by virtue of existing Cloud Adapter software (for cloud bursting as exemplified and simplified by the Service Domain Manager for OGE)  the end-user will actually get the illusion to work inside his company’s regular HPC environment.

Thus, usage of clouds is anticipated to add more options and flexibility to their current IT infrastructure which by all means will be maintained and even will grow. If you are a large corporation and if you have an established and well managed (!) data center then operating your own is more effective. The picture looks different if you are a small or medium sized enterprise which starts getting its feet wet on such infrastructure. Or for that matter also if you are a larger corporation and you have troubles with your data center as it stands. Instead of going through the learning curve of getting your own infrastructure “right” you might choose just to rely on a service like AWS.

Dr. Wolfgang Gentzsch is the General Chair for ISC Cloud’10, taking place October 28-29, in Frankfurt, Germany.  ISC Cloud’10 will focus on practical solutions by bridging the gap between research and industry in cloud computing. Information about the event can be found at the ISC Cloud event website.  HPC in the Cloud is a proud media partner of ISC Cloud’10.

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!

House Bill Seeks Study on Quantum Computing, Identifying Benefits, Supply Chain Risks

May 27, 2020

New legislation under consideration (H.R.6919, Advancing Quantum Computing Act) requests that the Secretary of Commerce conduct a comprehensive study on quantum computing to assess the benefits of the technology for Amer Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

$100B Plan Submitted for Massive Remake and Expansion of NSF

May 27, 2020

Legislation to reshape, expand - and rename - the National Science Foundation has been submitted in both the U.S. House and Senate. The proposal, which seems to have bipartisan support, calls for giving NSF $100 billion Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Boosts Deep Learning Accuracy on Memristive Chips

May 27, 2020

IBM researchers have taken another step towards making in-memory computing based on phase change (PCM) memory devices a reality. Papers in Nature and Frontiers in Neuroscience this month present IBM work using a mixed-si Read more…

By John Russell

Australian Researchers Break All-Time Internet Speed Record

May 26, 2020

If you’ve been stuck at home for the last few months, you’ve probably become more attuned to the quality (or lack thereof) of your internet connection. Even in the U.S. (which has a reasonably fast average broadband Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hats Over Hearts: Remembering Rich Brueckner

May 26, 2020

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Rich Brueckner. His passing is an unexpected and enormous blow to both his family and our HPC family. Rich was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on April 12, 1962. His Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Computational Fluid Dynamics on AWS

Over the past 30 years Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) has grown to become a key part of many engineering design processes. From aircraft design to modelling the blood flow in our bodies, the ability to understand the behaviour of fluids has enabled countless innovations and improved the time to market for many products. Read more…

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the dominant primate species, with the neanderthals disappearing b Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

$100B Plan Submitted for Massive Remake and Expansion of NSF

May 27, 2020

Legislation to reshape, expand - and rename - the National Science Foundation has been submitted in both the U.S. House and Senate. The proposal, which seems to Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Boosts Deep Learning Accuracy on Memristive Chips

May 27, 2020

IBM researchers have taken another step towards making in-memory computing based on phase change (PCM) memory devices a reality. Papers in Nature and Frontiers Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Q1 Earnings Top Expectations, Datacenter Revenue Breaks $1B

May 22, 2020

Nvidia’s seemingly endless roll continued in the first quarter with the company announcing blockbuster earnings that exceeded Wall Street expectations. Nvidia Read more…

By Doug Black

Microsoft’s Massive AI Supercomputer on Azure: 285k CPU Cores, 10k GPUs

May 20, 2020

Microsoft has unveiled a supercomputing monster – among the world’s five most powerful, according to the company – aimed at what is known in scientific an Read more…

By Doug Black

HPC in Life Sciences 2020 Part 1: Rise of AMD, Data Management’s Wild West, More 

May 20, 2020

Given the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive enlistment of major HPC resources to fight the pandemic, it is especially appropriate to re Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Epyc Rome Picked for New Nvidia DGX, but HGX Preserves Intel Option

May 19, 2020

AMD continues to make inroads into the datacenter with its second-generation Epyc "Rome" processor, which last week scored a win with Nvidia's announcement that Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hacking Streak Forces European Supercomputers Offline in Midst of COVID-19 Research Effort

May 18, 2020

This week, a number of European supercomputers discovered intrusive malware hosted on their systems. Now, in the midst of a massive supercomputing research effo Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Nvidia’s Ampere A100 GPU: Up to 2.5X the HPC, 20X the AI

May 14, 2020

Nvidia's first Ampere-based graphics card, the A100 GPU, packs a whopping 54 billion transistors on 826mm2 of silicon, making it the world's largest seven-nanom Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Supercomputer Modeling Tests How COVID-19 Spreads in Grocery Stores

April 8, 2020

In the COVID-19 era, many people are treating simple activities like getting gas or groceries with caution as they try to heed social distancing mandates and protect their own health. Still, significant uncertainty surrounds the relative risk of different activities, and conflicting information is prevalent. A team of Finnish researchers set out to address some of these uncertainties by... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Turns Its Massive Crowdsourced Computer Network Against COVID-19

March 16, 2020

For gamers, fighting against a global crisis is usually pure fantasy – but now, it’s looking more like a reality. As supercomputers around the world spin up Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

[email protected] Rallies a Legion of Computers Against the Coronavirus

March 24, 2020

Last week, we highlighted [email protected], a massive, crowdsourced computer network that has turned its resources against the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe – but [email protected] isn’t the only game in town. The internet is buzzing with crowdsourced computing... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Global Supercomputing Is Mobilizing Against COVID-19

March 12, 2020

Tech has been taking some heavy losses from the coronavirus pandemic. Global supply chains have been disrupted, virtually every major tech conference taking place over the next few months has been canceled... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DoE Expands on Role of COVID-19 Supercomputing Consortium

March 25, 2020

After announcing the launch of the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium on Sunday, the Department of Energy yesterday provided more details on its sco Read more…

By John Russell

Supercomputer Simulations Reveal the Fate of the Neanderthals

May 25, 2020

For hundreds of thousands of years, neanderthals roamed the planet, eventually (almost 50,000 years ago) giving way to homo sapiens, which quickly became the do Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Steve Scott Lays Out HPE-Cray Blended Product Roadmap

March 11, 2020

Last week, the day before the El Capitan processor disclosures were made at HPE's new headquarters in San Jose, Steve Scott (CTO for HPC & AI at HPE, and former Cray CTO) was on-hand at the Rice Oil & Gas HPC conference in Houston. He was there to discuss the HPE-Cray transition and blended roadmap, as well as his favorite topic, Cray's eighth-gen networking technology, Slingshot. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Honeywell’s Big Bet on Trapped Ion Quantum Computing

April 7, 2020

Honeywell doesn’t spring to mind when thinking of quantum computing pioneers, but a decade ago the high-tech conglomerate better known for its control systems waded deliberately into the then calmer quantum computing (QC) waters. Fast forward to March when Honeywell announced plans to introduce an ion trap-based quantum computer whose ‘performance’ would... Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

AMD
AMD
ASROCK RACK
ASROCK RACK
AWS
AWS
CEJN
CJEN
CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
IBM
IBM
MELLANOX
MELLANOX
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
SIX NINES IT
SIX NINES IT
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL
WEKAIO
WEKAIO

Contributors

Fujitsu A64FX Supercomputer to Be Deployed at Nagoya University This Summer

February 3, 2020

Japanese tech giant Fujitsu announced today that it will supply Nagoya University Information Technology Center with the first commercial supercomputer powered Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tech Conferences Are Being Canceled Due to Coronavirus

March 3, 2020

Several conferences scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, including Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC) and the Strata Data + AI conference, have Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Exascale Watch: El Capitan Will Use AMD CPUs & GPUs to Reach 2 Exaflops

March 4, 2020

HPE and its collaborators reported today that El Capitan, the forthcoming exascale supercomputer to be sited at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and serve Read more…

By John Russell

‘Billion Molecules Against COVID-19’ Challenge to Launch with Massive Supercomputing Support

April 22, 2020

Around the world, supercomputing centers have spun up and opened their doors for COVID-19 research in what may be the most unified supercomputing effort in hist Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cray to Provide NOAA with Two AMD-Powered Supercomputers

February 24, 2020

The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last week announced plans for a major refresh of its operational weather forecasting supercomputers, part of a 10-year, $505.2 million program, which will secure two HPE-Cray systems for NOAA’s National Weather Service to be fielded later this year and put into production in early 2022. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

15 Slides on Programming Aurora and Exascale Systems

May 7, 2020

Sometime in 2021, Aurora, the first planned U.S. exascale system, is scheduled to be fired up at Argonne National Laboratory. Cray (now HPE) and Intel are the k Read more…

By John Russell

TACC Supercomputers Run Simulations Illuminating COVID-19, DNA Replication

March 19, 2020

As supercomputers around the world spin up to combat the coronavirus, the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) is announcing results that may help to illumina Read more…

By Staff report

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This