Are We Already in the HPC On-Demand Era?

By Miha Ahronovitz

July 23, 2010

Faith is the evidence of things not seen.

Therefore, under this definition, we must believe Amazon offering of a configuration made up of actual physical processor instances, not virtualized ones, that gets a #146 ranking on TOP500 for a cool $8M to $12M per year.


“Each Cluster Compute Instance consists of a pair of quad-core Intel ‘Nehalem’ X5570 processors with a total of 33.5 ECU (EC2 Compute Units), 23 GB of RAM, and 1690 GB of local instance storage, all for $1.60 per hour.”

“We ran the gold-standard High Performance Linpack benchmark on 880 Cluster Compute instances (7040 cores) and measured the overall performance at 41.82 TeraFLOPS using Intel’s MPI (Message Passing Interface) and MKL (Math Kernel Library) libraries, along with their compiler suite. This result places us at position 146 on the TOP500 list of supercomputers.”

Are we already in the HPC on demand era? I contend that yes, we are getting there but that there are some details to fix. Robert Jenkins, co-founder CloudSigma comments on the Cluster Compute instance:

“The biggest bottleneck for high performance computing is disk performance…. Adding 10Gbps networking will help, but will not solve the constraint of having remote SAN storage from the computing. Infiniband is much lower latency than 10 Gbps networking if this really is your bottleneck.”

For now, the Amazon Web Services Compute Cluster Instances the offer is restricted geographically to the Northeastern US and Virginia. CloudSigma offers a similar configuration to customers in Europe.

Cluster Instance
– 23 GB of memory
– 33.5 EC2 Compute Units (2 x Intel Xeon X5570, quad-core “Nehalem”
– 1,690 GB of instance storage
– 64-bit platform
– I/O Performance: Very High (10 Gigabit Ethernet)
API name: cc1.4xlarge
– 32GB of RAM
– 20GHz CPU (with user definable cores up to 10 for multi- threading)*
– 1,690 GB of persistent storage per drive with up to 4 drives per instance
– 64bit or 32bit with fully user controlled operating system
– local storage on fast 2.5inch disks in RAID6 (with battery backed hardware RAID cards)

* Based on AMD X4

On Demand
$1.60 per hour
5 instances is $8:00 per hour
No discount for volume
Amazon Price List
$0.60 to $1.98 per hour
Price for 5 instances:
$3.02 to $9.92 per hour, low peak and high peak respectively
Subscription Pricing
$4,290 (1 yr) to 6,590 (3 yr) upfront plus $0.56 per hour
No upfront fees
$1.29 per hour,
North East US and Virginia
Switzerland and Western Europe
$0.15 per GB outgoing
$0.15 per GB data in
$0.06 per GB outgoing
Free unlimited bandwith data in


What is interesting here is that Amazon is a global behemoth company and CloudSigma is a recent startup. They are not unique, yet it is worth mentioning. For now they don’t even compete, as their services are in different geographies. One day they will, and it is nice to see that HPC customers have alternatives.

Chris Dagdijian from Bio-Team – the company that offers professional services to implement for their clients in bio-science and financial services HPC applications on Amazon, has this comment the AWS Compute Cluster Interface:

“Performance of the root/boot disk is way slower than any other type of block based storage. This is to be expected as the boot disk (even though it comes via an EBS-resident AMI) does not get the benefit of paravirtualization acceleration. The take home message is that the boot/root disk volume should not really be used for anything. This also means that this blog post showing how to increase the size of the local OS disk is useful only for playing around and not for anything serious.”

It seems the solution to slow boot disk access is adding para-virtualization drivers and the pressure from customers like bio-team may implement these changes on Amazon. Meanwhile Bio-Team possible remedy is described here:

“Future BioTeam cluster building practices may use the ~800GB of ephemeral storage to service a NFS or parallel file-system that offers input data to pipelines running on EC2 compute farms. Since we can’t trust ephemeral storage for anything unique we’d have a second shared file-system (backed by EBS) to handle capturing pipeline results.

Obviously there is one other comparison to make — how do these performance numbers measure against the 1-disk. 4-disk and 8-disk EBS RAID0 stripe sets that we’ve been testing all week?”

The possibility of double shared file system makes the use of Compute Cluster Instances not trivial and any company adopting the HPC in demand will contract expert independent services. Bio-Team makes this statement to differentiate themselves from web and database developers

We are bioinformatics and HPC types specializing in life sciences, not people trying to build the next Twitter or Facebook. What we care about when it comes to AWS performance may not be what YOU care about. In particular there is a ton of Internet information concentrating on methods for speeding up random IO access patterns on AWS. In our work, however, we seem to be more bound by the speed of long sequential reads (and sometimes writes). Parallel and serial scientific/HPC computing is different from building giant websites or databases.

Note that CloudSigma are offering fast RAID 6 storage in their bundle.

The availability of options available for Compute Cluster Instances is a positive aspect of the offering. Having some hiccups is part of the early adopters game, and final results will pay. All asperities will be nicely taken care of and probably the prices will come down.

What it counts in the end is how many customers use the solution implemented in AWS, Cloud Sigma and others. Allow me to paraphrase David Chernicoff blog from Zdnet:

“For the long term, everybody on the backend playing nice will be much more beneficial to cloud consumers than the same type of religious war that tends to crop up anytime you get Mac, Windows, and Linux users together in the same place. As much as zealots like to think that their personal opinion really matters, most of the business world just doesn’t care what operating system or application is being run, as long as it aids them in getting their work done and doesn’t impede them.

So whether the cloud application that is driving the business forward is running on OpenStack, Azure, VMware, RedHat Enterprise, or CP/M isn’t an issue to consumers of cloud services. Results are all that matter.”

This is the final reward for those – basically all readers of HPC Cloud – who had faith in HPC on demand.

Miha Ahronovitz is the Principal of Ahrono Associates. The company addresses the issues that 90% of the corporate software products fail to reach the initial goals. Ahrono specializes in cloud software products and business models. It manages the process to deliver products that users and clients really want. Miha was managing the Product Strategy and Business Development, HPC Grid and Cloud Computing at Sun Microsystems. He was also the executive product manager for Sun Grid Engine, now re-named Oracle Grid Engine. After Sun merger with Oracle in February 2010. he founded Ahrono Associates with two other Sun seasoned partners: Gregory Shirin and Kuldip Pabla.

Miha is also one of founders of Gridware, the start-up company acquired by Sun in 2000. Gridware flagship product was Codine, that later became, Sun Grid Engine. Miha’s blog, The Memories of a Product Manager is popular in the cloud computing community. His blogs on “Making big money with Hadoop” and “New HPC Compute cluster Instances” have resonated well with HPC cloud-oriented readers.

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!

HPC Career Notes: July 2020 Edition

July 1, 2020

In this monthly feature, we'll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high-performance computing community. Whether it's a promotion, new company hire, or even an accolade, we've got Read more…

By Mariana Iriarte

Supercomputers Enable Radical, Promising New COVID-19 Drug Development Approach

July 1, 2020

Around the world, innumerable supercomputers are sifting through billions of molecules in a desperate search for a viable therapeutic to treat COVID-19. Those molecules are pulled from enormous databases of known compoun Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

HPC-Powered Simulations Reveal a Looming Climatic Threat to Vital Monsoon Seasons

June 30, 2020

As June draws to a close, eyes are turning to the latter half of the year – and with it, the monsoon and hurricane seasons that can prove vital or devastating for many of the world’s coastal communities. Now, climate Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This year is no different though the conversion of ISC to a digital Read more…

By John Russell

What’s New in HPC Research: Mosquitoes, [email protected], the Last Journey & More

June 29, 2020

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AWS Solution Channel

Maxar Builds HPC on AWS to Deliver Forecasts 58% Faster Than Weather Supercomputer

When weather threatens drilling rigs, refineries, and other energy facilities, oil and gas companies want to move fast to protect personnel and equipment. And for firms that trade commodity shares in oil, precious metals, crops, and livestock, the weather can significantly impact their buy-sell decisions. Read more…

Intel® HPC + AI Pavilion

Supercomputing the Pandemic: Scientific Community Tackles COVID-19 from Multiple Perspectives

Since their inception, supercomputers have taken on the biggest, most complex, and most data-intensive computing challenges—from confirming Einstein’s theories about gravitational waves to predicting the impacts of climate change. Read more…

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Recent U.S. events, most poignantly the killing of George Floy Read more…

Hyperion Forecast – Headwinds in 2020 Won’t Stifle Cloud HPC Adoption or Arm’s Rise

June 30, 2020

The semiannual taking of HPC’s pulse by Hyperion Research – late fall at SC and early summer at ISC – is a much-watched indicator of things come. This yea Read more…

By John Russell

Racism and HPC: a Special Podcast

June 29, 2020

Promoting greater diversity in HPC is a much-discussed goal and ostensibly a long-sought goal in HPC. Yet it seems clear HPC is far from achieving this goal. Re Read more…

Top500 Trends: Movement on Top, but Record Low Turnover

June 25, 2020

The 55th installment of the Top500 list saw strong activity in the leadership segment with four new systems in the top ten and a crowning achievement from the f Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ISC 2020 Keynote: Hope for the Future, Praise for Fugaku and HPC’s Pandemic Response

June 24, 2020

In stark contrast to past years Thomas Sterling’s ISC20 keynote today struck a more somber note with the COVID-19 pandemic as the central character in Sterling’s annual review of worldwide trends in HPC. Better known for his engaging manner and occasional willingness to poke prickly egos, Sterling instead strode through the numbing statistics associated... Read more…

By John Russell

ISC 2020’s Student Cluster Competition Winners Announced

June 24, 2020

Normally, the Student Cluster Competition involves teams of students building real computing clusters on the show floors of major supercomputer conferences and Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Hoefler’s Whirlwind ISC20 Virtual Tour of ML Trends in 9 Slides

June 23, 2020

The ISC20 experience this year via livestreaming and pre-recordings is interesting and perhaps a bit odd. That said presenters’ efforts to condense their comments makes for economic use of your time. Torsten Hoefler’s whirlwind 12-minute tour of ML is a great example. Hoefler, leader of the planned ISC20 Machine Learning... Read more…

By John Russell

At ISC, the Fight Against COVID-19 Took the Stage – and Yes, Fugaku Was There

June 23, 2020

With over nine million infected and nearly half a million dead, the COVID-19 pandemic has seized the world’s attention for several months. It has also dominat Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Japan’s Fugaku Tops Global Supercomputing Rankings

June 22, 2020

A new Top500 champ was unveiled today. Supercomputer Fugaku, the pride of Japan and the namesake of Mount Fuji, vaulted to the top of the 55th edition of the To 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

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

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

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


Neocortex Will Be First-of-Its-Kind 800,000-Core AI Supercomputer

June 9, 2020

Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC - a joint research organization of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh) has won a $5 million award Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

‘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

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 Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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

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

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

By Doug Black

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

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