Cloud Control: Outsourcing an HPC Cluster

By Scott Clark

August 5, 2010

So, thus far in this series of posts, we have discussed the following issues:

– IT is not a core competency of the business, so we should look to outsource if we can outsource without jeopardizing the business.

– We should look to cloud computing to bring costs under control and to deliver cost efficiencies over time, not as an immediate cost reduction activity.

– In order to outsource IT, we must trust the suppliers and vendors involved, which means developing relationships, not better bludgeoning weapons. And we have already done an extremely similar divestiture in our past, so we have a model to look at that says it can be done successfully

Now we need to talk about what an organization would need to look like in order to properly manage the outsourcing of your HPC cluster. So what would that look like? Well, we should assume that all technical and operational capabilities necessary to execute the infrastructure are included in the outsource. The supplier is expected to provide the entirety of the technical function and carry out all operational duties. That is not to say that the customer is off the hook technically, just the opposite. The customer needs to assemble a small team of technically savvy, business minded (specific to the core product of your company) individuals to measure and manage the outsource. This team needs to be very strong technically in order to vet and gauge any available technologies for potential use as well as identify flaws in solutions or methodology of solutions delivered. The size of the team would be dependent on the size of the company (and therefore the size of the outsource).

Functionally, the outsource management team is the control point for the outsourcing of your infrastructure. Through this group, you maintain control over your infrastructure, and therefore can have full trust in your outsource partner (because you know exactly what you want, and you know how to measure if you are getting it). The intent of this team is to stay abreast of the constantly changing needs of the business, understand the continuously evolving capabilities of technology, and combine the two awareness’ to understand how the company should be leveraging technology to maximize benefit to the business and control costs. With that combined awareness, you now hold the outsource accountable for delivering an appropriate solution to your company’s need.

This is not to say that all responsibility falls to the customer outsource team. The supplier will need to have a disciplined focus in the specific space that your company does business, and be innovating their solution to specifically solve the problems of that industry. If they do not, then they will probably not be a cost competitive, viable supplier long term.

You will see many functions that fall under the customer outsource team. And remember, this team needs to remain small in order to avoid paying too much for your solution. There will be a constant loop for the outsource team to:

1. Quantitatively measure the current solution

2. Analyze cost and benefits of the current solution

3. Assessment of best practices

4. Revision of current solution

5. Loop back to 1

There will be several technical responsibilities that the outsource team will participate in jointly. The supplier should be doing most of this work for the customer, but how do you know if the data they are presenting is 100% accurate or appropriate for your solution. When in doubt, the outsource team will generate their own data, and share that data with the supplier to derive a more accurate solution. In that, the outsource team will do some amount of, but not every facet of:

1. Technical and cost Benchmarking

2. Technical advisory / liaison (IT industry to customer business)

3. Technical architects – Designing architecture of applications and services that are appropriate for the company’s consumption

There are many responsibilities of the outsource team that will fall into the relationship management arena. This team will be the primary point of contact and control between the customer and the supplier, and I can’t say enough how important having a positive relationship with the supplier is to the quality of the product you consumer or the price you pay for that product. The outsource team will be responsible for communicating current and future requirements to the supplier, and many of those will take on the form of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) which we will talk about in a moment. The outsource team will also be responsible for how technology is being consumed by the customer company. The outsource team needs to make sure the company is getting the appropriate solution from the supplier company at an appropriate price with appropriate constraints / limitations / boundaries.

Another very important responsibility of the outsource team will be to maintain flexibility from a quality of solution as well as a cost perspective. In this, staying standards based is very important. It is not an absolute requirement, there may be solutions that are proprietary that solve a problem much more efficiently or cost effectively. What you need to consider in this case is when the vendor thinks they have you locked in, and start raising the price because they think you can’t get out of their solution, what is your plan for defeating them. So, where possible, use industry standards so that you can move from vendor to vendor without losing time, money, or critical features. Where that is not possible, what is the plan for using one vendor’s proprietary solution but being able to migrate to another vendor’s solutions without impact to maintain negotiating position.

Finally, there is the new component to infrastructure management. The outsource team will need to learn how to define and measure service level agreements (SLAs). The definition stage will have several components. What is the service level expectation (defines success and failure criteria)? This will sometimes have many different components for a single solution. An example would be storage: is there enough capacity, do we get enough IOPs, and is there enough throughput. All of these are different measurements, but critical to a storage infrastructure for HPC. How will this service level be measured and how often? We have all seen many improper SLA measurements where IT informs the engineer that they have 99.997% availability of the environment, but the engineer knows that there were several outages that had him or her non-productive for days at a time. So do you measure component level availability or solution level? How frequently are the polls for availability? Is availability the right measure? This is all part of the definition. And then, what happens when a failure criteria is met? This is where there is a lot of work happening in the industry. It is not sufficient to refund the months colo fees when a power outage cost the company 6 weeks worth of work. There is a cost to failure, and that is usually very specific to the industry. An outage on a cluster for an EDA company has different implications than an outage to a scientific computing cluster for a university. The recourse needs to be negotiated based impact. Does this at all sound familiar? Any insurance people reading this?? Well, that is one of the solutions the industry is exploring, is having insurance policies behind the supplier. Finally, we need to look at how service levels re-assessed over time. As the technology evolves, so should the service levels.

The fabless semiconductor industry is fairly mature in it’s process for outsourcing the fabrication function. They have cost models and laws (Rock’s Law for cost of a fab over time) that help decision processes, they have a collaborative (FSA) for arriving at better process, and they have an established track record that this can be accomplished very successfully and with cost benefit. The HPC Cloud industry needs to mature. That will just take time.

 

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!

GDPR’s Impact on Scientific Research Uncertain

May 24, 2018

Amid the angst over preparations—or lack thereof—for new European Union data protections entering into force at week’s end is the equally worrisome issue of the rules’ impact on scientific research. Among the Read more…

By George Leopold

Intel Pledges First Commercial Nervana Product ‘Spring Crest’ in 2019

May 24, 2018

At its AI developer conference in San Francisco yesterday, Intel embraced a holistic approach to AI and showed off a broad AI portfolio that includes Xeon processors, Movidius technologies, FPGAs and Intel’s Nervana Neural Network Processors (NNPs), based on the technology it acquired in 2016. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Pattern Computer – Startup Claims Breakthrough in ‘Pattern Discovery’ Technology

May 23, 2018

If it weren’t for the heavy-hitter technology team behind start-up Pattern Computer, which emerged from stealth today in a live-streamed event from San Francisco, one would be tempted to dismiss its claims of inventing Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPC and AI Convergence is Accelerating New Levels of Intelligence

Data analytics is the most valuable tool in the digital marketplace – so much so that organizations are employing high performance computing (HPC) capabilities to rapidly collect, share, and analyze endless streams of data. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Mastering the Big Data Challenge in Cognitive Healthcare

Patrick Chain, genomics researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory, posed a question in a recent blog: What if a nurse could swipe a patient’s saliva and run a quick genetic test to determine if the patient’s sore throat was caused by a cold virus or a bacterial infection? Read more…

Silicon Startup Raises ‘Prodigy’ for Hyperscale/AI Workloads

May 23, 2018

There's another silicon startup coming onto the HPC/hyperscale scene with some intriguing and bold claims. Silicon Valley-based Tachyum Inc., which has been emerging from stealth over the last year and a half, is unveili Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Pledges First Commercial Nervana Product ‘Spring Crest’ in 2019

May 24, 2018

At its AI developer conference in San Francisco yesterday, Intel embraced a holistic approach to AI and showed off a broad AI portfolio that includes Xeon processors, Movidius technologies, FPGAs and Intel’s Nervana Neural Network Processors (NNPs), based on the technology it acquired in 2016. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Pattern Computer – Startup Claims Breakthrough in ‘Pattern Discovery’ Technology

May 23, 2018

If it weren’t for the heavy-hitter technology team behind start-up Pattern Computer, which emerged from stealth today in a live-streamed event from San Franci Read more…

By John Russell

Silicon Startup Raises ‘Prodigy’ for Hyperscale/AI Workloads

May 23, 2018

There's another silicon startup coming onto the HPC/hyperscale scene with some intriguing and bold claims. Silicon Valley-based Tachyum Inc., which has been eme Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan Meteorological Agency Takes Delivery of Pair of Crays

May 21, 2018

Cray has supplied two identical Cray XC50 supercomputers to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) in northwestern Tokyo. Boasting more than 18 petaflops combine Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ASC18: Final Results Revealed & Wrapped Up

May 17, 2018

It was an exciting week at ASC18 in Nanyang, China. The student teams braved extreme heat, extremely difficult applications, and extreme competition in order to cross the cluster competition finish line. The gala awards ceremony took place on Wednesday. The auditorium was packed with student teams, various dignitaries, the media, and other interested parties. So what happened? Read more…

By Dan Olds

Spring Meetings Underscore Quantum Computing’s Rise

May 17, 2018

The month of April 2018 saw four very important and interesting meetings to discuss the state of quantum computing technologies, their potential impacts, and th Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Quantum Network Hub Opens in Japan

May 17, 2018

Following on the launch of its Q Commercial quantum network last December with 12 industrial and academic partners, the official Japanese hub at Keio University is now open to facilitate the exploration of quantum applications important to science and business. The news comes a week after IBM announced that North Carolina State University was the first U.S. university to join its Q Network. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Democratizing HPC: OSC Releases Version 1.3 of OnDemand

May 16, 2018

Making HPC resources readily available and easier to use for scientists who may have less HPC expertise is an ongoing challenge. Open OnDemand is a project by t Read more…

By John Russell

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CFO Steps down in Executive Shuffle at Supermicro

January 31, 2018

Supermicro yesterday announced senior management shuffling including prominent departures, the completion of an audit linked to its delayed Nasdaq filings, and Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Wins $57 Million DoD Supercomputing Contract

February 20, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today revealed details of its massive $57 million HPC contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The deal calls for HP Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning Portends ‘Sea Change’ for Oil and Gas Sector

February 1, 2018

The billowing compute and data demands that spurred the oil and gas industry to be the largest commercial users of high-performance computing are now propelling Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Hennessy & Patterson: A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture

April 17, 2018

On Monday June 4, 2018, 2017 A.M. Turing Award Winners John L. Hennessy and David A. Patterson will deliver the Turing Lecture at the 45th International Sympo Read more…

By Staff

Part One: Deep Dive into 2018 Trends in Life Sciences HPC

March 1, 2018

Life sciences is an interesting lens through which to see HPC. It is perhaps not an obvious choice, given life sciences’ relative newness as a heavy user of H Read more…

By John Russell

Google I/O 2018: AI Everywhere; TPU 3.0 Delivers 100+ Petaflops but Requires Liquid Cooling

May 9, 2018

All things AI dominated discussion at yesterday’s opening of Google’s I/O 2018 developers meeting covering much of Google's near-term product roadmap. The e Read more…

By John Russell

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