Steam Engine Rolls into HPC Cloud Market

By Nicole Hemsoth

August 17, 2010

Australian IT systems integrator Frontline Systems announced Steam Engine, which is a cloud-based infrastructure provider with an eye on the HPC market. According to the company’s release, Steam Engine will offer “high performance computing infrastructure with zero capital expenditure and cost-effective short-term leasing options at a minimum of one month.”

The company claims that they are seeking to fulfill demand for this kind of infrastructure in key market segments, including “visual effects, geo-science, mining, biomedical and financial industries for bursts of rendering, simulation and process-intensive applications.” This focus is due in part to the fact that they see these areas as being best suited for what they offer since many of these segments are characterized by wide variations in demand and oftentimes there might not be the financial support for in-house solutions. They cite a number of animation studios currently using their service, although many are based exclusively in Australia.

When asked what their competitive advantages were and what made them relevant or different in the space, we did receive an answer that comes from others in the same arena, including mentions about scalability, expertise, relationships with vendors and general statements about not being the same. The company also noted “geographic proximity to customers when considering HPC payloads” as a point of difference between the others who vie for the same customers. While the last point they make is an interesting, albeit slightly vague, issue of contention, as a newcomer in the HPC cloud space, it is necessary to evaluate them in the context of the others that have come before—and the onslaught that will come once the HPC cloud matures.

To dig a little deeper into the company’s HPC cloud offering, HPC in the Cloud communicated via email with Stefan Gillard, the company’s commercial director and Michael Chanter, CTO for further insight.

HPCc: Although you hinted at some of the possible reasons, including demand among those with spikes computing need, why are you emphasizing the niche markets? What drove the choice?

Gillard/Chanter: Mainly because the markets are ‘HPC ready’, but also because the Frontline and Steam Engine teams have established track records in these industries at a deep level. Although the software workloads are different, they have similar processing requirements (ability to parallel, need for scale and spiky in terms of demand), and are market spaces where HPC is an accepted and understood paradigm.

HPCc: Most use cases or commentary points about Steam Engine are Australian-are you focused on customers in your backyard or beyond? What is your current versus projected reach?
 
Gillard/Chanter : We estimate that we will have 4000 nodes (48,000 cores) deployed in Australia within the next 12 months in Engine1 as well as appox 2PB of Tier 1 and Tier 2 storage as well.

We are currently working to deploy Engine2 into Vancouver B.C. comprising 3000 nodes (36,000 cores) by Xmas 2010.

We are currently finalizing plans for a deployment of over 4000 nodes (48,000 cores) into Mumbai India as well with Engine3. This will include approximately 2PB of Tier 1 and Tier 2 storage as well.

HPCc: What are the node sizes/architecture, x86-based?
 
Gillard/Chanter: Current architecture for nodes is entirely based on HP server platform.
 
Blade servers are
 
HP ProLiant BL2x220c G6 L5640 24GB (2P)
Intel® Xeon® L5640 (6 core, 2.40 GHz, 12MB L3, 60W) Dual Hex Cores
24GB Ram per Node
1GbE NC362i 2 Ports
 
2RU units are
 
HP Proliant SL2x170z  G6
Intel Xeon X5670 (6 core, 2.93 Ghz, 12MB L3,90W) Dual Hex Cores
48GB Ram per Node
2TB of local disk per node

HPCc: What is operating system/s – Redhat, Microsoft, Debian, SUSE or all of them?
 
Gillard/Chanter  All of the above as well as any flavor our clients may have tuned themselves.

HPCc: What virtualization software are you using?
 
Gillard/Chanter:  OS and virtualization are customer dependent. The key architectures we support from a virtualization perspective are CitrixXen, Hyper V, VMWare.

HPCc: How are the nodes interconnected – Ethernet 1Gig or 10Gig or is it Infiniband?

Gillard/Chanter: At this stage Steam Engine is offering 10gig interconnections combined with HPC-specific switching architecture utilizing Arista and Brocade switching technology. The performance of a HPC solution is not just down to interconnect technology. HPC is a solution stack, and every consideration made around our networking layer, storage, interface, memory profile, application stacks influence total throughput of the environment. Our expertise in tuning all of these elements together effectively, provide us with a competitive value proposition when compared to other providers.
 
In terms of switching we are utilizing products from both Brocade MLX series, and Arista 7500 series product lines.

HPCc: Since you’ve indentified biomedical HPC users as a target market, the big question is what security provisions have been put into place to ensure financial data biomedical data is not ‘leaked”‘?
 
Gillard/ChanterWe have segmentation based on physical chassis, storage, network and virtualization segmentation. Segmentation can be physical layer to virtual layer depending on customer requirements. Steam Engine 1 infrastructure is hosted in Tier 3 Data Centre, which is one of the 5 data centers that are Federal Government certified. Our HPC environment is located in the same DC as the ATO.

HPCc:  What is your disaster recovery plan and can you guarantee no data loss? if you have guarantees what is the penalty if system fails and data is lost?
 
Gillard/ChanterDR is based on customer requirements. We have 2 different customer scenarios.
1. Digital Asset Management & Data Storage, and the other is

2. HPC compute where often the customer data is transient on the environment.

In Scenario 1 we have DC to DC redundancy, and disc to disc and disc to tape redundancy dependent upon customer requirements. In scenario 2, DR is not a primary consideration, as typically, the output is shipped back to the customer on completion.

HPCc: While Steam Engine is a new launch, Frontline is not—can you explain this relationship and state how long have you been in business?

Gillard/ChanterAs a new Frontline venture in the HPC cloud space, Steam Engine has been in business since March 2010, however as a Enterprise Infrastructure System Integrator we have been servicing Enterprise Infrastructure customers for over 19 years.

HPCc: What is the software stack, or do you bring your own? 
 
Gillard/ChanterWe can either provide or the customer brings their own. All our services come with professional technical support for as long as you use the service. We work closely with you to ensure your application works as you would expect it to and guide you through the use of our services. Whether you are a first-time Linux user or an expert, we want to provide you with hassle-free cluster computing services.

HPCc: Why and how are you different from Amazon’s EC3?

Gillard/Chanter: 

1. Higher specification environment ie you are accessing physical infrastructure not virtualized cluster instances.

2. More competitive pricing

3. Support and Assistance

4. Certainty of location and Data Location

5. Geographic proximity to customers.

6. Engineering support for localized customer requirements, as opposed to faceless cloud.

7. Our Infrastructure is specifically tuned to the workloads we offer our customer base. (i.e., our use of BlueArc storage tier 1 for the vfx and animation idustry which is known to be the benchmark for HPC storage requirements, compared to the storage IO specification of other players in the market including Amazon, is second to none).

* Note * We will continue to follow the company’s developments to see if they expand outside of their borders, both market and geographically-wise—and how they will manage to differentiate themselves in practice over a diverse set of use cases.
 

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!

Trinity Supercomputer’s Haswell and KNL Partitions Are Merged

July 19, 2017

Trinity supercomputer’s two partitions – one based on Intel Xeon Haswell processors and the other on Xeon Phi Knights Landing – have been fully integrated are now available for use on classified work in the Nationa Read more…

By HPCwire Staff

Fujitsu Continues HPC, AI Push

July 19, 2017

Summer is well under way, but the so-called summertime slowdown, linked with hot temperatures and longer vacations, does not seem to have impacted Fujitsu's output. The Japanese multinational has made a raft of HPC and A Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Use DNA to Store and Retrieve Digital Movie

July 18, 2017

From abacus to pencil and paper to semiconductor chips, the technology of computing has always been an ever-changing target. The human brain is probably the computer we use most (hopefully) and understand least. This mon Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale FY18 Budget – The Next Step

July 17, 2017

On July 12, 2017, the U.S. federal budget for its Exascale Computing Initiative (ECI) took its next step forward. On that day, the full Appropriations Committee of the House of Representatives voted to accept the recomme Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Servers Deliver High Performance Remote Visualization

Whether generating seismic simulations, locating new productive oil reservoirs, or constructing complex models of the earth’s subsurface, energy, oil, and gas (EO&G) is a highly data-driven industry. Read more…

Summer Reading: IEEE Spectrum’s Chip Hall of Fame

July 17, 2017

Take a trip down memory lane – the Mostek MK4096 4-kilobit DRAM, for instance. Perhaps processors are more to your liking. Remember the Sh-Boom processor (1988), created by Russell Fish and Chuck Moore, and named after Read more…

By John Russell

Women in HPC Luncheon Shines Light on Female-Friendly Hiring Practices

July 13, 2017

The second annual Women in HPC luncheon was held on June 20, 2017, during the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, Germany. The luncheon provides participants the opportunity to network with industry lea Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Satellite Advances, NSF Computation Power Rapid Mapping of Earth’s Surface

July 13, 2017

New satellite technologies have completely changed the game in mapping and geographical data gathering, reducing costs and placing a new emphasis on time series and timeliness in general, according to Paul Morin, directo Read more…

By Ken Chiacchia and Tiffany Jolley

Intel Skylake: Xeon Goes from Chip to Platform

July 13, 2017

With yesterday’s New York unveiling of the new “Skylake” Xeon Scalable processors, Intel made multiple runs at multiple competitive threats and strategic markets. Skylake will carry Intel's flag in the fight for le Read more…

By Doug Black

Fujitsu Continues HPC, AI Push

July 19, 2017

Summer is well under way, but the so-called summertime slowdown, linked with hot temperatures and longer vacations, does not seem to have impacted Fujitsu's out Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Use DNA to Store and Retrieve Digital Movie

July 18, 2017

From abacus to pencil and paper to semiconductor chips, the technology of computing has always been an ever-changing target. The human brain is probably the com Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale FY18 Budget – The Next Step

July 17, 2017

On July 12, 2017, the U.S. federal budget for its Exascale Computing Initiative (ECI) took its next step forward. On that day, the full Appropriations Committee Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Women in HPC Luncheon Shines Light on Female-Friendly Hiring Practices

July 13, 2017

The second annual Women in HPC luncheon was held on June 20, 2017, during the International Supercomputing Conference in Frankfurt, Germany. The luncheon provid Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Satellite Advances, NSF Computation Power Rapid Mapping of Earth’s Surface

July 13, 2017

New satellite technologies have completely changed the game in mapping and geographical data gathering, reducing costs and placing a new emphasis on time series Read more…

By Ken Chiacchia and Tiffany Jolley

Intel Skylake: Xeon Goes from Chip to Platform

July 13, 2017

With yesterday’s New York unveiling of the new “Skylake” Xeon Scalable processors, Intel made multiple runs at multiple competitive threats and strategic Read more…

By Doug Black

Perverse Incentives? How Economics (Mis-)shaped Academic Science

July 12, 2017

The unintended consequences of how we fund academic research—in the U.S. and elsewhere—are strangling innovation, putting universities into debt and creatin Read more…

By Ken Chiacchia, Senior Science Writer, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center

Why Tech is Failing at Diversity and How It Can Succeed

July 11, 2017

The sectors that are supposed to be all about innovation and the future continue to fail spectacularly at gender equity and diversity. UK, US and Canada still haven’t managed to break the average 20 percent threshold for gender equity across STEM academic disciplines. Read more…

By Kelly Nolan

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 a 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. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference 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

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 cam 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

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is the successor to Caffe, the deep learning framework developed by Berkeley AI Research and community contributors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Reinders: “AVX-512 May Be a Hidden Gem” in Intel Xeon Scalable Processors

June 29, 2017

Imagine if we could use vector processing on something other than just floating point problems.  Today, GPUs and CPUs work tirelessly to accelerate algorithms Read more…

By James Reinders

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Top500 Results: Latest List Trends and What’s in Store

June 19, 2017

Greetings from Frankfurt and the 2017 International Supercomputing Conference where the latest Top500 list has just been revealed. Although there were no major Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Six Exascale PathForward Vendors Selected; DoE Providing $258M

June 15, 2017

The much-anticipated PathForward awards for hardware R&D in support of the Exascale Computing Project were announced today with six vendors selected – AMD Read more…

By John Russell

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