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?


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!

European HPC Summit Week and PRACEdays 2018: Slaying Dragons and SHAPEing Futures One SME at a Time

June 20, 2018

The University of Ljubljana in Slovenia hosted the third annual EHPCSW18 and fifth annual PRACEdays18 events which opened May 29, 2018. The conference was chaired by PRACE Council Vice-Chair Sergi Girona (Barcelona Super Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake (STEM-Trek for HPCwire)

An Overview of ‘OpenACC for Programmers’ from the Book’s Editors

June 20, 2018

In an era of multicore processors coupled with manycore accelerators in all kinds of devices from smartphones all the way to supercomputers, it is important to train current and future computational scientists of all dom Read more…

By Sunita Chandrasekaran and Guido Juckeland

Cray Introduces All Flash Lustre Storage Solution Targeting HPC

June 19, 2018

Citing the rise of IOPS-intensive workflows and more affordable flash technology, Cray today introduced the L300F, a scalable all-flash storage solution whose primary use case is to support high IOPS rates to/from a scra 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

Preview the World’s Smartest Supercomputer at ISC 2018

Introducing an accelerated IT infrastructure for HPC & AI workloads Read more…

Lenovo to Debut ‘Neptune’ Cooling Technologies at ISC

June 19, 2018

Lenovo today announced a set of cooling technologies, dubbed Neptune, that include direct to node (DTN) warm water cooling, rear door heat exchanger (RDHX), and hybrid solutions that combine air and liquid cooling. Lenov Read more…

By John Russell

European HPC Summit Week and PRACEdays 2018: Slaying Dragons and SHAPEing Futures One SME at a Time

June 20, 2018

The University of Ljubljana in Slovenia hosted the third annual EHPCSW18 and fifth annual PRACEdays18 events which opened May 29, 2018. The conference was chair Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake (STEM-Trek for HPCwire)

Cray Introduces All Flash Lustre Storage Solution Targeting HPC

June 19, 2018

Citing the rise of IOPS-intensive workflows and more affordable flash technology, Cray today introduced the L300F, a scalable all-flash storage solution whose p Read more…

By John Russell

Sandia to Take Delivery of World’s Largest Arm System

June 18, 2018

While the enterprise remains circumspect on prospects for Arm servers in the datacenter, the leadership HPC community is taking a bolder, brighter view of the x86 server CPU alternative. Amongst current and planned Arm HPC installations – i.e., the innovative Mont-Blanc project, led by Bull/Atos, the 'Isambard’ Cray XC50 going into the University of Bristol, and commitments from both Japan and France among others -- HPE is announcing that it will be supply the United States National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) with a 2.3 petaflops peak Arm-based system, named Astra. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Machine Learning Hype Cycle and HPC

June 14, 2018

Like many other HPC professionals I’m following the hype cycle around machine learning/deep learning with interest. I subscribe to the view that we’re probably approaching the ‘peak of inflated expectation’ but not quite yet starting the descent into the ‘trough of disillusionment. This still raises the probability that... Read more…

By Dairsie Latimer

Xiaoxiang Zhu Receives the 2018 PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC

June 13, 2018

Xiaoxiang Zhu, who works for the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and Technical University of Munich (TUM), was awarded the 2018 PRACE Ada Lovelace Award for HPC for her outstanding contributions in the field of high performance computing (HPC) in Europe. Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

U.S Considering Launch of National Quantum Initiative

June 11, 2018

Sometime this month the U.S. House Science Committee will introduce legislation to launch a 10-year National Quantum Initiative, according to a recent report by Read more…

By John Russell

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Exascale USA – Continuing to Move Forward

June 6, 2018

The end of May 2018, saw several important events that continue to advance the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Exascale Computing Initiative (ECI) for the United Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

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

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

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

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

ORNL Summit Supercomputer Is Officially Here

June 8, 2018

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) together with IBM and Nvidia celebrated the official unveiling of the Department of Energy (DOE) Summit supercomputer toda 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

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

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17


AMD @ SC17


ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack



DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17


IBM @ SC17


IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17


Lenovo @ SC17


Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17


Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17


Tyan @ SC17


Univa @ SC17


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

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

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

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

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

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

Google Charts Two-Dimensional Quantum Course

April 26, 2018

Quantum error correction, essential for achieving universal fault-tolerant quantum computation, is one of the main challenges of the quantum computing field and it’s top of mind for Google’s John Martinis. At a presentation last week at the HPC User Forum in Tucson, Martinis, one of the world's foremost experts in quantum computing, emphasized... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Rolls Out AMD-Based CS500; More to Follow?

April 18, 2018

Cray was the latest OEM to bring AMD back into the fold with introduction today of a CS500 option based on AMD’s Epyc processor line. The move follows Cray’ Read more…

By John Russell

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