OCF Supersizes HPC Service

By Tiffany Trader

October 16, 2012

UK-based HPC systems integrator OCF plc just significantly expanded its pay-as-you-go supercomputing service, enCORE. The on-demand system first launched in late 2010 to bring additional computing capacity to the UK’s small-to-medium-sized business community. What started out as a small pilot project has developed into a full-fledged, 8,000-core HPC service.

Lola Cars

Using enCORE – racecar CFD simulation superimposed onto real Le Mans image: Picture courtesy of Lola Cars

Jerry Dixon, the HPC on Demand business development manager at OCF, joined the company just before the initial deployment. He recalls that at the time, the company was aware of the huge potential for a service of this kind, but did not have the capacity required to launch such an undertaking – at least not by themselves. However, via a partnership with the Science and Technology Facilities Council, a UK research council operation, the OCF came to an exclusive arrangement to sell the excess capacity of the Daresbury Laboratory’s IBM iDataplex cluster on essentially a revenue share basis.

The initial cluster was quite small, even by 2010 standards: a 2.5 teraflop System x iDataPlex server cluster. The OCF had a service-level agreement that allowed it to use half of the cycles. Since then, the OCF has been running essentially a pilot service, enabling them to fine-tune the service-level agreement and get a better understanding of what customers are looking for. While the focus has been on small-to-medium sized businesses in the UK, there are also a couple overseas customers.

This month, as part of a newly signed agreement between OCF and the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Hartree Centre, the service is ramping up to 8,000 cores. It draws its power from a new IBM System x iDataPlex cluster named Blue Wonder, which was installed and configured by OCF in partnership with IBM. With 8,192 Intel Xeon E5 processor cores interconnected with FDR InfiniBand and plugged into a high-speed GPFS file system, the machine is capable of 206.3 teraflops (Linpack). Its 48 TB shared memory capacity makes it the largest shared memory cluster in the UK.

Each of the 512 nodes sports Intel SandyBridge 8-core CPUs with either 36Gb or 128Gb RAM. This is true HPC-as-a-Service; the compute nodes are not virtualized. Service users can also access 48 GPU nodes outfitted with NVIDIA Tesla 2090 GPUs.

The cluster operates with Platform HPC tools, so for customers using Platform LSF, it’s easy to switch their compute jobs to a remote cluster. Users who rely on Sun Grid Engine or other scheduling software need a separate account with OCF. Dixon says that job submissions have gone smoothly, but that OCF is still looking to develop different user interfaces to make it easier to use the enCORE service in a more automated way, over the Internet. Customers can use various open source applications available on enCORE, or load their own apps.

With this additional capacity, OCF and enCORE will be able to satisfy the type of requirements of larger organizations in addition to their current customer base of small and mid-size companies. Dixon recounts the meaningful business benefits enabled by the endeavor. Some customers have no HPC infrastructure available to them in-house and in order to run models and simulations successfully they need to access an HPC cluster. Other customers may own HPC resources but from time to time have peaks in demand or challenging project schedules or have workloads that require significantly more capacity than they have access to. Other clients who own systems outright are pushing up against capacity, datacenter and power limitations and use the service as way to minimize the gap.

One success story in particular stands out in Dixon’s mind: a customer that had the opportunity to bid for a contract to perform wind farm simulations, but did not have the necessary computing power necessary to carry out the work. By working with OCF and using the enCORE service, they were able to put in a successful bid and delivered the work on time and on budget.

While enCORE is officially a public-private partnership – the first one of its kind in the UK – from the customer perspective, this is a commercial service. The entire customer engagement, from sales and marketing right through to service delivery is with OCF. So the customer does not have any exposure whatsoever to the partner institutions – all technical support, requirements or requests come in to the OCF service desk.

But this is still a collaboration, and the cluster operates based on service agreements. Dixon characterized the arrangement as a flexible arrangement, with OCF having access to 8,000 of the 8,192 available cores. The distribution of resources toward commercial endeavors is intentional.

The Hartree Center – where the cluster resides – is a collaboration between the STFC, IBM and other partners, including OCF. The center, launched in 2011 with a £37.5 government investment, has a mandate to help UK businesses harness the power of high-performance computing in order to better compete on the global playing field. Dixon explains that historically the Germans and the French have invested significantly more federal dollars into HPC than Britain has and that’s one reason this project is so important.

“The objective of the Hartree Center,” says Dixon, “is to help customers adopt high-performance computing, optimize codes and build applications in a collaborative framework to help them become more innovative.” By using the latest modeling and simulation technologies, vendors can optimize their research and development process and get products to market more quickly.

Running codes on HPC systems is rarely a simple task, and as part of their services, OCF provides access to HPC experts. They help users resolve issues of compiling code and installing modules. “I think that’s an important distinction from users that try to run HPC simulations on public clouds, like Amazon EC2,” says Dixon, “where you wouldn’t get that level or any level of support of that type. We’ve got a number of notes of thanks from our customers for the support we’ve provided which has allowed them to get up and running very quickly.”

In talking with Dixon, one gets the sense that there is quite the ecosystem of users and potential users who have a need for this kind of HPC capacity. “The range of industries that we’ll be supporting is going to expand quite significantly along with the growth of the cluster,” he says.

Current and would-be customers tend to have a mix of engineering and geoscience codes. The list of possible use cases is quite varied and includes semiconductor design, hydrodynamics, modeling high-speed trains (two trains passing in a tunnel), insurance risk modeling based on natural disasters, financial modeling, and more. BHR, Engys, Actiflow, HR Wallingford, Lola Cars and Renuda are just some of their customers.

Dr. David Kelsall, senior consultant at fluid engineering consultancy, BHR Group, shared his thoughts on using the service as a way to increase user confidence in digital tools. BHR group has operated mostly with physical models and under new leadership is increasing its use of computer modeling and simulation technologies. Kelsall points to a customer who, through an outside agency, has done computer modeling for a massive pumping system and now wants to ensure the validity of the results, so they turned to BHR to create a physical model and to help them get a feel for the pros and cons of each approach.

Kelsall sees other companies straddling the physical/digital divide and views the cloud service as a way to obtain the necessary compute capacity without making a huge capital investment. Kelsall admits that it’s often more difficult for SMEs to access HPC technology, but he says “organizations like ours can provide a bridge between what they want and what’s available.”

Keeping data in the UK was also a sticking point for BHR. Kelsall says that a UK-based service provider is helping them meet data privacy mandates.

OCF, a small company of about 26 employees, has established a significant customer base and a solid reputation over the ten yeas its been in business. While based in the UK, OCF is well-known throughout the HPC community. They are an IBM Premier partner, and an accredited IBM Cloud Service provider. Customers find out about OCF via the IBM organization and community networking as well as through more traditional channels like marketing, trade press, and direct sales activities.

The service is charged on a per-core hour basis, and the website lists “a small annual fee of £350.” Users pay for storage above a half a TB. Dixon says the nice thing about the simple charging model is that it makes it easy to budget and control spend. The per-core charge varies depending on the level of usage, so a heavy user will get a discounted price as per economies of scale.

The revamped service is going through some final configuration and testing, but should be up and running within next week or two.

“We expect to see all sorts of workloads,” says Dixon. “Some customers will use it very regularly because they don’t have their own infrastructure and others will go to the other extreme, and use it only sparingly, and everything in between. One user was a heavy user at first and since then, they’ve only used it several times. But this uneven usage is actually good because it opens up the system for other users and the overall demand levels out.”

This brief (under 5 minute) video shares further details about the Science and Technology Facilities Council at Sci-Tech Daresbury, home of Blue Wonder, the workhorse behind the enCORE service.

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!

German Aerospace Center Debuts AMD-Powered CARA Supercomputer

February 18, 2020

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) launched its new high-performance computer CARA (Computer for Advanced Research in Aerospace) at TU Dresden on February 5, 2020. Built by NEC and powered by first-generation AMD Epyc 7601 processors with a budget of more than 20 million Euros, CARA will... Read more…

By Staff report

Berkeley Lab to Tackle Particle Physics with Quantum Computing

February 18, 2020

Massive-scale particle physics produces correspondingly large amounts of data – and this is particularly true of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest particle accelerator, which is housed at the Europ Read more…

By Staff report

Supercomputer Simulations Validate NASA Crash Testing

February 17, 2020

Car crash simulation is already a challenging supercomputing task, requiring pinpoint estimation of how hundreds of components interact with turbulent forces and human bodies. Spacecraft crash simulation is far more diff Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

What’s New in HPC Research: Quantum Clouds, Interatomic Models, Genetic Algorithms & More

February 14, 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

The Massive GPU Cloudburst Experiment Plays a Smaller, More Productive Encore

February 13, 2020

In November, researchers at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) and the IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC) set out to break the internet – or at least, pull off the cloud HPC equivalent. As part of thei Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

AWS Solution Channel

Challenging the barriers to High Performance Computing in the Cloud

Cloud computing helps democratize High Performance Computing by placing powerful computational capabilities in the hands of more researchers, engineers, and organizations who may lack access to sufficient on-premises infrastructure. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Intelligent HPC – Keeping Hard Work at Bay(es)

Since the dawn of time, humans have looked for ways to make their lives easier. Over the centuries human ingenuity has given us inventions such as the wheel and simple machines – which help greatly with tasks that would otherwise be extremely laborious. Read more…

ORNL Team Develops AI-based Cancer Text Mining Tool on Summit

February 13, 2020

A group of Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers working on the Summit supercomputer has developed a new neural network tool for fast extraction of information from cancer pathology reports to speed research and clin Read more…

By John Russell

The Massive GPU Cloudburst Experiment Plays a Smaller, More Productive Encore

February 13, 2020

In November, researchers at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) and the IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC) set out to break the internet – or Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Eni to Retake Industry HPC Crown with Launch of HPC5

February 12, 2020

With the launch of its Dell-built HPC5 system, Italian energy company Eni regains its position atop the industrial supercomputing leaderboard. At 52-petaflops p Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Trump Budget Proposal Again Slashes Science Spending

February 11, 2020

President Donald Trump’s FY2021 U.S. Budget, submitted to Congress this week, again slashes science spending. It’s a $4.8 trillion statement of priorities, Read more…

By John Russell

Policy: Republicans Eye Bigger Science Budgets; NSF Celebrates 70th, Names Idea Machine Winners

February 5, 2020

It’s a busy week for science policy. Yesterday, the National Science Foundation announced winners of its 2026 Idea Machine contest seeking directions for futu Read more…

By John Russell

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

Intel Stopping Nervana Development to Focus on Habana AI Chips

February 3, 2020

Just two months after acquiring Israeli AI chip start-up Habana Labs for $2 billion, Intel is stopping development of its existing Nervana neural network proces Read more…

By John Russell

Lise Supercomputer, Part of HLRN-IV, Begins Operations

January 29, 2020

The second phase of the build-out of HLRN-IV – the planned 16 peak-petaflops supercomputer serving the North-German Supercomputing Alliance (HLRN) – is unde Read more…

By Staff report

IBM Debuts IC922 Power Server for AI Inferencing and Data Management

January 28, 2020

IBM today launched a Power9-based inference server – the IC922 – that features up to six Nvidia T4 GPUs, PCIe Gen 4 and OpenCAPI connectivity, and can accom Read more…

By John Russell

Julia Programming’s Dramatic Rise in HPC and Elsewhere

January 14, 2020

Back in 2012 a paper by four computer scientists including Alan Edelman of MIT introduced Julia, A Fast Dynamic Language for Technical Computing. At the time, t Read more…

By John Russell

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SC19: IBM Changes Its HPC-AI Game Plan

November 25, 2019

It’s probably fair to say IBM is known for big bets. Summit supercomputer – a big win. Red Hat acquisition – looking like a big win. OpenPOWER and Power processors – jury’s out? At SC19, long-time IBMer Dave Turek sketched out a different kind of bet for Big Blue – a small ball strategy, if you’ll forgive the baseball analogy... Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann Read more…

By John Russell

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Unveils Latest Achievements in AI Hardware

December 13, 2019

“The increased capabilities of contemporary AI models provide unprecedented recognition accuracy, but often at the expense of larger computational and energet Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

SC19: Welcome to Denver

November 17, 2019

A significant swath of the HPC community has come to Denver for SC19, which began today (Sunday) with a rich technical program. As is customary, the ribbon cutt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. 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

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

Jensen Huang’s SC19 – Fast Cars, a Strong Arm, and Aiming for the Cloud(s)

November 20, 2019

We’ve come to expect Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang’s annual SC keynote to contain stunning graphics and lively bravado (with plenty of examples) in support of GPU Read more…

By John Russell

51,000 Cloud GPUs Converge to Power Neutrino Discovery at the South Pole

November 22, 2019

At the dead center of the South Pole, thousands of sensors spanning a cubic kilometer are buried thousands of meters beneath the ice. The sensors are part of Ic Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Top500: US Maintains Performance Lead; Arm Tops Green500

November 18, 2019

The 54th Top500, revealed today at SC19, is a familiar list: the U.S. Summit (ORNL) and Sierra (LLNL) machines, offering 148.6 and 94.6 petaflops respectively, Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Azure Cloud First with AMD Epyc Rome Processors

November 6, 2019

At Ignite 2019 this week, Microsoft's Azure cloud team and AMD announced an expansion of their partnership that began in 2017 when Azure debuted Epyc-backed instances for storage workloads. The fourth-generation Azure D-series and E-series virtual machines previewed at the Rome launch in August are now generally available. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel’s New Hyderabad Design Center Targets Exascale Era Technologies

December 3, 2019

Intel's Raja Koduri was in India this week to help launch a new 300,000 square foot design and engineering center in Hyderabad, which will focus on advanced com Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

In Memoriam: Steve Tuecke, Globus Co-founder

November 4, 2019

HPCwire is deeply saddened to report that Steve Tuecke, longtime scientist at Argonne National Lab and University of Chicago, has passed away at age 52. Tuecke Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Cray Debuts ClusterStor E1000 Finishing Remake of Portfolio for ‘Exascale Era’

October 30, 2019

Cray, now owned by HPE, today introduced the ClusterStor E1000 storage platform, which leverages Cray software and mixes hard disk drives (HDD) and flash memory 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