Microsoft Outfits Azure Cloud for Big Compute

By Tiffany Trader

November 13, 2012

On Tuesday at SC12 Microsoft debuted a set of “big compute” capabilities for its Windows Azure offering. The company is courting the HPC space with more powerful hardware, new instance configurations, and the updated Microsoft HPC Pack 2012. The advanced management software has many new features and supports the running of compute-intensive workloads in three configurations: on premise, on Windows Azure, or a mixed use, hybrid scenario.

Big Compute on Windows Azure – it’s unclear whether that’s the final name – is available in two configurations. The entry-level HPC instance sports 8 cores and 60 GB RAM, while the higher-end option doubles these specs for a total of 16 cores and 120 GB of RAM. The new servers are outfitted with dual Xeon E5-2670s (2.6 GHz) with DDR3 1600 MHz RAM. The nodes are linked via a 40 Gbps InfiniBand network with RDMA, while a 10GbE backplane is used to hook up to external storage and the Internet.

The new configurations call to mind Amazon’s High-Memory Instances. The High-Memory Double Extra Large Instance (m2.2xlarge) has 4 virtual cores with 34 GB of memory, while the High-Memory Quadruple Extra Large Instance (m2.4xlarge) has 8 virtual cores and 68.4 GB of memory.

An important distinction, however, is that Amazon is using 10GbE interconnect technology – and then only in its Cluster Compute and Cluster GPU instances – while Microsoft is introducing the ability to do RDMA (remote direct memory access) in a virtualized environment. The technology provides low-latency network capability for MPI (message passing interface) applications and allows an Azure cluster to send a 4 byte packet across machines in 2.1 microseconds. Alex Sutton, group program manager for Windows HPC Server, interviewed for this article at SC12, said that Microsoft is the first company to offer virtualized RDMA in a commercial environment.

“For applications written to use the message passing interface (MPI) library, RDMA allows memory on multiple computers to act as one pool of memory,” writes Bill Hilf, general manager, Windows Azure Product Marketing, in a blog entry. “Our RDMA solution provides near bare metal performance (i.e., performance comparable to that of a physical machine) in the cloud, which is especially important for Big Compute applications.”

According to Sutton, the performance penalty for running virtualization is down to about a 1 or 2 percent difference now. This will appeal to organizations that want to access the benefits of cloud (flexibility, scalability, on-demand, etc.), but aren’t willing to sacrifice performance. The use of InfiniBand also enhances throughput, allowing applications to scale more effectively and improving time to results.

As a proof of concept, Microsoft ran the LINPACK benchmark across 504 16-core virtual machines (8,064 cores total). The test cluster, named Faenov, achieved 151.3 teraflops (167.7 peak) with 90.2 percent efficiency, earning it the 165th spot on the most recent TOP500 list. In terms of efficiency, the system placed 27th. Faenov ran Windows Server 2012 in virtual machines hosted on Windows Azure on top of Hyper-V virtualization. Sutton makes the point that 90.2 percent efficiency is better than many on-premise (non-virtualized) clusters.

Bringing system I/O latency under control still leaves the bandwidth barrier that is the consumer Internet, but for the majority of customers, this won’t be an issue. For those that need to make large data transfer into and out of the cloud, Microsoft plans to support “FedEx net,” (physical shipping of drives) at some point.

Pricing on the new configurations has not been announced, so price point comparisons to EC2, Google Compute Engine and other IaaS offerings won’t be possible yet. Initially “Big Compute” will only run Windows, but they are looking into Linux. Of course, the hardware can support Linux, but the engineers still need to hammer out how to run it on virtualized RDMA.

Microsoft is describing early success stories around a segment of customers who run Windows and need low-latency. Initial interest and customer stories are in the areas of risk modeling, disease research and complex engineering tasks. Big data is also on Microsoft’s radar, as the company anticipates many big data workloads benefiting from the new configurations.

Today’s announcement shows us a Microsoft that continues to evolve on the cloud front, both to compete against EC2 and in its support for the HPC community. Azure was originally launched as a PaaS offering in 2010, but in June of this year, Microsoft added infrastructure as a service (IaaS) capabilities and began allowing users to spin up Linux VMs. Customers want choice, but with its purpose-built architecture and significant lead time, Amazon is going to be tough to catch. Microsoft has a dedicated following of Windows users, but most of the action in the HPC community is around Linux.

It will be interesting to see whether low-latency virtualization pans out as a differentiator for Azure. It might take some R&D work, but Amazon could similarly outfit their cloud if they see a call for it. In order for the cloud to be profitable, it has to maintain the right balance of utilization. Too much extra inventory is as bad for business in the long run as too little inventory is in the short run. Cloud companies want just the right about of cushion (or excess inventory). To this point, Microsoft says that it is tracking demand and keeping tight control on the ordering process.

Big Compute on Windows Azure is currently in private preview with select partners. A public beta period is expected to commence in the first half of 2013, followed by general availability in roughly the same time frame.

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!

Xilinx Says Its New FPGA is World’s Largest

August 21, 2019

In this age of exploding “technology disaggregation” – in which the Big Bang emanating from the Intel x86 CPU has produced significant advances in CPU chips and a raft of alternative, accelerated architectures... Read more…

By Doug Black

Supercomputers Generate Universes to Illuminate Galactic Formation

August 20, 2019

With advanced imaging and satellite technologies, it’s easier than ever to see a galaxy – but understanding how they form (a process that can take billions of years) is a different story. Now, a team of researchers f Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Singularity Moves Up the Container Value Chain

August 20, 2019

The enterprise version of the Singularity HPC container platform released this week by Sylabs is designed to allow users to create, secure and share the high-end containers in self-hosted production deployments. The e Read more…

By George Leopold

AWS Solution Channel

Efficiency and Cost-Optimization for HPC Workloads – AWS Batch and Amazon EC2 Spot Instances

High Performance Computing on AWS leverages the power of cloud computing and the extreme scale it offers to achieve optimal HPC price/performance. With AWS you can right size your services to meet exactly the capacity requirements you need without having to overprovision or compromise capacity. Read more…

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Bring the combined power of HPC and AI to your business transformation

FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) acceleration cards are not new, as they’ve been commercially available since 1984. Typically, the emphasis around FPGAs has centered on the fact that they’re programmable accelerators, and that they can truly offer workload specific hardware acceleration solutions without requiring custom silicon. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Keys to Attracting the Newest HPC Talent – Post-Millennials

[Connect with HPC users and learn new skills in the IBM Spectrum LSF User Community.]

For engineers and scientists growing up in the 80s, the current state of HPC makes perfect sense. Read more…

IBM Deepens Plunge into Open Source; OpenPOWER to Join Linux Foundation

August 20, 2019

IBM today announced it was contributing the instruction set (ISA) for its Power microprocessor and the designs for the Open Coherent Accelerator Processor Interface (OpenCAPI) and Open Memory Interface (OMI) to the Linux Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Deepens Plunge into Open Source; OpenPOWER to Join Linux Foundation

August 20, 2019

IBM today announced it was contributing the instruction set (ISA) for its Power microprocessor and the designs for the Open Coherent Accelerator Processor Inter Read more…

By John Russell

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Scientists to Tap Exascale Computing to Unlock the Mystery of our Accelerating Universe

August 14, 2019

The universe and everything in it roared to life with the Big Bang approximately 13.8 billion years ago. It has continued expanding ever since. While we have a Read more…

By Rob Johnson

AI is the Next Exascale – Rick Stevens on What that Means and Why It’s Important

August 13, 2019

Twelve years ago the Department of Energy (DOE) was just beginning to explore what an exascale computing program might look like and what it might accomplish. Today, DOE is repeating that process for AI, once again starting with science community town halls to gather input and stimulate conversation. The town hall program... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader and John Russell

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lenovo Drives Single-Socket Servers with AMD Epyc Rome CPUs

August 7, 2019

No summer doldrums here. As part of the AMD Epyc Rome launch event in San Francisco today, Lenovo announced two new single-socket servers, the ThinkSystem SR635 Read more…

By Doug Black

Building Diversity and Broader Engagement in the HPC Community

August 7, 2019

Increasing diversity and inclusion in HPC is a community-building effort. Representation of both issues and individuals matters - the more people see HPC in a w Read more…

By AJ Lauer

High Performance (Potato) Chips

May 5, 2006

In this article, we focus on how Procter & Gamble is using high performance computing to create some common, everyday supermarket products. Tom Lange, a 27-year veteran of the company, tells us how P&G models products, processes and production systems for the betterment of consumer package goods. Read more…

By Michael Feldman

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cray, AMD to Extend DOE’s Exascale Frontier

May 7, 2019

Cray and AMD are coming back to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to partner on the world’s largest and most expensive supercomputer. The Department of Energy’s Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Graphene Surprises Again, This Time for Quantum Computing

May 8, 2019

Graphene is fascinating stuff with promise for use in a seeming endless number of applications. This month researchers from the University of Vienna and Institu Read more…

By John Russell

AMD Verifies Its Largest 7nm Chip Design in Ten Hours

June 5, 2019

AMD announced last week that its engineers had successfully executed the first physical verification of its largest 7nm chip design – in just ten hours. The AMD Radeon Instinct Vega20 – which boasts 13.2 billion transistors – was tested using a TSMC-certified Calibre nmDRC software platform from Mentor. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

TSMC and Samsung Moving to 5nm; Whither Moore’s Law?

June 12, 2019

With reports that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TMSC) and Samsung are moving quickly to 5nm manufacturing, it’s a good time to again ponder whither goes the venerable Moore’s law. Shrinking feature size has of course been the primary hallmark of achieving Moore’s law... Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning Competitors Stalk Nvidia

May 14, 2019

There is no shortage of processing architectures emerging to accelerate deep learning workloads, with two more options emerging this week to challenge GPU leader Nvidia. First, Intel researchers claimed a new deep learning record for image classification on the ResNet-50 convolutional neural network. Separately, Israeli AI chip startup Hailo.ai... Read more…

By George Leopold

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

Nvidia Embraces Arm, Declares Intent to Accelerate All CPU Architectures

June 17, 2019

As the Top500 list was being announced at ISC in Frankfurt today with an upgraded petascale Arm supercomputer in the top third of the list, Nvidia announced its Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Top500 Purely Petaflops; US Maintains Performance Lead

June 17, 2019

With the kick-off of the International Supercomputing Conference (ISC) in Frankfurt this morning, the 53rd Top500 list made its debut, and this one's for petafl Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hardware That Powered the Black Hole Image

June 24, 2019

Two months ago, the first-ever image of a black hole took the internet by storm. A team of scientists took years to produce and verify the striking image – an Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Cray – and the Cray Brand – to Be Positioned at Tip of HPE’s HPC Spear

May 22, 2019

More so than with most acquisitions of this kind, HPE’s purchase of Cray for $1.3 billion, announced last week, seems to have elements of that overused, often Read more…

By Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

Chinese Company Sugon Placed on US ‘Entity List’ After Strong Showing at International Supercomputing Conference

June 26, 2019

After more than a decade of advancing its supercomputing prowess, operating the world’s most powerful supercomputer from June 2013 to June 2018, China is keep Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

In Wake of Nvidia-Mellanox: Xilinx to Acquire Solarflare

April 25, 2019

With echoes of Nvidia’s recent acquisition of Mellanox, FPGA maker Xilinx has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Solarflare Communications, provider Read more…

By Doug Black

Qualcomm Invests in RISC-V Startup SiFive

June 7, 2019

Investors are zeroing in on the open standard RISC-V instruction set architecture and the processor intellectual property being developed by a batch of high-flying chip startups. Last fall, Esperanto Technologies announced a $58 million funding round. Read more…

By George Leopold

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