Open Source Software in HPC

By Nicole Hemsoth

December 17, 2012

HPC clusters first emerged in universities and research centers that required extra compute power but had limited budgets.  The development of open source Linux-based operating systems and management tools was a natural evolution.

However, because open source tools are created by a variety of different organizations, no one solution offers a complete all-in-one product. Organizations therefore often need to tap into multiple open source projects to obtain everything they need to manage a cluster environment.  They then need to get everything working together and educate their users on how to use each component. 

According to IDC, software remains the biggest roadblock for HPC users because parallel software is lacking and many applications run into issues such as scalability. The number of cores per processor and per cluster continues to increase and new programming paradigms are needed to increase efficiency.  As clusters grow larger and more complex, sophisticated management tools are required. Setting up and monitoring a cluster can become very difficult – this is especially true for heterogeneous environments that are dependent on multiple generations of technology that support a variety of applications and multiple user groups. The complexity further increases when organizations deploy multiple clusters — whether they are within the same datacenter or across a global organization – or move to a cloud-based model.

When addressing open source software for HPC

Despite the pervasiveness and benefits of open source software, it is not without its pitfalls for those organizations that lack the expertise needed to integrate, maintain and operate a stack of open source software. The associated costs can manifest in many ways – such as increased time spent on system administration, troubleshooting problems due to lack of formal support channels, or the cost of regression testing in-house.  Administrators may also experience reduced productivity due to cluster downtime, support issues and issues due to low utilization of resources.

Organizations often experience additional education expenses associated with maintaining an open source environment. They will likely also experience creeping operational costs as they find themselves not only in the research business, but in the software maintenance business.

Comparisons between open source and commercial software often assume the alternatives have equal merit

This can be true for database software or scripting languages in areas where open source software is more widely recognized. However, in more specialized areas, open source software may not exist at all or provides less functionality and requires more effort to install and integrate.   Some needed capabilities that emerge as critical elements include Web management consoles and portals, software provisioning tools, reporting and analysis tools, and tools to facilitate application integrations.

Often additional factors contribute to cost and risk when using open source software.  This includes a lack of reliable technical roadmaps or the task of important software maintenance such as performing updates or applying security.

So how do you weigh the benefits of open source software? 

Total cost of ownership (TCO) varies based on unique requirements for each organization.  Measuring your TCO is about finding the right balance.  Clearly open source software is here to stay and organizations should consider many factors when deciding on the degree to which to deploy commercial or open source software. Some of these considerations include the cost of software, risk associated with deploying a variety of solutions, the complexity of the environment, and the expertise of the staff. Often these considerations are interrelated – such as in the case of selecting open source software for lower cost reasons, but in doing so creating a higher element of risk and added complexity in the environment.

The decision whether to deploy open-source or commercial software for HPC is sometimes painted as a either/or choice. In practice, however, organizations have a range of different options.  The figure below illustrates a range of alternatives between purely open and commercial solutions. The shape of the TCO curve will vary depending on the environment.  For most organizations, being at one extreme or the other is likely to be expensive and limits their downstream flexibility. 


Productivity is Key

This is particularly true when evaluating the total cost of ownership. If we purely focused on acquisition cost, it’s easy to overlook other factors such as putting measures in place to track throughput and utilization of workloads. Utilization is crucial to getting the most from your infrastructure investment.  Improving utilization minimizes additional resource acquisition costs and helps ensure that wait times for resources are minimal so that results are achieved in less time.  Another consideration related to productivity is the time it takes to install a complete cluster environment, have it ready for full productive use and educate users on how to use the cluster so they can run their simulations and analyses productively.

Future proofing is very important

As a cluster environments evolve, we need to ensure that extensibility exists in the environment to support future requirements. As user requirements and applications evolve, features such as system monitoring and alerting tools, workload management systems, support for an increasing number of specialized workload types, and ease-of-use features including user-centric web portals become increasingly important.

For more information

TCO estimates will vary based on many factors including the nature of the installation, in-house capability, types of applications and cost of down-time.  As you choose between open-source and commercial alternatives, there are many different costs related to administration and productivity. 

IBM Platform Computing has developed a whitepaper and recorded Webcast that guide you through evaluating the true cost of deploying and managing an HPC environment.  If you are interested in receiving a TCO evaluation of your HPC environment, please contact IBM.   

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!

RSC Reports 500Tflops, Hot Water Cooled System Deployed at JINR

April 18, 2018

RSC, developer of supercomputers and advanced HPC systems based in Russia, today reported deployment of “the world's first 100% ‘hot water’ liquid cooled supercomputer” at Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JI Read more…

By Staff

New Device Spots Quantum Particle ‘Fingerprint’

April 18, 2018

Majorana particles have been observed by university researchers employing a device consisting of layers of magnetic insulators on a superconducting material. The advance opens the door to controlling the elusive particle Read more…

By George Leopold

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’s introduction of an ARM-based system (XC-50) last November. Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Hybrid HPC is Speeding Time to Insight and Revolutionizing Medicine

High performance computing (HPC) is a key driver of success in many verticals today, and health and life science industries are extensively leveraging these capabilities. Read more…

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 Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA) in Los Angeles. The Read more…

By Staff

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

IBM: Software Ecosystem for OpenPOWER is Ready for Prime Time

April 16, 2018

With key pieces of the IBM/OpenPOWER versus Intel/x86 gambit settling into place – e.g., the arrival of Power9 chips and Power9-based systems, hyperscaler sup Read more…

By John Russell

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

Cloud-Readiness and Looking Beyond Application Scaling

April 11, 2018

There are two aspects to consider when determining if an application is suitable for running in the cloud. The first, which we will discuss here under the title Read more…

By Chris Downing

Transitioning from Big Data to Discovery: Data Management as a Keystone Analytics Strategy

April 9, 2018

The past 10-15 years has seen a stark rise in the density, size, and diversity of scientific data being generated in every scientific discipline in the world. Key among the sciences has been the explosion of laboratory technologies that generate large amounts of data in life-sciences and healthcare research. Large amounts of data are now being stored in very large storage name spaces, with little to no organization and a general unease about how to approach analyzing it. Read more…

By Ari Berman, BioTeam, Inc.

IBM Expands Quantum Computing Network

April 5, 2018

IBM is positioning itself as a first mover in establishing the era of commercial quantum computing. The company believes in order for quantum to work, taming qu Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

FY18 Budget & CORAL-2 – Exascale USA Continues to Move Ahead

April 2, 2018

It was not pretty. However, despite some twists and turns, the federal government’s Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget is complete and ended with some very positi Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

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

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

Chip Flaws ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Loom Large

January 4, 2018

The HPC and wider tech community have been abuzz this week over the discovery of critical design flaws that impact virtually all contemporary microprocessors. T Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Fast Forward: Five HPC Predictions for 2018

December 21, 2017

What’s on your list of high (and low) lights for 2017? Volta 100’s arrival on the heels of the P100? Appearance, albeit late in the year, of IBM’s Power9? Read more…

By John Russell

How Meltdown and Spectre Patches Will Affect HPC Workloads

January 10, 2018

There have been claims that the fixes for the Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities, named the KPTI (aka KAISER) patches, are going to affect applicatio Read more…

By Rosemary Francis

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

Leading Solution Providers

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

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

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

New Blueprint for Converging HPC, Big Data

January 18, 2018

After five annual workshops on Big Data and Extreme-Scale Computing (BDEC), a group of international HPC heavyweights including Jack Dongarra (University of Te Read more…

By John Russell

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

Momentum Builds for US Exascale

January 9, 2018

2018 looks to be a great year for the U.S. exascale program. The last several months of 2017 revealed a number of important developments that help put the U.S. Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

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

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