The Science Cloud Cometh

By Robert Jenkins

May 28, 2013

Mankind is currently engaged in some of the most important scientific research of our age: the discovery of the elusive Higgs particle to validate our modern understanding of physics; genomic sequencing to enrich our understanding of life on Earth and to fight diseases like cancer; and the global monitoring of the earth from space used to analyze and one day predict everything from  earthquakes to volcanic eruptions, to climate change or next year’s crop yields.

These monumental scientific undertakings have very different goals, but one important feature in common: the huge amounts of data that must be processed efficiently in order to yield accurate results. Unfortunately, the advanced computer infrastructure required to handle these big data needs are also exploding in size leading international scientific institutions such as CERN, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the European Space Agency (ESA) to look at additional sources of capacity to complement their existing in-house deployments. Without access to the right resources, researchers within these organizations can become limited by computing capacity in delivering and analyzing results.

The answer to this dilemma may lie in one of today’s most innovative computing delivery technologies: cloud computing. By taking advantage of powerful cloud computing platforms, these international scientific institutions can continue to add scale to their compute environments in a competitive and convenient way. With this dynamic in mind, a consortium of European cloud computing companies and international scientific institutions recently launched Helix Nebula, the ‘Science Cloud,’ with the dual purpose of fostering a healthier economic climate for the cloud, while giving the scientific sector access to innovative technology to promote research and scientific progress.

The key aim is to provide a multi-cloud solution that allows scientific institutions to deploy workloads seamlessly across different providers and locations. This involves harmonizing provisioning, networking, software environments and more.  In this way, such a cloud environment is able to offer a fully-scalable and customizable infrastructure that can support the varying nature of scientific research computing requirements and the high volumes of data. To put things into perspective, at CERN alone, 25 petabytes of new data are stored per year and 250,000 CPUs are in use around the world to process LHC data. The efficiency of biomedical labs sequencing DNA has outstripped Moore’s Law significantly in recent years. This has created a bottleneck with the downstream bioinformatics pipelines that rely on high performance computing infrastructures. These requirements are increasing rapidly over time.

To satisfy these high-performance computing (HPC) environments, there are several factors that need to come together to create a successful solution:

Appropriate Infrastructure

Many clouds have adopted traditional web hosting methodologies that rely on low utilization from customers and over-provisioning. Large customers – like those participating in the Helix Nebula initiative – with heavy, data-intensive workloads and HPC needs break that model. Advanced infrastructure is a required fit for that purpose. High-speed networking, between both end user sites and clouds as well as cloud to cloud, is essential. Advanced storage strategies and intelligent multi-cloud procurement and provisioning are needed to provide expanded scalability. These are to name just a few key areas of work within the Helix Nebula consortium.

Open Software and Networking Layers

Having a flexible software layer that is able to run existing systems easily is a crucial component. With an open software layer, HPC users can easily port their data and applications to the cloud with little modification – for example, CERN used the CERN VM image for workloads conducted thus far within Helix Nebula. In more restrictive cloud deployments this would not work natively. HPC users have very specific use cases and large existing installed bases, so they need the cloud to work with and not against their existing applications and knowledge.

Customization

Being able to tune cloud infrastructure to fit directly with each use case is critical. HPC users care primarily about price/performance, which is delivered through a combination of efficient resource purchasing and good performance levels. The ability to tightly fit the application layer through the virtualization layer to the actual hardware can be very important in achieving these parameters. The ability to tailor cloud infrastructure to fit the use cases closely is therefore highly desirable. In big data, for example, many applications require a great deal of RAM in comparison to CPU. The fixed server model of many dominant public cloud providers can cause significant over-provisioning of resources and destroy the economics of using such public cloud providers. Part of the Helix Nebula consortium’s efforts therefore covers ensuring participating suppliers of cloud resources are able to reflect the requirements of the scientific institutions.

True Scalability

HPC needs are often temporal – at least at a project level. For instance, CERN runs its accelerator chain in long campaigns followed by maintenance windows which change their compute consumption requirements over time. Each individual DNA sequencing and assembly run lasts for a set period. A purchasing model that can match these usage profiles as closely as possible can improve utilization and therefore cost effectiveness for research institutions. A seamless model that can accommodate the purchasing of capacity in a reserved fashion but also absorb on demand needs is very important for HPC users. Delivering this behavior using multiple cloud providers offers a greater degree of scalability and is a key aim of the Helix Nebula consortium.

There is a lot of discussion around the benefits of public and private cloud environments when it comes to business and consumer services, but a flexible cloud infrastructure without deployment restrictions suits big data and HPC needs in the scientific research sector. Such flexible cloud platforms can carry the weight of projects like those from Helix Nebula members because their approach to cloud computing emphasizes performance and flexibility, without overburdening infrastructure or overprovisioning resources, and combines that with a multi-supplier deployment model. By tapping into cutting-edge developments from the leading cloud infrastructure providers, organizations like CERN, ESA and EMBL can continue to better the world through research, without the potential future roadblocks of limited computing infrastructure resources. 

About the Author

Robert Jenkins is the co-founder and CEO of CloudSigma and is responsible for leading the technological innovation of the company’s pure-cloud IaaS offering. Under Robert’s direction, CloudSigma has established an open, customer-centric approach to the public cloud. 

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!

AWS Embraces FPGAs, ‘Elastic’ GPUs

December 2, 2016

A new instance type rolled out this week by Amazon Web Services is based on customizable field programmable gate arrays that promise to strike a balance between performance and cost as emerging workloads create requirements often unmet by general-purpose processors. Read more…

By George Leopold

AWS Launches Massive 100 Petabyte ‘Sneakernet’

December 1, 2016

Amazon Web Services now offers a way to move data into its cloud by the truckload. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Dec. 1, 2016)

December 1, 2016

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

HPC Career Notes (Dec. 2016)

December 1, 2016

In this monthly feature, we’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest career developments for individuals in the high performance computing community. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

IBM and NSF Computing Pioneer Erich Bloch Dies at 91

November 30, 2016

Erich Bloch, a computational pioneer whose competitive zeal and commercial bent helped transform the National Science Foundation while he was its director, died last Friday at age 91. Bloch was a productive force to be reckoned. During his long stint at IBM prior to joining NSF Bloch spearheaded development of the “Stretch” supercomputer and IBM’s phenomenally successful System/360. Read more…

By John Russell

Pioneering Programmers Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

November 30, 2016

In an awards ceremony on November 22, President Barack Obama recognized 21 recipients with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Nation’s highest civilian honor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Seagate-led SAGE Project Delivers Update on Exascale Goals

November 29, 2016

Roughly a year and a half after its launch, the SAGE exascale storage project led by Seagate has delivered a substantive interim report – Data Storage for Extreme Scale. Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Launches Massive 100 Petabyte ‘Sneakernet’

December 1, 2016

Amazon Web Services now offers a way to move data into its cloud by the truckload. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

Seagate-led SAGE Project Delivers Update on Exascale Goals

November 29, 2016

Roughly a year and a half after its launch, the SAGE exascale storage project led by Seagate has delivered a substantive interim report – Data Storage for Extreme Scale. Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE-SGI to Tackle Exascale and Enterprise Targets

November 22, 2016

At first blush, and maybe second blush too, Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s (HPE) purchase of SGI seems like an unambiguous win-win. SGI’s advanced shared memory technology, its popular UV product line (Hanna), deep vertical market expertise, and services-led go-to-market capability all give HPE a leg up in its drive to remake itself. Bear in mind HPE came into existence just a year ago with the split of Hewlett-Packard. The computer landscape, including HPC, is shifting with still unclear consequences. One wonders who’s next on the deal block following Dell’s recent merger with EMC. Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Details AI Hardware Strategy for Post-GPU Age

November 21, 2016

Last week at SC16, Intel revealed its product roadmap for embedding its processors with key capabilities and attributes needed to take artificial intelligence (AI) to the next level. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

SC Says Farewell to Salt Lake City, See You in Denver

November 18, 2016

After an intense four-day flurry of activity (and a cold snap that brought some actual snow flurries), the SC16 show floor closed yesterday (Thursday) and the always-extensive technical program wound down today. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

Why 2016 Is the Most Important Year in HPC in Over Two Decades

August 23, 2016

In 1994, two NASA employees connected 16 commodity workstations together using a standard Ethernet LAN and installed open-source message passing software that allowed their number-crunching scientific application to run on the whole “cluster” of machines as if it were a single entity. Read more…

By Vincent Natoli, Stone Ridge Technology

IBM Advances Against x86 with Power9

August 30, 2016

After offering OpenPower Summit attendees a limited preview in April, IBM is unveiling further details of its next-gen CPU, Power9, which the tech mainstay is counting on to regain market share ceded to rival Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Beats Azure to K80 General Availability

September 30, 2016

Amazon Web Services has seeded its cloud with Nvidia Tesla K80 GPUs to meet the growing demand for accelerated computing across an increasingly-diverse range of workloads. The P2 instance family is a welcome addition for compute- and data-focused users who were growing frustrated with the performance limitations of Amazon's G2 instances, which are backed by three-year-old Nvidia GRID K520 graphics cards. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Think Fast – Is Neuromorphic Computing Set to Leap Forward?

August 15, 2016

Steadily advancing neuromorphic computing technology has created high expectations for this fundamentally different approach to computing. Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale Computing Project Awards $39.8M to 22 Projects

September 7, 2016

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) hit an important milestone today with the announcement of its first round of funding, moving the nation closer to its goal of reaching capable exascale computing by 2023. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Gobbles SGI for Larger Slice of $11B HPC Pie

August 11, 2016

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) announced today that it will acquire rival HPC server maker SGI for $7.75 per share, or about $275 million, inclusive of cash and debt. The deal ends the seven-year reprieve that kept the SGI banner flying after Rackable Systems purchased the bankrupt Silicon Graphics Inc. for $25 million in 2009 and assumed the SGI brand. Bringing SGI into its fold bolsters HPE's high-performance computing and data analytics capabilities and expands its position... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ARM Unveils Scalable Vector Extension for HPC at Hot Chips

August 22, 2016

ARM and Fujitsu today announced a scalable vector extension (SVE) to the ARMv8-A architecture intended to enhance ARM capabilities in HPC workloads. Fujitsu is the lead silicon partner in the effort (so far) and will use ARM with SVE technology in its post K computer, Japan’s next flagship supercomputer planned for the 2020 timeframe. This is an important incremental step for ARM, which seeks to push more aggressively into mainstream and HPC server markets. Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Debuts Power8 Chip with NVLink and Three New Systems

September 8, 2016

Not long after revealing more details about its next-gen Power9 chip due in 2017, IBM today rolled out three new Power8-based Linux servers and a new version of its Power8 chip featuring Nvidia’s NVLink interconnect. Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Vectors: How the Old Became New Again in Supercomputing

September 26, 2016

Vector instructions, once a powerful performance innovation of supercomputing in the 1970s and 1980s became an obsolete technology in the 1990s. But like the mythical phoenix bird, vector instructions have arisen from the ashes. Here is the history of a technology that went from new to old then back to new. Read more…

By Lynd Stringer

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Silicon Photonics Chip, Previews Next-Gen Phi for AI

August 18, 2016

At the Intel Developer Forum, held in San Francisco this week, Intel Senior Vice President and General Manager Diane Bryant announced the launch of Intel's Silicon Photonics product line and teased a brand-new Phi product, codenamed "Knights Mill," aimed at machine learning workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Beyond von Neumann, Neuromorphic Computing Steadily Advances

March 21, 2016

Neuromorphic computing – brain inspired computing – has long been a tantalizing goal. The human brain does with around 20 watts what supercomputers do with megawatts. And power consumption isn’t the only difference. Fundamentally, brains ‘think differently’ than the von Neumann architecture-based computers. While neuromorphic computing progress has been intriguing, it has still not proven very practical. Read more…

By John Russell

Dell EMC Engineers Strategy to Democratize HPC

September 29, 2016

The freshly minted Dell EMC division of Dell Technologies is on a mission to take HPC mainstream with a strategy that hinges on engineered solutions, beginning with a focus on three industry verticals: manufacturing, research and life sciences. "Unlike traditional HPC where everybody bought parts, assembled parts and ran the workloads and did iterative engineering, we want folks to focus on time to innovation and let us worry about the infrastructure," said Jim Ganthier, senior vice president, validated solutions organization at Dell EMC Converged Platforms Solution Division. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Container App ‘Singularity’ Eases Scientific Computing

October 20, 2016

HPC container platform Singularity is just six months out from its 1.0 release but already is making inroads across the HPC research landscape. It's in use at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where Singularity founder Gregory Kurtzer has worked in the High Performance Computing Services (HPCS) group for 16 years. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Micron, Intel Prepare to Launch 3D XPoint Memory

August 16, 2016

Micron Technology used last week’s Flash Memory Summit to roll out its new line of 3D XPoint memory technology jointly developed with Intel while demonstrating the technology in solid-state drives. Micron claimed its Quantx line delivers PCI Express (PCIe) SSD performance with read latencies at less than 10 microseconds and writes at less than 20 microseconds. Read more…

By George Leopold

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