Why the Cloud is Ideal for HPC

By Nicole Hemsoth

September 5, 2013

Cloud computing has emerged as a model to address a broad range of computing needs and promises to solve all but world peace. The idea of utility or on-demand computing is hardly new but the business models and technology have matured sufficiently to propel the concept firmly back into the limelight. High Performance Computing (HPC) is where most progressive businesses should be focusing their Big Data and Big Compute efforts.

Unfortunately, some companies pigeon hole HPC as scientists geeking out with massive supercomputers. However, there is a far more significant market evolving outside of traditional HPC with growing computational needs. Big Data and Big Compute is an excellent example where the opportunity for deep analytical insight is an extremely attractive proposition to a wide range of vertical markets. This new segment of the market is often referred to as the “Missing Middle,” and disruptive technology solutions such as those offered by GreenButton put supercomputing power within progressive companies’ reach.

With effective job management as demonstrated below, thousands of HPC activities can be managed by companies such as GreenButton though innovative technology and simple to use web interfaces.

 GreenButton Web Interface

Keep in mind, when we talk about HPC in the cloud, it’s important to remember that cloud computing is ultimately a business model, not a technology. However, there are a common set of technical capabilities (e.g. virtualization) that are realized in the cloud, and these, as well as the business model provide certain benefits or challenges to HPC applications.

The Positives

CFO’s Pay Attention to this!!

Cost: For spikey workloads, the cost savings in the cloud can be significant. What’s more, the cost is an Operational Expense rather than Cap-Ex so is often more palatable for many businesses as costs can be attributed to a particular project.

Ease of use: The cloud can make dynamic provisioning of specified workloads very easy. The ability to have OS/Software configurations particular to a workload is a key advantage.

Speed of deployment: The ability to rapidly provision new environments/clusters in minutes is incredibly valuable to many businesses.

Scalability: Elastically scaling out to meet increased capacity demands is a powerful concept. The public cloud promises “infinite” scale. The reality is somewhat different: there are some real limits even in the cloud. But the computing capacity that you can get from large providers such as AWS and Azure is far greater than what most customers can fathom with internal hardware. Some companies – such as GreenButton work with a variety of cloud providers such as Windows Azure, HP Cloud Services, OpenStack, Amazon Web Services, and VMware for global access to resources.

 GreenButton Map

Resiliency: The ability to snapshot workloads as they are running can allow for check-pointing of MPI workloads. Combine this with active monitoring and the ability to dynamically move a guest VM from one physical host to another, and your workloads can keep running even in the face of hardware failure.

Portability: The ability to move a workload from one cloud platform to another on the fly without any application changes presents powerful options such as for bursting from a private cloud out to a public cloud, High Availability where a workload is run on multiple clouds simultaneously, scaling across multiple clouds to meet extremely high resource requirements or, to take advantage of shifts in the spot pricing market.

Challenges

Security: this remains a significant barrier to adoption today, but the issue is primarily in trust and perception rather than real limitations of the cloud platforms. One could argue that in some cases your data is safer in the hands of Amazon or Microsoft than your own data center. That said, data isn’t sufficiently secure by default so some effort commensurate to the sensitivity and risks needs to be applied. For example;

  • Encryption at rest of cloud-bound data.
  • Limiting the time window that data is resident in the cloud.
  • Anonymizing data. A great example is running risk models for the financial services sector where sensitive customer data can easily be stripped out prior to sending to the cloud.

Performance: There is no single answer to the question of performance, though in general the cloud offers massive performance gains in most cases (and therefore is generally a positive), this does depend on the workload in question and presents some challenges today.

Some workloads scale in a linear fashion i.e. embarrassingly parallel, and these scale extremely well to the cloud. Even many MPI workloads scale perfectly well on cloud infrastructure.

However, I/O bound MPI processes will often run into performance challenges due to their heavy demands on network infrastructure or sensitivity to latency. Many traditional HPC applications are tuned for very low-latency Infiniband interconnects and take advantage of RDMA technology. These applications just won’t scale on the 10 GigE networks within the cloud.   This will change as cloud providers roll out Infiniband or RDMA over Ethernet but for the time being remains an issue.

Other challenges lie in certain cloud platforms intentionally distributing your deployed instances across the data center to increase availability. This can negatively affect performance through increased latency. But this is increasingly being rectified with increased control over physical placement of VMs – e.g. AWS Placement Groups.

I’m not going to dwell on the overhead of virtualization as there is a lot of material on the web covering this topic. I will say that modern virtualization technologies have such a small overhead on CPU performance today that it is effectively negligible. The I/O hit in some cases can be more noticeable but this depends on the characteristics of the workload. Josh Simons of VMware has posted extensively about this so check out his posts at http://cto.vmware.com/author/joshsimons/

Management: One of the challenges when spreading workloads across more than one platform is management of the workloads and resources being utilized. Being able to consolidate management within a single tool becomes critical for effective use of the cloud.

Data: Moving large datasets to the cloud still presents some challenges. In the Oil & Gas sector we physically ship 50TB+ to AWS where it undergoes weeks/months of processing, and the entire workflow lives in the cloud using visualization technology. RenderMan workloads also present challenges with large datasets (up to 1GB per frame). There are also technologies such as Aspera or GreenButton’s own CloudSync which optimize throughput over the internet.

Managing Costs: There is obviously some level of fear when moving from a known and understood capital expenditure model to one of pay-by-the-drink where costs could spiral out of control. Trust me, this has many CFOs awake at night in a cold sweat. At GreenButton, we’ve addressed this by predicting job execution time and committing to users on runtime and cost. We also support cost monitoring and chargebacks down to the departmental or user level so the CFO never has to get any nasty surprises!

Cloud Lock-in:   Different cloud vendors have different APIs and deployment mechanisms, so you may be concerned about being locked into a particular cloud and being unable to take advantage of improved pricing or services becoming available in other clouds.  I’ve written about how to avoid cloud lock-in before so I won’t repeat it here!

Cloud Bursting

One advantage of moving HPC workloads to on-demand virtualized infrastructure is that Enterprise customers can take advantage of internal hardware investment in the form of a private cloud. The private cloud obviously solves some of the issues around security and data transfers, at the cost of limited capacity. But throw in the ability to seamlessly burst to nominated public clouds and you have something pretty compelling indeed. Below is an example of how this can be implemented effectively.

 GreenButton Cloud

Conclusion

Not only is the cloud an ideal platform for many HPC (and non-“HPC”) workloads today, but current limitations are constantly being whittled away by the platform providers themselves or by software vendors such as GreenButton. There is a common perception that HPC is so complex and expensive that ordinary businesses are not able to tap into the massive benefits and business value that can be obtained.  With the advent of the cloud HPC is accessible and affordable to the mass market for any type of application. Do your research to find the solutions that work best for you!

Dave Fellow, CTO, GreenButton™

 

 

Dave Fellows, CTO, GreenButtonAbout the Author

Dave Fellows is the Chief Technology Officer of GreenButton ™ Limited. Dave has extensive experience designing massively scalable PaaS applications in a variety of technology industries. He has a passion for the Cloud and High Performance Computing (HPC) and creating innovative technologies to bring unique and compelling solutions to GreenButton’s global customers.

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!

GDPR’s Impact on Scientific Research Uncertain

May 24, 2018

Amid the angst over preparations—or lack thereof—for new European Union data protections entering into force at week’s end is the equally worrisome issue of the rules’ impact on scientific research. Among the Read more…

By George Leopold

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

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 Francisco, one would be tempted to dismiss its claims of inventing 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

Mastering the Big Data Challenge in Cognitive Healthcare

Patrick Chain, genomics researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory, posed a question in a recent blog: What if a nurse could swipe a patient’s saliva and run a quick genetic test to determine if the patient’s sore throat was caused by a cold virus or a bacterial infection? Read more…

Silicon Startup Raises ‘Prodigy’ for Hyperscale/AI Workloads

May 23, 2018

There's another silicon startup coming onto the HPC/hyperscale scene with some intriguing and bold claims. Silicon Valley-based Tachyum Inc., which has been emerging from stealth over the last year and a half, is unveili Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

Silicon Startup Raises ‘Prodigy’ for Hyperscale/AI Workloads

May 23, 2018

There's another silicon startup coming onto the HPC/hyperscale scene with some intriguing and bold claims. Silicon Valley-based Tachyum Inc., which has been eme Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Japan Meteorological Agency Takes Delivery of Pair of Crays

May 21, 2018

Cray has supplied two identical Cray XC50 supercomputers to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) in northwestern Tokyo. Boasting more than 18 petaflops combine Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ASC18: Final Results Revealed & Wrapped Up

May 17, 2018

It was an exciting week at ASC18 in Nanyang, China. The student teams braved extreme heat, extremely difficult applications, and extreme competition in order to cross the cluster competition finish line. The gala awards ceremony took place on Wednesday. The auditorium was packed with student teams, various dignitaries, the media, and other interested parties. So what happened? Read more…

By Dan Olds

Spring Meetings Underscore Quantum Computing’s Rise

May 17, 2018

The month of April 2018 saw four very important and interesting meetings to discuss the state of quantum computing technologies, their potential impacts, and th Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Quantum Network Hub Opens in Japan

May 17, 2018

Following on the launch of its Q Commercial quantum network last December with 12 industrial and academic partners, the official Japanese hub at Keio University is now open to facilitate the exploration of quantum applications important to science and business. The news comes a week after IBM announced that North Carolina State University was the first U.S. university to join its Q Network. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Democratizing HPC: OSC Releases Version 1.3 of OnDemand

May 16, 2018

Making HPC resources readily available and easier to use for scientists who may have less HPC expertise is an ongoing challenge. Open OnDemand is a project by t Read more…

By John Russell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17

Altair

AMD @ SC17

AMD

ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack

CEJN @ SC17

CEJN

DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17

Huawei

IBM @ SC17

IBM

IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17

Intel

Lenovo @ SC17

Lenovo

Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17

Microsoft

Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17

Supericro

Tyan @ SC17

Tyan

Univa @ SC17

Univa

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

CFO Steps down in Executive Shuffle at Supermicro

January 31, 2018

Supermicro yesterday announced senior management shuffling including prominent departures, the completion of an audit linked to its delayed Nasdaq filings, and Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Wins $57 Million DoD Supercomputing Contract

February 20, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today revealed details of its massive $57 million HPC contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The deal calls for HP Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Deep Learning Portends ‘Sea Change’ for Oil and Gas Sector

February 1, 2018

The billowing compute and data demands that spurred the oil and gas industry to be the largest commercial users of high-performance computing are now propelling Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

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

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

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