HPC Lessons for the Wider Enterprise World

By Nicole Hemsoth

January 28, 2014

Is HPC so specialized that the lessons learned from large-scale infrastructure (at all layers) are not transferrable to mirrored challenges in large-scale enterprise settings?

Put another way, are the business-critical problems that companies tackle really so vastly different than the associated hardware and software issues that large supercomputing centers have already faced and in many areas, overcome? Granted, there is already a significant amount of HPC to be found in enterprise datacenters worldwide in a number of areas—oil and gas, financial services, the life sciences, government and more. But as everything in technology seems bent on convergence, is there not a wider application for HPC-driven technologies in an expanding set of markets?

This is the first part of a series of focused pieces around these framing questions about HPC’s map into the wider world.  The sections of our extended special feature will target HPC-to-enterprise lessons in terms of hardware and infrastructure; software and applications; management at scale; cloud computing; big data; accelerators and more. But to kick things off, we wanted to build consensus around some of the main themes and ideas behind any movement that’s happening (or needs to) as HPC lessons trickle into the scale, efficiency, performance and data-conscious world of the modern enterprise.

In some circles, HPC is viewed from afar as an academic-only landscape, dotted with rare peaks representing actual enterprise use. Of course, those inside supercomputing know that this portrait is limited—that HPC has a strong foothold in the areas mentioned above, and tremendous potential to reshape new areas that either thought HPC was out of reach or are using HPC but simply don’t use the term. What is needed is a comprehensive view of how HPC can be broadly useful to critical segments enterprise IT…and that’s what we ntend to offer over the next couple of weeks.

The answer about whether or not there are a multitude of lessons HPC can teach the wider enterprise world, at least according to those we’ve spoken with for our the series on this subject, is resounding and positive. If there’s any disagreement, it’s on how those lessons translate, which are truly unique in the HPC experience, and of course, which hold the most promise for improved productivity, competitiveness or even application area.

Addison Snell, CEO of Intersect360 Research, whose research group follows the overlap between enterprise and HPC, made some parallels to put the question in context. “Traditionally, one of the characteristics that separated HPC from enterprise computing was that HPC featured jobs that would run to completion, and there would be a benefit in completing them faster, such as running a weather forecast, simulating a crash test, or searching for proteins that fit together with a given molecule.” However, he says by contrast, enterprise environments are designed to run in steady state (email systems, CRM databases, etc.). “HPC purchases would tend to be driven by performance, with relatively faster adoption of new technologies, while enterprise computing was driven by reliability and new technology adoption with slower technology adoption.”

“Early adopters and bellwethers in high performance computing are always the first to encounter new challenges as they push the limits of computation and data management,” Herb Schultz from IBM’s Technical Computing and Analytics group argued.  He says that many of the challenges faced in the world of high performance computing “later come to haunt the broader commercial IT community.” “How first movers respond to challenges with new technologies and improved techniques establishes a proven foundation that the next waves of users can exploit.”

As Fritz Ferstl, CTO at Univa told us, there are essentially three “divisions” of in the HPC industry. There are the national labs and big science organizations; enterprise commercial HPC (as found in the expected verticals, including oil and gas, financial services, life sciences, etc.); and there is “a third not often recognized as HPC but rather as data-centric analysis, also known as big data.”

Ferstl says that while the lab-level HPC category is “specific in that its leading edge requires tightly coupled architectures with the densest network interconnects, which drive up cost and complexity. They are geared toward running few ultra-large applications that demand aggregate memory and would take unacceptable amounts of runtime if not executed on such large systems.” One step away from this is the commercial sectors that rely on HPC for their competitive edge. Of these, Ferstl notes whether its new reservoirs of oil and gas being explored, next generation products like cars or airplanes being designed and tested, or innovative drugs being discovered, “there would be no progress in any of these cases and many more if it wasn’t for HPC as a key instrument for investigation, design, development, experimentation and validation.”

But final on his list—and crucial to the enterprise transition (and HPC’s lessons to teach it) is the heavy subject of data. What’s really driving this forward motion of HPC tech into the enterprise is that buzzword we just can’t get away from these days. Some might argue that the trend has actually been one of the best things that’s happened for HPC’s ability to propel into the wider enterprise world.

Snell commented that, “today, especially with big data analytics, more companies are encountering performance-sensitive applications that run to completion—at least in terms of iterations.” He said his research has revealed that new categories of non-HPC enterprise users are emerging, all of whom are considering performance and scalability as top purchase criteria. “In some cases,” he said, “these enterprises can be just as likely to explore new technologies as HPC users have been for years.”

Some argue that in general, aside from being a question of data pressures, business need, and competitive edge, the real lessons HPC can teach are about talent and R&D capability. As Paul Dlugosch, Automata product director at Micron described, “One of the first lessons that come to mind is that people matter. While the HPC industry often celebrates our accomplishments on the basis of technical and performance benchmarks, the cost of achieving those benchmarks are often not discussed.  The cost of system and semiconductor development can be easy enough to quantify.  It is far more difficult, though, to determine the ‘use’ cost of advanced technologies. “While the raw power of our semiconductors and systems is immense it is the organic part of the system, the human being– that is emerging as a significant bottleneck,” said Dlugosch.

“Fully exploiting the parallelism that exists in many high performance computing systems continues to absorb incredible amounts of human resources,” he argued. “Given the large scale of commercial/enterprise data centers, it is just as important to pay close attention to this human factor.  The HPC industry is certainly aware of this problem and is developing new architectures, tools and methodologies to improve human productivity. As commercial and enterprise data centers grow in capability and scale it will become just as important to consider the productivity of the humans involved in system programming, management and scaling.”

It should be noted that on any level of this question, it’s not a clear matter of teaching from the top to bottom. While HPC has solved a number of problems in some of the most challenging data and compute environment, especially in terms of scale, data movement, application complexity and elsewhere, there are elements that can filter from the enterprise setting to HPC—even that “big national lab” variety Ferstl describes.

There is general agreement that there are multiple lessons that high performance computing can carry into mainstream enterprise environments, no matter what vertical is involved. But on the flipside, there has been general agreement that many innovations are spinning out of the new class of enterprise environments—that the web scale companies with their bare-bones hardware running open source, natively developed, and purpose-built, nimble applications—have something to offer the supercomputing world as well.

Jason Stowe, CEO of HPC cloud company, Cycle Computing put it best when he told us, “We in HPC pay attention to the fastest systems in the world: the fastest CPUs, interconnects, and benchmarks. From petaflops to petabytes, we [in HPC] publish and analyze these numbers unlike any other industry…While we’ll continue to measure things like LINPACK, utilization, and queue wait times, we’re now looking at things like Dollars per Unit Science, and Dollar per Simulation, which ironically, are lessons that has been learned from enterprise.”

From the people who power both enterprise and HPC systems to the functional elements of the machines and how they differ, there are just as many new questions that emerge from the first—what can HPC lend to large-scale business operations?

Stay tuned over the next two weeks as this series expands and hones in on specific issues and topics that influence how enterprises will look to HPC for answers to solving scale, data, management and other challenges.

CONTINUE to PART II — “HPC Roots Feed Big Data Branches”

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

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…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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