Benchmarking HPC in the Cloud

By Tiffany Trader

June 10, 2014

All clouds are not the same. It’s an adage that rings especially true when it comes to running high-performance computing (HPC) workloads. HPC middleware solutions vendor Techila Technologies recently took the time to benchmark and analyze three of the top cloud platforms – Amazon Web Services, Google Compute Engine, and Microsoft Azure – in the context of several real-world high-performance computing scenarios. The results are detailed in a subsequent report, titled simply “Cloud Benchmark – Round 1.”

“If the technical features of a cloud do not align with the needs of business, a solution which looks cost efficient can have a high cost of ownership.” This observation by Techila speaks to why the benchmarking was carried out, to explore which cloud offerings and instance types work best for a given application.

Techila HPC cloud benchmark Table1

Techila explains that the benchmark experiment was intended to provide HPC customers with an easy-to-understand analysis. Potential cloud adopters have told the company that FLOPS-per-dollar and Gbps-per-dollar are interesting but do not adequately answer their questions or address their concerns.

“Raw processor power, available memory, or theoretical maximum data transfer rate do not always translate directly to application performance,” writes Techila. “Because of this, the focus of [the] benchmark experiment is on testing the performance of AWS, Google Compute Engine GCE, and Azure in real-world HPC use-cases, and on studying how the leading clouds can respond to requirements arising from HPC scenarios.”

The test suite that Techila used was developed with the participation of cloud providers and users of MATLAB, R programming language, and simulation-backed engineering tools. After the first round of testing, the primary conclusion was that not all platforms demonstrate the same level of elasticity.

Tests fell into two categories: deployment and application performance. The first test zeroed in on a cloud’s ability to respond to computing needs. The focus was directed to embarrassingly parallel problems, which can scale to best use a large number of cores. (Techila says it is planning MPI-like tests in the future.)

The experiment set out to answer several questions, such as:

What instance types provide the best performance? Should I use the most expensive instance types?
Does the operating system of the cloud have effect on the throughput of the system?
Should I worry about the internal infrastructure of the cloud?

For convenience, Techila provides a chart of each cloud’s technical specifications (see above). With regard to instance types, for Azure, the report looked at A8 (with Windows) and the Extra Large (A4) (also with Windows). For AWS, two implementations of c3.8xlarge were examined, one with Windows and one with Linux. And for Google Compute Engine (GCE), they used n1-standard-8 (with Debian 7).

While cloud pricing has gone through many revisions, the prices at the time of the experiment are also listed. The price per CPU core/hour in US dollars ranges from .060 (for AWS with Linux) to .306 for Azure A8.

The deployment tests analyzed the deployment of a 256 CPU core virtual HPC environment in a cloud. Among the interesting findings, Techila observed that deployments with Microsoft Windows operating system take longer than instance types with a Linux operating system. The authors suggest this is likely related to System Preparation (Sysprep) phase, which occurs during the installation of Microsoft Windows.

Techila HPC cloud benchmark Fig1

Another finding relates to the shape of the AWS c3.8xlarge and Azure A8 Windows instances. The deployment is not linear. The report’s authors suggest that “a possible reason for this is that the availability of these instance types is still quite limited and datacenters have challenges in responding to a request for a large number of these instance types.”

Testing deployment on Azure was not possible in this experiment because Azure is designed as a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and does not provide the needed Java management interfaces for the current version of the Techila Deployment Tool.

The configuration tests examined how MATLAB-based applications fare in a 256 CPU core virtual HPC environment. The findings show that configuration of an instance was slower in Azure than the other cloud offerings. They reason that this could be do to Azure’s PaaS-based design. AWS and GCW, however provide direct access to the infrastructure. “Because of the limitations of Azure’s PaaS design Techila middleware can not support Peer-to-Peer (P2P) transfer technology inside the HPC environment in Azure,” note the report’s authors.

Another key observation was that configuring the AWS instance was quicker with Linux than Windows. While the experimenters can’t confirm the basis for this, they think it might be explained by file system capabilities. The data transferred was said to contain approximately 33,000 files, and it’s been suggested that the file system on Windows performs slower when handling a large number of rather small files.

The HPC application tests looked at three common application scenarios:

  • model calibration (using MATLAB code)
  • portfolio simulation (implemented in R)
  • machine learning (implemented in C++)

Techila provides detailed assessments of each application case, with charts that include Wall-clock time, price per CPU core and cost of cloud computing.

Here are several of the interesting observations made by the experimenters:

For MATLAB code:

“The findings show that in this particular scenario MATLAB seems to perform better in Windows environment than on Linux environments.”

For R users:

“An interesting observation is related to the performance of AWS c3.8xlarge performance. When compared to Azure A8 and Azure Extra Large, we can see that in this case, the Azure Extra Large provides a very similar performance as AWS c3.8xlarge, and Azure A8 provides double performance compared to AWS c3.8xlarge and Azure Extra Large. Because the cost of Azure Extra Large is affordable and Azure supports a fine granularity billing, this can make Azure Extra Large a great value option for users of R programming language.”

“Another interesting observation is that in this case AWS c3.xlarge with Linux provides clearly better performance than AWS c3.8xlarge running Windows operating system.”

For machine learning:

“Another interesting observation is that in this specific case Azure A8 and AWS c3.8xlarge with Windows operating system provided very similar performance, despite of differences observed in other test cases. It was suggested that this could be related to the fact that some scenarios are well suited for hyper threading and can benefit of it. Because of this, if the goal is to get the most out of a hyper threading platform, it is important to understand the suitability of the applications for the platform.”

Based on the results of Techila’s first cloud benchmarking round, the company is confident that cloud computing will have a role to play in HPC. The experimenters also believe that cloud will have a profound democratizing effect on HPC, writing:

“HPC will no longer be science, which would require special training and expensive upfront investments. Cloud will bring HPC to new desks and simplified user experience will empower new users to benefit of it.”

The testing process also served as a reminder that commercial cloud platforms follow more of a hardware path in that they don’t use version numbering. Vendors are constantly pushing out new instance types and features, and prices too are under constant revision. Because of this, any benchmarking must be regarded as work in progress. To stay relevant with these changes, Techila is planning to keep its report up to date by repeating tests periodically.

Techila also raises the point that elasticity is not truly unlimited. Resource provisioning, even at the scale of Amazon, etc., is still limited by physical boundaries. Aside from impacting the planning stage, Techila maintains that the physical architecture is the reason why HPC in the cloud needs middleware.

“Performing such experiments in a loosely coupled infrastructure, such as the cloud, requires a middleware, which enables horizontal scaling and can hide the possible nonlinearities of the physical infrastructure,” the report states. “After all, cloud is built of very similar units what we see in our offices. When we come to the limits to the physical unit’s scalability, we need a solution, which enables scaling over the limit, which in this experiment was the Techila HPC middleware.”

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!

SC21: Larry Smarr on The Rise of Supernetwork Data Intensive Computing

November 26, 2021

Larry Smarr, founding director of Calit2 (now Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California San Diego) and the first director of NCSA, is one of the seminal figures in the U.S. supercomputing community. What began as a personal drive, shared by others, to spur the creation of supercomputers in the U.S. for scientific use, later expanded into a... Read more…

Three Chinese Exascale Systems Detailed at SC21: Two Operational and One Delayed

November 24, 2021

Details about two previously rumored Chinese exascale systems came to light during last week’s SC21 proceedings. Asked about these systems during the Top500 media briefing on Monday, Nov. 15, list author and co-founder Jack Dongarra indicated he was aware of some very impressive results, but withheld comment when asked directly if he had... Read more…

SC21’s Student Cluster Competition Winners Announced

November 19, 2021

SC21 may have been the first major supercomputing conference to return to in-person activities, but not everything returned to the live menu: the Student Cluster Competition – held virtually at ISC 2020, SC20 and ISC 2021 – was again held virtually at SC21. Nevertheless, Students@SC Chair Jay Lofstead took the physical stage at SC21 on Thursday to announce the... Read more…

MLPerf Issues HPC 1.0 Benchmark Results Featuring Impressive Systems (Think Fugaku)

November 19, 2021

Earlier this week MLCommons issued results from its latest MLPerf HPC training benchmarking exercise. Unlike other MLPerf benchmarks, which mostly measure the training and inference performance of systems that are availa Read more…

Gordon Bell Special Prize Goes to World-Shaping COVID Droplet Work

November 18, 2021

For the second (and, hopefully, final) year in a row, SC21 included a second major research award alongside the ACM 2021 Gordon Bell Prize: the Gordon Bell Special Prize for High Performance Computing-Based COVID-19 Research. Last year, the first iteration of this award went to simulations of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein; this year, the prize went... Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Royalty-free stock illustration ID: 1616974732

Using the Slurm REST API to integrate with distributed architectures on AWS

The Slurm Workload Manager by SchedMD is a popular HPC scheduler and is supported by AWS ParallelCluster, an elastic HPC cluster management service offered by AWS. Read more…

2021 Gordon Bell Prize Goes to Exascale-Powered Quantum Supremacy Challenge

November 18, 2021

Today at the hybrid virtual/in-person SC21 conference, the organizers announced the winners of the 2021 ACM Gordon Bell Prize: a team of Chinese researchers leveraging the new exascale Sunway system to simulate quantum circuits. The Gordon Bell Prize, which comes with an award of $10,000 courtesy of HPC pioneer Gordon Bell, is awarded annually... Read more…

SC21: Larry Smarr on The Rise of Supernetwork Data Intensive Computing

November 26, 2021

Larry Smarr, founding director of Calit2 (now Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California San Diego) and the first director of NCSA, is one of the seminal figures in the U.S. supercomputing community. What began as a personal drive, shared by others, to spur the creation of supercomputers in the U.S. for scientific use, later expanded into a... Read more…

Three Chinese Exascale Systems Detailed at SC21: Two Operational and One Delayed

November 24, 2021

Details about two previously rumored Chinese exascale systems came to light during last week’s SC21 proceedings. Asked about these systems during the Top500 media briefing on Monday, Nov. 15, list author and co-founder Jack Dongarra indicated he was aware of some very impressive results, but withheld comment when asked directly if he had... Read more…

SC21’s Student Cluster Competition Winners Announced

November 19, 2021

SC21 may have been the first major supercomputing conference to return to in-person activities, but not everything returned to the live menu: the Student Cluster Competition – held virtually at ISC 2020, SC20 and ISC 2021 – was again held virtually at SC21. Nevertheless, Students@SC Chair Jay Lofstead took the physical stage at SC21 on Thursday to announce the... Read more…

MLPerf Issues HPC 1.0 Benchmark Results Featuring Impressive Systems (Think Fugaku)

November 19, 2021

Earlier this week MLCommons issued results from its latest MLPerf HPC training benchmarking exercise. Unlike other MLPerf benchmarks, which mostly measure the t Read more…

Gordon Bell Special Prize Goes to World-Shaping COVID Droplet Work

November 18, 2021

For the second (and, hopefully, final) year in a row, SC21 included a second major research award alongside the ACM 2021 Gordon Bell Prize: the Gordon Bell Special Prize for High Performance Computing-Based COVID-19 Research. Last year, the first iteration of this award went to simulations of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein; this year, the prize went... Read more…

2021 Gordon Bell Prize Goes to Exascale-Powered Quantum Supremacy Challenge

November 18, 2021

Today at the hybrid virtual/in-person SC21 conference, the organizers announced the winners of the 2021 ACM Gordon Bell Prize: a team of Chinese researchers leveraging the new exascale Sunway system to simulate quantum circuits. The Gordon Bell Prize, which comes with an award of $10,000 courtesy of HPC pioneer Gordon Bell, is awarded annually... Read more…

SC21 Keynote: Internet Pioneer Vint Cerf on Shakespeare, Chatbots, and Being Human

November 17, 2021

Unlike the deep technical dives of many SC keynotes, Internet pioneer Vint Cerf steered clear of the trenches and took leisurely stroll through a range of human-machine interactions, touching on ML’s growing capabilities while noting potholes to be avoided if possible. Cerf, of course, is co-designer with Bob Kahn of the TCP/IP protocols and architecture of the internet. He’s heralded... Read more…

France’s Jean Zay Supercomputer Boosts AI, HPC Research with Influx of A100 80GB GPUs

November 17, 2021

Since coming online in the fall of 2019 in Paris, the Jean Zay supercomputer has been one of Europe’s most powerful supercomputers available to HPC and AI researchers. And now, through the addition of new Nvidia A100 80GB GPUs and other hardware, the Jean Zay will soon offer double the compute capacity it offers for AI and HPC research, according to GENCI... Read more…

IonQ Is First Quantum Startup to Go Public; Will It be First to Deliver Profits?

November 3, 2021

On October 1 of this year, IonQ became the first pure-play quantum computing start-up to go public. At this writing, the stock (NYSE: IONQ) was around $15 and its market capitalization was roughly $2.89 billion. Co-founder and chief scientist Chris Monroe says it was fun to have a few of the company’s roughly 100 employees travel to New York to ring the opening bell of the New York Stock... Read more…

Enter Dojo: Tesla Reveals Design for Modular Supercomputer & D1 Chip

August 20, 2021

Two months ago, Tesla revealed a massive GPU cluster that it said was “roughly the number five supercomputer in the world,” and which was just a precursor to Tesla’s real supercomputing moonshot: the long-rumored, little-detailed Dojo system. Read more…

Esperanto, Silicon in Hand, Champions the Efficiency of Its 1,092-Core RISC-V Chip

August 27, 2021

Esperanto Technologies made waves last December when it announced ET-SoC-1, a new RISC-V-based chip aimed at machine learning that packed nearly 1,100 cores onto a package small enough to fit six times over on a single PCIe card. Now, Esperanto is back, silicon in-hand and taking aim... Read more…

US Closes in on Exascale: Frontier Installation Is Underway

September 29, 2021

At the Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee (ASCAC) meeting, held by Zoom this week (Sept. 29-30), it was revealed that the Frontier supercomputer is currently being installed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The staff at the Oak Ridge Leadership... Read more…

AMD Launches Milan-X CPU with 3D V-Cache and Multichip Instinct MI200 GPU

November 8, 2021

At a virtual event this morning, AMD CEO Lisa Su unveiled the company’s latest and much-anticipated server products: the new Milan-X CPU, which leverages AMD’s new 3D V-Cache technology; and its new Instinct MI200 GPU, which provides up to 220 compute units across two Infinity Fabric-connected dies, delivering an astounding 47.9 peak double-precision teraflops. “We're in a high-performance computing megacycle, driven by the growing need to deploy additional compute performance... Read more…

Intel Reorgs HPC Group, Creates Two ‘Super Compute’ Groups

October 15, 2021

Following on changes made in June that moved Intel’s HPC unit out of the Data Platform Group and into the newly created Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics (AXG) business unit, led by Raja Koduri, Intel is making further updates to the HPC group and announcing... Read more…

Intel Completes LLVM Adoption; Will End Updates to Classic C/C++ Compilers in Future

August 10, 2021

Intel reported in a blog this week that its adoption of the open source LLVM architecture for Intel’s C/C++ compiler is complete. The transition is part of In Read more…

Killer Instinct: AMD’s Multi-Chip MI200 GPU Readies for a Major Global Debut

October 21, 2021

AMD’s next-generation supercomputer GPU is on its way – and by all appearances, it’s about to make a name for itself. The AMD Radeon Instinct MI200 GPU (a successor to the MI100) will, over the next year, begin to power three massive systems on three continents: the United States’ exascale Frontier system; the European Union’s pre-exascale LUMI system; and Australia’s petascale Setonix system. Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

Hot Chips: Here Come the DPUs and IPUs from Arm, Nvidia and Intel

August 25, 2021

The emergence of data processing units (DPU) and infrastructure processing units (IPU) as potentially important pieces in cloud and datacenter architectures was Read more…

D-Wave Embraces Gate-Based Quantum Computing; Charts Path Forward

October 21, 2021

Earlier this month D-Wave Systems, the quantum computing pioneer that has long championed quantum annealing-based quantum computing (and sometimes taken heat fo Read more…

Ahead of ‘Dojo,’ Tesla Reveals Its Massive Precursor Supercomputer

June 22, 2021

In spring 2019, Tesla made cryptic reference to a project called Dojo, a “super-powerful training computer” for video data processing. Then, in summer 2020, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted: “Tesla is developing a [neural network] training computer... Read more…

HPE Wins $2B GreenLake HPC-as-a-Service Deal with NSA

September 1, 2021

In the heated, oft-contentious, government IT space, HPE has won a massive $2 billion contract to provide HPC and AI services to the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA). Following on the heels of the now-canceled $10 billion JEDI contract (reissued as JWCC) and a $10 billion... Read more…

The Latest MLPerf Inference Results: Nvidia GPUs Hold Sway but Here Come CPUs and Intel

September 22, 2021

The latest round of MLPerf inference benchmark (v 1.1) results was released today and Nvidia again dominated, sweeping the top spots in the closed (apples-to-ap Read more…

Quantum Computer Market Headed to $830M in 2024

September 13, 2021

What is one to make of the quantum computing market? Energized (lots of funding) but still chaotic and advancing in unpredictable ways (e.g. competing qubit tec Read more…

10nm, 7nm, 5nm…. Should the Chip Nanometer Metric Be Replaced?

June 1, 2020

The biggest cool factor in server chips is the nanometer. AMD beating Intel to a CPU built on a 7nm process node* – with 5nm and 3nm on the way – has been i Read more…

2021 Gordon Bell Prize Goes to Exascale-Powered Quantum Supremacy Challenge

November 18, 2021

Today at the hybrid virtual/in-person SC21 conference, the organizers announced the winners of the 2021 ACM Gordon Bell Prize: a team of Chinese researchers leveraging the new exascale Sunway system to simulate quantum circuits. The Gordon Bell Prize, which comes with an award of $10,000 courtesy of HPC pioneer Gordon Bell, is awarded annually... Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire