Solving Simulation Complexity

By David Lourerio

July 15, 2014

Although HPC has helped solve important problems in nuclear physics, earth sciences, meteorology, etc. since the 1960s, HPC has traditionally existed only for specialists. But, with the democratization of x86 servers, large storage systems, and high-end networking technologies, companies and research facilities can now buy clusters at a reasonable ratio (power/cost) with very powerful, complex technologies or get access to remote HPC cloud platforms.

However, even though the resources are available, widespread use has been limited due to the difficulties in accessing and using the resources and/or adapting existing HPC software and hardware that still exist. Back in the nineties, researchers could spend time getting used to those hurdles, but today business ROI drives engineers and researchers to produce results in much less time. As a result, overcoming the HPC access and usability hurdles has become crucial and this has been further exacerbated by the fact that many more users of large-scale platforms are not specialists of HPC use and programming.

This article addresses the need for HPC to become a tool that’s as simple and transparent as possible so that small and medium businesses (SMBs) can easily access the resources of mid-sized clusters and use complex applications on hybrid HPC resources. To achieve this without extensive financial outlay, end users need to execute and control the simulation of applications and data directly from their desktops.

The HPC Challenge for the Smaller Business

While R&D labs and large companies may be accustomed to accessing and exploiting large computing infrastructures, small-to-medium-businesses and smaller business units within large companies that have no dedicated computing resources or HPC experts must now deal with increasing amounts and complexity of data. These smaller groups cannot afford to abandon the advantages HPC provides, but need a way to access the processing power and capabilities that mid-sized clusters offer. This need for readily available “super applications” is first referred to by Dr. Erik Deumens, Director of Research Computing at the University of Florida in his paper “What Drives Investment in the Middle of HPC?” to describe simulations that run on mid-sized computing clusters that are fully accessible on the end-user desktop.

At an international scale, some countries have tried to address this through various resources. In France, INRIA, BPI (the French public investment bank), and GENCI launched “Initiative HPC-PME” (http://www.initiative-hpc-pme.org/), an initiative aiming at providing knowledge, funds, and computing resources to enable simulation software to be powered on HPC resources for SMBs. Free Field Technologies, a French SME, participated in this program and in this testimonial, they present how improved simulation times of HPC helped them win Airbus as a customer.

In Europe, “Fortissimo” was (http://www.fortissimo-project.eu/index.html) launched in October 2013. In this initiative, SMBs needing HPC computation gain access to the resources of a research lab and a computing facility. SMEs like Pipistrel, for example, are using these HPC facilities to improve their simulations of lightweight aircraft designs.

In Silicon Valley, ÜberCloud (http://www.theubercloud.com/hpc-experiment/), launched by Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, was established to show how the SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) model can be used for HPC simulation. A number of large companies, software providers, and computing facilities have now implemented these technologies:

  • “High-resolution Computer Simulations of Blow-off in Combustion Systems” involving CSE, a US-based company
  • “Drifting Snow Around Arbitrary Structures” where end-users were SMEs like Binkz. Inc, a Canadian Based company
  • “Performance Analysis of GROMACS Molecular Dynamics for Simulating Enzyme Substrate” with the Indian SME called Polyclone Bioservices, and the second one has been released last week with use-cases about, or in the field of biology with a use case around.

Moving the Needle Forward

Although these advances have been implemented by some of these initiatives, there’s a need to take the solution further, to provide broad-scale access to many users. To understand what’s needed, let’s first take a look at what these users have in common.

All these different types of users need to upload their data, launch (large-scale) non-interactive simulations, and post-process them. This workflow might be business- or research-centered, but for both communities, there’s a very real need to get better results faster. This need far outweighs knowing if the computation involves using GPUs, fat nodes, or an ultra-fancy middleware designed specially for their purpose.

A preamble of all these tasks is access to the applications. The SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) model does fit with this goal. Through the browser we use every day to check our e-mail or visit websites, we can also work on complex and resource-demanding applications.

What barriers do SMBs need removed from HPC?

The ability to create structures that allow non-technical users to directly access hybrid resources is essential. Here we explore the characteristics of a web portal that would enable SMBs to easily gain access to them.

Simplified universal access—To accommodate bandwidth, the interface must be as light as possible: no browser plugins, no java applets, no flash support, or port opening required. By stripping out all of these dependencies, the interface becomes “vanilla”—able to interface with the researcher’s smart phone, desktop, or tablet regardless of its operating system.

This simplified interface creates the necessary foundation for a SaaS model to access HPC simulation software running remotely on computing clusters. Figure 1 offers an example of interface that is able to adapt to various terminals thanks to the latest HTML/CSS/JavaScript frameworks. This framework provides access to the basic info a user needs to start working: his current projects, past jobs, etc., from anywhere.


Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.10.21 PM

Fig. 1 Example of interface providing access to user’s projects and his previous works

Secured access—Small businesses also need secure access. There’s been a lot of discussion about what should be used—X.509 certificates, login and passwords, SSH public and private keys. In fact, there is no standard way of achieving security. It depends heavily on the policies you want to set-up.

Inside the clusters, you could use any of these methods. But from the user’s point of view, the processes must be unified with at least a login and password that then manages every security system underneath. By doing this, the interface reduces the barrier for the end-user.

And, transfers must be, of course, encrypted to ensure no disseminations to competitors for example.

Familiar file structure—When uploading data or dealing with the HPC computing facilities, users need something that’s familiar, that doesn’t change their habits, such as classical files managers of Windows or FTP clients. This ensures that users can process vast amounts of data without having to take an excessive amount of time to prepare the files and to post process the results afterwards.

Remote Visualization—Today, computing facilities provide both computing and graphical resources. To be able to run non-interactive computations and to then do graphical post-processing on the same site is a great improvement for end-users. If the workflow interface runs fluently from computation into post-processing, then users no longer have to go onsite and disturb administrators to transfer video streams. Instead they can use remote desktop technologies from the same interface to bridge from simulation to graphical post-processing without any additional requirements.

Link with the previous capability, e.g. simplified data transfers, the traditional workflow consisting of input simulation data staging, processind and post-processing can be run in a drastically reduced timeframe.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.09.55 PM

Fig. 2 File management interface allowing users to transfer to and from the computing resources

Simplified graphical interface—While there are many ways to access applications—home-made scripts, proprietary code, web portals—the interface needs to offer users a way to define specific parameters or modify scripts depending on the outputs they seek. This management of applications has to be as simple as possible and take the least amount of time.

The idea of using XML files to define any kind of interfaces was vogue for a while, but such interfaces were quickly recognized as just hype since they were not productive. Instead, what’s needed is a graphical tool that provides a way to design the interface that the end-users will use to interact with the scripts that execute their applications.

In designing graphical interface access, it’s easy to go overboard and provide full access to scripts and the underlying plumbing, which adds to system complexity. Well-defined and flexible right management must be provided. Only users developing scripts should be allowed to add, update, and modify applications, and only managers should be able to access usage reporting, user management, etc.

Streamlined—As shown in Figure 3, integrating an application should be no more complex than defining a script to execute, some documentation, and the input parameters the user must provide. A specific form directing the application use can then launch for the end-user. This efficiency helps the user concentrate on the most important part of their task—running the simulation with good input data.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.10.49 PM

Fig. 3 Web interface providing an easy way to design submission forms for non-interactive applications

Billing the user—Once a framework provides access to data and the applications and links these to a global, simple-to-use workflow, the resources need to be monitored and time spent needs to be easily allocated to cost centers. Whether computing hours are divided between certain computing facilities or allocated to business units in companies, clear and precise accounting must detail who had access to the applications and resources.

Usage reporting also needs to be available in a digital format that interfaces to accounting packages for invoice creation or be integrated into existing quota systems. Figure 4 shows an interface presenting accounting and monitoring of resources and applications usage that are the basis of billing and invoicing.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 12.11.05 PM

Fig. 4 Usage statistics showing the consumption of a project on different clusters

Democratized HPC

It is through these types of improvements and simplifications that SMB employees will gain access to HPC simulation. With such a simplified interface to powerful complex resources, businesses will boost productivity and be able to efficiently do their high-end computational work in much less time.

Removing HPC complexity from the game, streamlines data analysis and simulation for the SMBs, ensuring maximum productivity and increasing competitiveness.

About the Author

David Loureiro is the CEO and co-founder of SysFera, a software innovator that simplifies management and accessibility of high performance computing (HPC) environments. David holds a Master of Science in Applied Mathematics and started his career at INRIA working on distributed grid and cloud middleware in the INRIA research team called Avalon. His research interests are focused on cloud technologies, HPC resource management, distributed computing and scientific visualization web portals.

david-loureiro-chapo_vignette

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!

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “pre-exascale” award), parsed out additional information ab Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tsinghua Crowned Eight-Time Student Cluster Champions at ISC

June 22, 2017

Always a hard-fought competition, the Student Cluster Competition awards were announced Wednesday, June 21, at the ISC High Performance Conference 2017. Amid whoops and hollers from the crowd, Thomas Sterling presented t Read more…

By Kim McMahon

GPUs, Power9, Figure Prominently in IBM’s Bet on Weather Forecasting

June 22, 2017

IBM jumped into the weather forecasting business roughly a year and a half ago by purchasing The Weather Company. This week at ISC 2017, Big Blue rolled out plans to push deeper into climate science and develop more gran Read more…

By John Russell

Intersect 360 at ISC: HPC Industry at $44B by 2021

June 22, 2017

The care, feeding and sustained growth of the HPC industry increasingly is in the hands of the commercial market sector – in particular, it’s the hyperscale companies and their embrace of AI and deep learning – tha Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Creating a Roadmap for HPC Innovation at ISC 2017

In an era where technological advancements are driving innovation to every sector, and powering major economic and scientific breakthroughs, high performance computing (HPC) is crucial to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. Read more…

At ISC – Goh on Go: Humans Can’t Scale, the Data-Centric Learning Machine Can

June 22, 2017

I've seen the future this week at ISC, it’s on display in prototype or Powerpoint form, and it’s going to dumbfound you. The future is an AI neural network designed to emulate and compete with the human brain. In thi Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray Brings AI and HPC Together on Flagship Supers

June 20, 2017

Cray took one more step toward the convergence of big data and high performance computing (HPC) today when it announced that it’s adding a full suite of big data and artificial intelligence software to its top-of-the-l Read more…

By Alex Woodie

AMD Charges Back into the Datacenter and HPC Workflows with EPYC Processor

June 20, 2017

AMD is charging back into the enterprise datacenter and select HPC workflows with its new EPYC 7000 processor line, code-named Naples, announced today at a “global” launch event in Austin TX. In many ways it was a fu Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion: Deep Learning, AI Helping Drive Healthy HPC Industry Growth

June 20, 2017

To be at the ISC conference in Frankfurt this week is to experience deep immersion in deep learning. Users want to learn about it, vendors want to talk about it, analysts and journalists want to report on it. Deep learni Read more…

By Doug Black

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tsinghua Crowned Eight-Time Student Cluster Champions at ISC

June 22, 2017

Always a hard-fought competition, the Student Cluster Competition awards were announced Wednesday, June 21, at the ISC High Performance Conference 2017. Amid wh Read more…

By Kim McMahon

GPUs, Power9, Figure Prominently in IBM’s Bet on Weather Forecasting

June 22, 2017

IBM jumped into the weather forecasting business roughly a year and a half ago by purchasing The Weather Company. This week at ISC 2017, Big Blue rolled out pla Read more…

By John Russell

Intersect 360 at ISC: HPC Industry at $44B by 2021

June 22, 2017

The care, feeding and sustained growth of the HPC industry increasingly is in the hands of the commercial market sector – in particular, it’s the hyperscale Read more…

By Doug Black

At ISC – Goh on Go: Humans Can’t Scale, the Data-Centric Learning Machine Can

June 22, 2017

I've seen the future this week at ISC, it’s on display in prototype or Powerpoint form, and it’s going to dumbfound you. The future is an AI neural network Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray Brings AI and HPC Together on Flagship Supers

June 20, 2017

Cray took one more step toward the convergence of big data and high performance computing (HPC) today when it announced that it’s adding a full suite of big d Read more…

By Alex Woodie

AMD Charges Back into the Datacenter and HPC Workflows with EPYC Processor

June 20, 2017

AMD is charging back into the enterprise datacenter and select HPC workflows with its new EPYC 7000 processor line, code-named Naples, announced today at a “g Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion: Deep Learning, AI Helping Drive Healthy HPC Industry Growth

June 20, 2017

To be at the ISC conference in Frankfurt this week is to experience deep immersion in deep learning. Users want to learn about it, vendors want to talk about it Read more…

By Doug Black

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

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

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is the successor to Caffe, the deep learning framework developed by Berkeley AI Research and community contributors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of Read more…

By Alex Woodie

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of “quantum supremacy,” researchers are stretching the limits of today’s most advanced supercomputers. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Messina Update: The US Path to Exascale in 16 Slides

April 26, 2017

Paul Messina, director of the U.S. Exascale Computing Project, provided a wide-ranging review of ECP’s evolving plans last week at the HPC User Forum. Read more…

By John Russell

Knights Landing Processor with Omni-Path Makes Cloud Debut

April 18, 2017

HPC cloud specialist Rescale is partnering with Intel and HPC resource provider R Systems to offer first-ever cloud access to Xeon Phi "Knights Landing" processors. The infrastructure is based on the 68-core Intel Knights Landing processor with integrated Omni-Path fabric (the 7250F Xeon Phi). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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