Cluster Lifecycle Management: Recycle and Rebirth

By Deepak Khosla

June 16, 2015

In the previous Cluster Lifecycle Management column, I examined the various options for Capacity Planning and Reporting that can help you prepare for the inevitability of upgrading or refreshing your HPC cluster. In this column, we wrap up the Cluster Lifecycle Management series by discussing how you should actually go about upgrading or perhaps even replacing the system.

I focused quite a bit in this column series on the steps that need to be taken to keep your system running efficiently so that end users have productive experiences and your organization gains a positive ROI on its investment in HPC technology. But even with your clusters running at peak efficiency, the day will come – could be within a few months or could be four years – when you will start seeing the need to upgrade the system.

In the Capacity Planning and Reporting column, I stressed the need for a solid reporting system that keeps the HPC manager up to date regarding how the clusters are being used, and how they are performing. This is important because a system refresh, whether big or small, can’t be a snap decision. Budgeting for and procuring the new resources require a long lead time and must follow a thorough examination of how the system has been used to date. Having the usage and performance history is critical to making good decisions regarding upgrades and changes.

Symptoms that indicate change is needed will come in various forms and severities. Most commonly, your business has grown and users are asking for more speed, or more throughput, or additional storage to complete their jobs. Or perhaps the software applications have evolved and need additional compute capacity or even a different software stack to run effectively. After a couple of years, hardware can simply get out of date and can’t keep up with required throughput or can become significantly more expensive to operate and maintain. Associated symptoms include more frequent hardware failures, more unexplained intermittent job failures, etc.

Having the system and job usage and performance reporting system, in combination with a trouble-ticketing and change management system, will provide you the data you need to make data driven analytical decisions as to which options are the best ones to take. As always, very seldom is there only one path!

System upgrades and refreshes come in varying degrees. Just like making a decision on buying a car – do you replace the old one, or just upgrade/repair some parts, or buy a new one and keep the old one – cluster refreshes are no different. However, the decision is not to be taken lightly due to the cost involved with each of the alternatives. Generally speaking, the options are to upgrade existing system, or to expand the existing cluster by adding additional compute and/or storage, or to replace the entire system. In my experience with scores of customers or upgrades, rolling upgrades seem the most common where customers are able to keep certain production volume going while upgrading some parts of the system.

To determine which path to take, you’ll need to refer to the historical reporting information I recommended you maintain from the start of operations. Knowing what hardware to upgrade or replace will be dictated by the metrics of how your system has been used. These metrics will help you make a decision that provides the best ROI, as was your original decision to deploy HPC technology in the first place.

Some important information, or metrics, that you’ll have to examine include the following:

  • What is the average throughput of your system?
  • What is the usage profile?
  • What applications run most efficiently on which architectures?
  • Which nodes are used the most? The least?
  • What problems are your users reporting?
  • What are the costs associated with maintenance, administration, power, and software licenses?

Your job is to perform a cost-benefit analysis using these data points so you can determine which option will yield the best return to the organization. And most importantly, your enhanced system should serve the end users more effectively and reliably than ever before. Just as you did before purchasing your first cluster, you must assess your upgrade needs based on your current and expected usage profile.

Once the decision has been made on what to replace or acquire, you must crank up the RFP (Request For Proposal) process that you used to buy the original system. If possible, put the same team together – system administrators, datacenter operators, end users, IT staff, and executives, and engage them in the analysis and acquisition process again. If you weren’t happy with the architecture or performance of your original system, you have the opportunity now to enact changes that will improve your cluster in its second incarnation. One major consideration with a new system RFP is to ensure compatibility of the new system with existing one is taken into account. This includes management systems, schedulers, software and your workflows and policies and procedures.

Even if you had a positive experience with your original HPC purchase and want to buy from the same vendor again, I still recommend sending at least two or three other RFPs out. In today’s rapidly changing technological landscape, you might be surprised to find a different vendor now offers exactly what you need at a better value. Notice I said value not price! A good vendor with knowledge of your existing system can provide valuable insight into what options may or may not be a good choice.

Just as your original RFP took into account deployment of the new system, your upgrade must be installed, deployed and validated by a seasoned professional. Upgrades, especially major, require a unique skill set because they must be accomplished with minimal disruption to the existing system. If the old system will be replaced entirely, logistics can become a problem and must be handled in the RFP. All of the implementation activities add ‘soft’ dollars to the cost of the upgrade and must be taken into account in the cost-benefits analysis.

Finally, what will you do with the old hardware or entire system you are replacing? Depending on the age and condition, you might want to consider donating to a local college or even selling the system to another organization.

Once the upgrade or replacement is up and running, the rebirth of your HPC system is complete, for now. You’ll know the refresh has been a success if you see improvements in key metrics – throughput has increased, jobs running to completion and overall operations costs coming down. And most importantly, you should see greater satisfaction and fewer complaints from your end user.

Celebrate when you are done as this process is not easy – it often feels like replacing the tires on a moving car! But is that not why you enjoy the HPC world? It is not for the faint of heart. Nice work! Now lather, rinse and repeat. Happy clustering.

This is the final column in my Cluster Lifecycle Management series. Let me thank HPCwire for running the columns, and thank you for following the series. If you have any questions on this topic, please contact me directly at [email protected]

Deepak Khosla is president and CEO of X-ISS Inc. (www.x-iss.com).

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!

Simulating Car Crashes with Supercomputers – and Lego

October 18, 2019

It’s an experiment many of us have carried out at home: crashing two Lego creations into each other, bricks flying everywhere. But for the researchers at the General German Automobile Club (ADAC) – which is comparabl Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

NASA Uses Deep Learning to Monitor Solar Weather

October 17, 2019

Solar flares may be best-known as sci-fi MacGuffins, but those flares – and other space weather – can have serious impacts on not only spacecraft and satellites, but also on Earth-based systems such as radio communic Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Federated Learning Applied to Cancer Research

October 17, 2019

The ability to share and analyze data while protecting patient privacy is giving medical researchers a new tool in their efforts to use what one vendor calls “federated learning” to train models based on diverse data Read more…

By George Leopold

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

NSB 2020 S&E Indicators Dig into Workforce and Education

October 16, 2019

Every two years the National Science Board is required by Congress to issue a report on the state of science and engineering in the U.S. This year, in a departure from past practice, the NSB has divided the 2020 S&E Read more…

By John Russell

AWS Solution Channel

Making High Performance Computing Affordable and Accessible for Small and Medium Businesses with HPC on AWS

High performance computing (HPC) brings a powerful set of tools to a broad range of industries, helping to drive innovation and boost revenue in finance, genomics, oil and gas extraction, and other fields. Read more…

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Intel FPGAs: More Than Just an Accelerator Card

FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) acceleration cards are not new, as they’ve been commercially available since 1984. Typically, the emphasis around FPGAs has centered on the fact that they’re programmable accelerators, and that they can truly offer workload specific hardware acceleration solutions without requiring custom silicon. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

How Do We Power the New Industrial Revolution?

[Attend the IBM LSF, HPC & AI User Group Meeting at SC19 in Denver on November 19!]

Almost everyone is talking about artificial intelligence (AI). Read more…

What’s New in HPC Research: Rabies, Smog, Robots & More

October 14, 2019

In this bimonthly feature, HPCwire highlights newly published research in the high-performance computing community and related domains. From parallel programming to exascale to quantum computing, the details are here. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

NSB 2020 S&E Indicators Dig into Workforce and Education

October 16, 2019

Every two years the National Science Board is required by Congress to issue a report on the state of science and engineering in the U.S. This year, in a departu Read more…

By John Russell

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Simulates Braking – on Mars

October 14, 2019

NASA is planning to send humans to Mars by the 2030s – and landing on the surface will be considerably trickier than landing a rover like Curiosity. To solve Read more…

By Staff report

Trovares Drives Memory-Driven, Property Graph Analytics Strategy with HPE

October 10, 2019

Trovares, a high performance property graph analytics company, has partnered with HPE and its Superdome Flex memory-driven servers on a cybersecurity capability the companies say “routinely” runs near-time workloads on 24TB-capacity systems... Read more…

By Doug Black

Intel, Lenovo Join Forces on HPC Cluster for Flatiron

October 9, 2019

An HPC cluster with deep learning techniques will be used to process petabytes of scientific data as part of workload-intensive projects spanning astrophysics to genomics. AI partners Intel and Lenovo said they are providing... Read more…

By George Leopold

Optimizing Offshore Wind Farms with Supercomputer Simulations

October 9, 2019

Offshore wind farms offer a number of benefits; many of the areas with the strongest winds are located offshore, and siting wind farms offshore ameliorates many of the land use concerns associated with onshore wind farms. Some estimates say that, if leveraged, offshore wind power... Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Harvard Deploys Cannon, New Lenovo Water-Cooled HPC Cluster

October 9, 2019

Harvard's Faculty of Arts & Sciences Research Computing (FASRC) center announced a refresh of their primary HPC resource. The new cluster, called Cannon after the pioneering American astronomer Annie Jump Cannon, is supplied by Lenovo... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Supercomputer-Powered AI Tackles a Key Fusion Energy Challenge

August 7, 2019

Fusion energy is the Holy Grail of the energy world: low-radioactivity, low-waste, zero-carbon, high-output nuclear power that can run on hydrogen or lithium. T Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

DARPA Looks to Propel Parallelism

September 4, 2019

As Moore’s law runs out of steam, new programming approaches are being pursued with the goal of greater hardware performance with less coding. The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency is launching a new programming effort aimed at leveraging the benefits of massive distributed parallelism with less sweat. Read more…

By George Leopold

Cray Wins NNSA-Livermore ‘El Capitan’ Exascale Contract

August 13, 2019

Cray has won the bid to build the first exascale supercomputer for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Lawrence Livermore National Laborator Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Launches Epyc Rome, First 7nm CPU

August 8, 2019

From a gala event at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco yesterday (Aug. 7), AMD launched its second-generation Epyc Rome x86 chips, based on its 7nm proce Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Ayar Labs to Demo Photonics Chiplet in FPGA Package at Hot Chips

August 19, 2019

Silicon startup Ayar Labs continues to gain momentum with its DARPA-backed optical chiplet technology that puts advanced electronics and optics on the same chip Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Using AI to Solve One of the Most Prevailing Problems in CFD

October 17, 2019

How can artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance computing (HPC) solve mesh generation, one of the most commonly referenced problems in computational engineering? A new study has set out to answer this question and create an industry-first AI-mesh application... Read more…

By James Sharpe

D-Wave’s Path to 5000 Qubits; Google’s Quantum Supremacy Claim

September 24, 2019

On the heels of IBM’s quantum news last week come two more quantum items. D-Wave Systems today announced the name of its forthcoming 5000-qubit system, Advantage (yes the name choice isn’t serendipity), at its user conference being held this week in Newport, RI. Read more…

By John Russell

Chinese Company Sugon Placed on US ‘Entity List’ After Strong Showing at International Supercomputing Conference

June 26, 2019

After more than a decade of advancing its supercomputing prowess, operating the world’s most powerful supercomputer from June 2013 to June 2018, China is keep Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

ISC 2019 Virtual Booth Video Tour

CRAY
CRAY
DDN
DDN
DELL EMC
DELL EMC
GOOGLE
GOOGLE
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
ONE STOP SYSTEMS
PANASAS
PANASAS
VERNE GLOBAL
VERNE GLOBAL

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Hardware That Powered the Black Hole Image

June 24, 2019

Two months ago, the first-ever image of a black hole took the internet by storm. A team of scientists took years to produce and verify the striking image – an Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

Intel Confirms Retreat on Omni-Path

August 1, 2019

Intel Corp.’s plans to make a big splash in the network fabric market for linking HPC and other workloads has apparently belly-flopped. The chipmaker confirmed to us the outlines of an earlier report by the website CRN that it has jettisoned plans for a second-generation version of its Omni-Path interconnect... Read more…

By Staff report

Crystal Ball Gazing: IBM’s Vision for the Future of Computing

October 14, 2019

Dario Gil, IBM’s relatively new director of research, painted a intriguing portrait of the future of computing along with a rough idea of how IBM thinks we’ Read more…

By John Russell

Kubernetes, Containers and HPC

September 19, 2019

Software containers and Kubernetes are important tools for building, deploying, running and managing modern enterprise applications at scale and delivering enterprise software faster and more reliably to the end user — while using resources more efficiently and reducing costs. Read more…

By Daniel Gruber, Burak Yenier and Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

Intel Debuts Pohoiki Beach, Its 8M Neuron Neuromorphic Development System

July 17, 2019

Neuromorphic computing has received less fanfare of late than quantum computing whose mystery has captured public attention and which seems to have generated mo Read more…

By John Russell

Rise of NIH’s Biowulf Mirrors the Rise of Computational Biology

July 29, 2019

The story of NIH’s supercomputer Biowulf is fascinating, important, and in many ways representative of the transformation of life sciences and biomedical res Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Bits: Neven’s Law (Who Asked for That), D-Wave’s Steady Push, IBM’s Li-O2- Simulation

July 3, 2019

Quantum computing’s (QC) many-faceted R&D train keeps slogging ahead and recently Japan is taking a leading role. Yesterday D-Wave Systems announced it ha Read more…

By John Russell

With the Help of HPC, Astronomers Prepare to Deflect a Real Asteroid

September 26, 2019

For years, NASA has been running simulations of asteroid impacts to understand the risks (and likelihoods) of asteroids colliding with Earth. Now, NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are preparing for the next, crucial step in planetary defense against asteroid impacts: physically deflecting a real asteroid. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This