Towards Ubiquitous HPC — Passing HPC into the hands of every engineer and scientist

By Wolfgang Gentzsch, UberCloud

January 7, 2016

Countless case studies demonstrate impressively the importance of HPC for engineering and scientific insight, product innovation, and market competitiveness. But so far HPC was mostly in the hands of a relatively small elite crowd, not easily accessible by the large majority.  In this article, however, we argue that – despite the ever increasing complexity of HPC hardware and system components –engineers and scientists have never been this close to HPC, i.e. ubiquitous HPC, as a common tool, for everyone. The main reason for this advance can be seen in the continuous progress of HPC software tools which assist enormously in the design, development, and optimization of engineering and scientific applications. Now, we believe that the next chasm towards ubiquitous HPC will be crossed very soon by new software container technology which will dramatically facilitate software packageability and portability, ease the access and use, and simplify software maintenance and support, and which finally will pass HPC into the hands of every engineer and scientist.

First, a Little Container History

The Box Levinson“In April 1956, a refitted oil tanker carried fifty-eight shipping containers from Newark to Houston. From that modest beginning, container shipping developed into a huge industry that made the boom in global trade possible. “The Box” tells the dramatic story of the container’s creation, the decade of struggle before it was widely adopted, and the sweeping economic consequences of the sharp fall in transportation costs that containerization brought about. … Economist Marc Levinson shows how the container transformed economic geography. … By making shipping so cheap that industry could locate factories far from its customers, the container paved the way for Asia to become the world’s workshop and brought consumers a previously unimaginable variety of low-cost products from around the globe.”

Whenever I read this story from Marc Levinson’s book “The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger” my blood runs cold, because of its analogy to today’s emerging software containers and their growing importance for all IT, for the whole software life cycle, each phase, from design, coding, testing, to software release, distribution, access and use, support and maintenance, and especially for the end-users and their applications.

40 Years of Expert HPC

The last 40 years saw a continuous struggle of our community with HPC. Let me tell you how I started with HPC. In 1976 started my first job as a computer scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Plasmaphysics in Munich, developing my first program for magneto-hydrodynamics plasma simulations on a 3-MFLOPS IBM 360/91. Three years later, at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Gottingen, I was involved in the benchmarking and acquisition of DLR’s first Cray-1S which marked my entry into vector computing. In 1980, my team broke the 50-MFLOPS with a speedup of 20 over DLR’s IBM 3081 mainframe computer, with fluid dynamics simulations for a nonlinear convective flow and for a direct Monte-Carlo simulation of the von-Karman vortex street. To get to that level of performance, however, we had to change several numerical algorithms and hand-vectorize and optimize quite a few compute-intensive subroutines of the programs which took us several troublesome months. That was HPC for experts, then.

Ubiquitous Computing – Xerox PARC’s Great Mark Weiser

When we use the word ‘ubiquitous’ in the following we mean synonyms like everywhere, omnipresent, pervasive, universal, and all-over, according to thesaurus.com. Here I’d like to quote the great Mark Weiser from Xerox PARC who wrote in 1988 already:

Mark Weiser

“Ubiquitous computing names the third wave in computing, just now beginning. First were mainframes, each shared by lots of people. Now we are in the personal computing era, person and machine staring uneasily at each other across the desktop. Next comes ubiquitous computing, or the age of calm technology, when technology recedes into the background of our lives.”

Weiser clearly looks at ‘ubiquitous computing’ with the eyes of the end-users, engineers and scientists I mentioned above. According to Weiser these users shouldn’t care about the ‘engine’ under the hood; all they care is about ‘driving’ safely, reliably, easily; getting in the car, starting the engine, pulling out into traffic, and reaching point B; everybody should be able to do that, everywhere, any time.

Towards Ubiquitous High Performance Computing

Now translating this into ‘Ubiquitous HPC’, with Mark Weiser. Very simplified HPC technology is split into two parts: hardware and software; both today are immensely complex in themselves; and their mutual interaction is highly sophisticated. For (high performance) computing to be ubiquitous Weiser suggests making it disappear into the background of our (business) lives; note well, this is from the end user’s point of view. Indeed, in the last decade, we were able to make a big step towards reaching this goal: we abstracted the application layer from the physical architecture underneath, through server virtualization. This achievement came with great benefits for the IT folks – and for the end-users too: such as the ability to provision servers faster, enhance security, reduce hardware vendor lock-in, increase uptime, improve disaster recovery, isolate applications and extend the life of older applications, and help move things to the cloud easily. So, with server virtualization we came quite close already to ubiquitous computing.

Finally – Ubiquitous High Performance Computing – with HPC Software Containers

But, server virtualization did not really gain a foothold in HPC, especially for highly parallel applications requiring low latency and high bandwidth inter-process communication. And multi-tenant HPC servers with several VMs competing among each other for hardware resources such as I/O, memory, and network, are often slowing down application performance.

Because VMs failed to show presence in HPC, the challenges of software distribution, administration, and maintenance kept HPC systems locked up in closets, available to only a select few. There has been no way to control the application management chaos that a democratized HPC environment would result in.

. . . until in 2013 Docker Linux Containers saw the light of day. The key practical difference between Docker and VMs is that Docker is a Linux-based system that makes use of a userspace interface for the Linux kernel containment features. Another difference is that rather than being a self-contained system in its own right, a Docker container shares the Linux kernel with the operating system running the host machine. It also shares the kernel with other containers that are running on the host machine. That makes Docker containers extremely lightweight, and well suited for HPC, in principle. Still it took us at UberCloud about a year to develop – based on micro-service Docker container technology – the macro-service production-ready counterpart for HPC, plus enhancing and testing it with a dozen of applications and with engineering workflows, on about a dozen different HPC single- and multi-node cloud resources. These high performance interactive software containers, whether they be on-premise, on public or on private clouds, bring a number of core benefits to the otherwise traditional HPC environments with the goal to make HPC widely available, ubiquitous:

Packageability: Bundle applications together with libraries and configuration files:

A container image bundles the needed libraries and tools as well as the application code and the necessary configuration for these components to work together seamlessly. There is no need to install software or tools on the host compute environment, since the ready-to-run container image has all the required components. The challenges regarding library dependencies, version conflicts, configuration challenges disappear, as do the huge replication and duplication efforts in our community when it comes to deploying HPC software which is one of the major goals of the OpenHPC initiative.

Portability: Build container images once, deploy them rapidly in various infrastructures:

Having a single container image makes it easy for the workload to be rapidly deployed and moved from host to host, between development and production environments, and to other computing facilities easily. The container allows the end user to select the appropriate environment such as a public cloud, a private cloud, or an on-premise HPC cluster. There is no need to install new components or perform setup steps when using another host.

Accessibility: Bundle tools such as SSH into the container for easy access:

The container is setup to provide easy access via tools such as VNC for remote desktop sharing. In addition, containers running on computing nodes enable both end-users and administrators to have a consistent implementation regardless of the underlying compute environment.

Usability: Provide familiar user interfaces and user tools with the application:

The container has only the required components to run the application. By eliminating other tools and middleware, the work environment is simplified and the usability is improved. The ability to provide a full featured desktop increases usability (especially for pre and post processing steps) and reduces training needs. Further, the HPC containers can be used together with a resource manager such as Slurm or Grid Engine, increasing the usability even further by eliminating many administration tasks.

In addition, the lightweight nature of the HPC container suggests low performance overhead. Our own performance tests with real applications on several multi-host multi-container HPC systems demonstrate that there is no significant overhead for running high performance workloads as an HPC container.

Conclusion

During the past two years we at UberCloud have successfully built HPC containers for application software like ANSYS (Fluent, CFX, Icepak, Electromagnetics, Mechanical, LS-Dyna, DesignModeler, and Workbench), CD-adapco STAR-CCM+, COMSOL Multiphysics, NICE DCV, Numeca FINE/Marine and FINE/Turbo, OpenFOAM, PSPP, Red Cedar’s HEEDS, Scilab, Gromacs, and others. These application containers are now running on cloud resources from Advania, Amazon AWS, CPU 24/7, Microsoft Azure, Nephoscale, OzenCloud, and others.

Together with recent advances and trends in application software and in high performance hardware technologies, the advent of lightweight pervasive, packageable, portable, scalable, interactive, easy to access and use HPC application containers based on Docker technology running seamlessly on workstations, servers, and clouds, is bringing us ever closer to what Intel calls the democratization of HPC, i.e. the age of ubiquitous high performance computing where HPC “technology recedes into the background of our lives.”

More information about these software containers can be found here. Container cases studies with real applications in the cloud are available for download. And, quite useful for all software providers is the site “Building Your Own ‘Software as a Service’ Business in the Cloud.”

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!

On the Spack Track @SC19

December 5, 2019

At the annual supercomputing conference, SC19 in Denver, Colorado, there were Spack events each day of the conference. As a reflection of its grassroots heritage, nine sessions were planned by more than a dozen thought leaders from seven organizations, including three U.S. national Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories and Sylabs... Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

Intel’s New Hyderabad Design Center Targets Exascale Era Technologies

December 3, 2019

Intel's Raja Koduri was in India this week to help launch a new 300,000 square foot design and engineering center in Hyderabad, which will focus on advanced computing technologies for the AI and exascale era. "Over th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Debuts 7nm 2nd-Gen Graviton Arm Processor

December 3, 2019

The “x86 Big Bang,” in which market dominance of the venerable Intel CPU has exploded into fragments of processor options suited to varying workloads, has now encompassed CPUs offered by the leading public cloud serv Read more…

By Doug Black

Medical Imaging Gets an AI Boost

December 3, 2019

AI technologies incorporated into diagnostic imaging tools have proven useful in eliminating confirmation bias, often outperforming human clinicians who may bring their own prejudices. Another issue slowing progress is t Read more…

By George Leopold

Ride on the Wild Side – Squyres SC19 Mars Rovers Keynote

December 2, 2019

Reminding us of the deep and enabling connection between HPC and modern science is an important part of the SC Conference mission. And yes, HPC is a science itself. At SC19, Steve Squyres’ opening keynote recounting th 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…

IBM Accelerated Insights

AI Needs Intelligent HPC infrastructure

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revolutionized entire industries and enables humanity to solve some of the most daunting challenges. To accomplish this, it requires massive amounts of data from heterogeneous sources that is processed it new ways that differs significantly from HPC applications. Read more…

NSCI Update – Adapting to a Changing Landscape

December 2, 2019

It was November of 2017 when we last visited the topic of the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI). As you will recall, the NSCI was started with an Executive Order (E.O. No. 13702), that was issued by President Obama in July of 2015 and was followed by a Strategic Plan that was released in July of 2016. The question for November of 2017... Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

On the Spack Track @SC19

December 5, 2019

At the annual supercomputing conference, SC19 in Denver, Colorado, there were Spack events each day of the conference. As a reflection of its grassroots heritage, nine sessions were planned by more than a dozen thought leaders from seven organizations, including three U.S. national Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories and Sylabs... Read more…

By Elizabeth Leake

Intel’s New Hyderabad Design Center Targets Exascale Era Technologies

December 3, 2019

Intel's Raja Koduri was in India this week to help launch a new 300,000 square foot design and engineering center in Hyderabad, which will focus on advanced com Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AWS Debuts 7nm 2nd-Gen Graviton Arm Processor

December 3, 2019

The “x86 Big Bang,” in which market dominance of the venerable Intel CPU has exploded into fragments of processor options suited to varying workloads, has n Read more…

By Doug Black

Ride on the Wild Side – Squyres SC19 Mars Rovers Keynote

December 2, 2019

Reminding us of the deep and enabling connection between HPC and modern science is an important part of the SC Conference mission. And yes, HPC is a science its Read more…

By John Russell

NSCI Update – Adapting to a Changing Landscape

December 2, 2019

It was November of 2017 when we last visited the topic of the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI). As you will recall, the NSCI was started with an Executive Order (E.O. No. 13702), that was issued by President Obama in July of 2015 and was followed by a Strategic Plan that was released in July of 2016. The question for November of 2017... Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Tsinghua University Racks Up Its Ninth Student Cluster Championship Win at SC19

November 27, 2019

Tsinghua University has done it again. At SC19 last week, the eight-time gold medal-winner team took home the top prize in the 2019 Student Cluster Competition Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

SC19: IBM Changes Its HPC-AI Game Plan

November 25, 2019

It’s probably fair to say IBM is known for big bets. Summit supercomputer – a big win. Red Hat acquisition – looking like a big win. OpenPOWER and Power processors – jury’s out? At SC19, long-time IBMer Dave Turek sketched out a different kind of bet for Big Blue – a small ball strategy, if you’ll forgive the baseball analogy... Read more…

By John Russell

How the Gordon Bell Prize Winners Used Summit to Illuminate Transistors

November 22, 2019

At SC19, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) awarded the prestigious Gordon Bell Prize to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich. The Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SC19: IBM Changes Its HPC-AI Game Plan

November 25, 2019

It’s probably fair to say IBM is known for big bets. Summit supercomputer – a big win. Red Hat acquisition – looking like a big win. OpenPOWER and Power processors – jury’s out? At SC19, long-time IBMer Dave Turek sketched out a different kind of bet for Big Blue – a small ball strategy, if you’ll forgive the baseball analogy... Read more…

By John Russell

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

Cray, Fujitsu Both Bringing Fujitsu A64FX-based Supercomputers to Market in 2020

November 12, 2019

The number of top-tier HPC systems makers has shrunk due to a steady march of M&A activity, but there is increased diversity and choice of processing compon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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

Intel Debuts New GPU – Ponte Vecchio – and Outlines Aspirations for oneAPI

November 17, 2019

Intel today revealed a few more details about its forthcoming Xe line of GPUs – the top SKU is named Ponte Vecchio and will be used in Aurora, the first plann 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

Dell Ramps Up HPC Testing of AMD Rome Processors

October 21, 2019

Dell Technologies is wading deeper into the AMD-based systems market with a growing evaluation program for the latest Epyc (Rome) microprocessors from AMD. In a Read more…

By John Russell

SC19: Welcome to Denver

November 17, 2019

A significant swath of the HPC community has come to Denver for SC19, which began today (Sunday) with a rich technical program. As is customary, the ribbon cutt Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

When Dense Matrix Representations Beat Sparse

September 9, 2019

In our world filled with unintended consequences, it turns out that saving memory space to help deal with GPU limitations, knowing it introduces performance pen Read more…

By James Reinders

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