Cray+Azure: Can Cloud Propel Supercomputing?

By Tiffany Trader

October 23, 2017

Cray, which has been seeking new points of entry for its supercomputing technology into the cloud enterprise arena, has struck a partnership with Microsoft and its enormous Azure customer base, a deal that Cray believes has the potential to unlock broader growth for the company. The pair announced on Oct. 23 they are offering dedicated Cray XC and CS-Storm supercomputers inside the Azure platform allowing customers to run their HPC and AI applications alongside their other cloud workloads.

It’s “cloud without compromise,” said Barry Bolding, Cray’s senior vice president and chief strategy officer. “We’ve seen a bifurcation in the marketplace. There are users who need the flexibility and elasticity of the cloud in order to meet some of their computational needs and data needs. They need those large repositories that the cloud can offer but there are a large class of users and applications for which you need a dedicated, tightly coupled architecture that doesn’t compromise on the architecture in order to get the best performance which gets you the best TCO for the application.”

Cray supercomputers integrate with elements in the Azure cloud offering that would be used to execute HPC workloads, elements such as Azure virtual machines, data lake storage, the Microsoft AI platform and Azure machine learning services, according to Microsoft, with the intent to promote rich workflows and collaboration. Customers can also employ CycleCloud for hybrid HPC management.

The arrangement broadens Cray’s market vistas by making supercomputing accessible to customers who don’t have their own datacenter and have been running HPC, AI, and advanced analytics workloads in the public cloud. Just as the cloud has been an on-ramp to HPC for many users that were too small or otherwise not in a position to own or manage an on-prem system, now there exists a generation of users who, over the past five to 10 years, came of age in the cloud and grew their requirements for scalable performance, such that public cloud is positioned as an on-ramp to dedicated supercomputing. This thesis is at the heart of the Microsoft-Cray partnership and the companies say it’s born out by their market studies.

“Utilization rates have been growing on the Azure side to the point where customers need a dedicated resource and with this partnership, [Microsoft] can point their customers to Cray and we can do this all within the Azure datacenter for them,” said Bolding.

While there is some interest in this offering from the public sector, most is coming from the private sector, where companies don’t necessarily have the floor space and expertise to operate supercomputers themselves. “Those are a lot of commercial customers. We’ve seen them in the geospatial arena, we’ve seen them in the automotive space, we’ve seen them in financial services, in the life sciences. These are all segments that have been having these discussions with Microsoft,” Bolding noted.

Cray has announced some other cloudy plays in the recent past, notably with Deloitte and the Markley Group. The company says those partnerships are driving revenue, but Microsoft with its enormous Azure customer base has the potential to unlock far broader growth for Cray.

“They have a set of services that complements us,” said Bolding. “They’ve been doing HPC they just haven’t necessarily been doing the type of HPC we do, the supercomputing. They are the public cloud provider that has the most experience building services around HPC, which is why we chose to work with them, so I am really optimistic that we’ll be able to drive a whole new level of growth over what some of our other engagements are doing.”

Azure’s investment in high-performance computing and “big compute” includes its 2012 rollout of InfiniBand-backed instances, its purchase of GreenButton in 2014, its commitment to offering high-end GPUs and its recent acquisition of Cycle Computing.

Cray says it’s a pretty easy push to start delivering to customers. Of course since these are build-to-order systems, the usual three-four month fulfillment cycles apply. It’s not on-demand, project-based or pay-by-the-sip cloud, not yet.

“We want to focus on the best engagement model for both of us and that’s where we want to start,” said Bolding. “We want to provide Cray systems without compromise of performance. To do that at scale, we don’t want to go the full virtualization route today because that does limit some of the scalability of the storage and the compute, so I think we will be working with Microsoft to determine how we could do multi-tenant type projects with them, but we want to start with this in order to get the focus and really make sure we are providing the best experience to the customers, day one.”

The Cray XC with the Aries interconnect and the CS-Storm are the first two systems that are being offered under this partnership, along with the accompanying Cray ClusterStor storage systems. Customers can also leverage the Cray Urika-XC analytics software suite. The Cray systems will be available for customer-specific provisioning in select Microsoft Azure datacenters. Cray will contract directly with customers to provide support and maintenance.

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!

A Beginner’s Guide to the ASC19 Finals

April 22, 2019

Three thousand watts. That's how much power the competitors in the 2019 ASC Student Supercomputer Challenge here in Dalian, China, have to work with. Everybody would like more juice to run compute-intensive HPC simulatio Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Is Data Science the Fourth Pillar of the Scientific Method?

April 18, 2019

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang revived a decade-old debate last month when he said that modern data science (AI plus HPC) has become the fourth pillar of the scientific method. While some disagree with the notion that statistic Read more…

By Alex Woodie

At ASF 2019: The Virtuous Circle of Big Data, AI and HPC

April 18, 2019

We've entered a new phase in IT -- in the world, really -- where the combination of big data, artificial intelligence, and high performance computing is pushing the bounds of what's possible in business and science, in w Read more…

By Alex Woodie with Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture: How to Power a Cloud

Learn how HPE and Intel® Omni-Path Architecture provide critical infrastructure for leading Nordic HPC provider’s HPCFLOW cloud service.

powercloud_blog.jpgFor decades, HPE has been at the forefront of high-performance computing, and we’ve powered some of the fastest and most robust supercomputers in the world. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Bridging HPC and Cloud Native Development with Kubernetes

The HPC community has historically developed its own specialized software stack including schedulers, filesystems, developer tools, container technologies tuned for performance and large-scale on-premises deployments. Read more…

Google Open Sources TensorFlow Version of MorphNet DL Tool

April 18, 2019

Designing optimum deep neural networks remains a non-trivial exercise. “Given the large search space of possible architectures, designing a network from scratch for your specific application can be prohibitively expens Read more…

By John Russell

A Beginner’s Guide to the ASC19 Finals

April 22, 2019

Three thousand watts. That's how much power the competitors in the 2019 ASC Student Supercomputer Challenge here in Dalian, China, have to work with. Everybody Read more…

By Alex Woodie

At ASF 2019: The Virtuous Circle of Big Data, AI and HPC

April 18, 2019

We've entered a new phase in IT -- in the world, really -- where the combination of big data, artificial intelligence, and high performance computing is pushing Read more…

By Alex Woodie with Doug Black and Tiffany Trader

Interview with 2019 Person to Watch Michela Taufer

April 18, 2019

Today, as part of our ongoing HPCwire People to Watch focus series, we are highlighting our interview with 2019 Person to Watch Michela Taufer. Michela -- the Read more…

By HPCwire Editorial Team

Intel Gold U-Series SKUs Reveal Single Socket Intentions

April 18, 2019

Intel plans to jump into the single socket market with a portion of its just announced Cascade Lake microprocessor line according to one media report. This isn Read more…

By John Russell

BSC Researchers Shrink Floating Point Formats to Accelerate Deep Neural Network Training

April 15, 2019

Sometimes calculating solutions as precisely as a computer can wastes more CPU resources than is necessary. A case in point is with deep learning. In early stag Read more…

By Ken Strandberg

Intel Extends FPGA Ecosystem with 10nm Agilex

April 11, 2019

The insatiable appetite for higher throughput and lower latency – particularly where edge analytics and AI, network functions, or for a range of datacenter ac Read more…

By Doug Black

Nvidia Doubles Down on Medical AI

April 9, 2019

Nvidia is collaborating with medical groups to push GPU-powered AI tools into clinical settings, including radiology and drug discovery. The GPU leader said Monday it will collaborate with the American College of Radiology (ACR) to provide clinicians with its Clara AI tool kit. The partnership would allow radiologists to leverage AI techniques for diagnostic imaging using their own clinical data. Read more…

By George Leopold

Digging into MLPerf Benchmark Suite to Inform AI Infrastructure Decisions

April 9, 2019

With machine learning and deep learning storming into the datacenter, the new challenge is optimizing infrastructure choices to support diverse ML and DL workfl Read more…

By John Russell

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

Why Nvidia Bought Mellanox: ‘Future Datacenters Will Be…Like High Performance Computers’

March 14, 2019

“Future datacenters of all kinds will be built like high performance computers,” said Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang during a phone briefing on Monday after Nvidia revealed scooping up the high performance networking company Mellanox for $6.9 billion. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ClusterVision in Bankruptcy, Fate Uncertain

February 13, 2019

ClusterVision, European HPC specialists that have built and installed over 20 Top500-ranked systems in their nearly 17-year history, appear to be in the midst o Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Reportedly in $6B Bid for Mellanox

January 30, 2019

The latest rumors and reports around an acquisition of Mellanox focus on Intel, which has reportedly offered a $6 billion bid for the high performance interconn Read more…

By Doug Black

It’s Official: Aurora on Track to Be First US Exascale Computer in 2021

March 18, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy along with Intel and Cray confirmed today that an Intel/Cray supercomputer, "Aurora," capable of sustained performance of one exaf Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Looking for Light Reading? NSF-backed ‘Comic Books’ Tackle Quantum Computing

January 28, 2019

Still baffled by quantum computing? How about turning to comic books (graphic novels for the well-read among you) for some clarity and a little humor on QC. The Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s Read more…

By John Russell

Deep500: ETH Researchers Introduce New Deep Learning Benchmark for HPC

February 5, 2019

ETH researchers have developed a new deep learning benchmarking environment – Deep500 – they say is “the first distributed and reproducible benchmarking s Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
NVIDIA @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

IBM Bets $2B Seeking 1000X AI Hardware Performance Boost

February 7, 2019

For now, AI systems are mostly machine learning-based and “narrow” – powerful as they are by today's standards, they're limited to performing a few, narro Read more…

By Doug Black

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

Arm Unveils Neoverse N1 Platform with up to 128-Cores

February 20, 2019

Following on its Neoverse roadmap announcement last October, Arm today revealed its next-gen Neoverse microarchitecture with compute and throughput-optimized si Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Launches Cascade Lake Xeons with Up to 56 Cores

April 2, 2019

At Intel's Data-Centric Innovation Day in San Francisco (April 2), the company unveiled its second-generation Xeon Scalable (Cascade Lake) family and debuted it Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

France to Deploy AI-Focused Supercomputer: Jean Zay

January 22, 2019

HPE announced today that it won the contract to build a supercomputer that will drive France’s AI and HPC efforts. The computer will be part of GENCI, the Fre Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Oil and Gas Supercloud Clears Out Remaining Knights Landing Inventory: All 38,000 Wafers

March 13, 2019

The McCloud HPC service being built by Australia’s DownUnder GeoSolutions (DUG) outside Houston is set to become the largest oil and gas cloud in the world th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Intel Extends FPGA Ecosystem with 10nm Agilex

April 11, 2019

The insatiable appetite for higher throughput and lower latency – particularly where edge analytics and AI, network functions, or for a range of datacenter ac Read more…

By Doug Black

UC Berkeley Paper Heralds Rise of Serverless Computing in the Cloud – Do You Agree?

February 13, 2019

Almost exactly ten years to the day from publishing of their widely-read, seminal paper on cloud computing, UC Berkeley researchers have issued another ambitious examination of cloud computing - Cloud Programming Simplified: A Berkeley View on Serverless Computing. The new work heralds the rise of ‘serverless computing’ as the next dominant phase of cloud computing. Read more…

By John Russell

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