SMBs have more opportunities than ever to explore advanced computing use cases with HPC resources on demand from experienced providers
There are few topics in the IT world hotter than cloud right now. The market is blossoming as cloud providers and the underlying technologies required to make it mainstream — such as containers and microservices along with dedicated connections — have matured to take cloud past the point of acceptance to become a business imperative. According to Gartner, “at this point, cloud adoption is mainstream.” The public cloud services market is predicted to grow 17% in 2020, to reach US$266 billion by the end of this year. US$116 billion of that market will be software as a service (SaaS), with infrastructure as a service (IaaS) a close second, predicted to reach US$50 billion by year’s end.
Digital transformation is another hot topic, as businesses of all sizes seek to leverage high performance data analytics (HPDA), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), deep learning (DL) and other advanced computing techniques to make sense of growing amounts of data pouring in from applications, sensors, mobile users and more. Cloud is leveling the playing field, giving even small and midsized businesses (SMBs) the capability to tap into IT resources on demand and compete with larger players like never before.
Of course, these fast-growing workloads require HPC resources, which is another area where cloud is changing the game. Hyperion Research has named 2019 the “tipping point year for a significant and long-anticipated shift in market attitudes toward running HPC workloads in clouds,” with a subsequent increase in its revenue forecast to US$7.5 billion by 2023. The ability to consume HPC resources as a service is indeed a tipping point for SMBs, enabling them to sidestep the cost and complexity of purchasing, deploying, tuning and managing their own advanced computing systems.
While SMBs undertaking digital transformation to embrace hybrid cloud services for advanced computing might seem like the latest news, most of the largest supercomputing centers have been acting as hybrid cloud service providers since before the term “hybrid cloud service providers” existed.
All the key elements of cloud computing — IaaS, PaaS and SaaS — have long existed in the HPC world. Large government and research institutions have been both providing and renting HPC cycles for decades, pioneering new ways to enable ground-breaking research while defraying the costs of running these advanced computing systems. These providers are home to some of the fastest and biggest supercomputers on the planet, as well as a wealth of experts in a variety of advanced computing fields.
So, as SMBs seek to tap into HPC resources to fuel their business agendas, it pays to know that there are multiple choices to consume high performance computing resources, allowing them to pick and choose the right set of capabilities for their needs. Access to elastic or even occasional HPC resources is a game-changer for many SMBs, enabling quick response to changes in business needs and demands.
Universities share HPC resources and expertise
Universities around the world are home to very large, very powerful supercomputers along with some of the brightest minds in HPC. Many have a commitment to share these resources with industry partners, both to foster innovation and to help pay for these cutting-edge systems.
For example, the Advanced Research Computing — Technology Services (ARC-TS) center at the University of Michigan provides researchers with leading-edge HPC resources while operating under a commitment to full cost recovery. The team carefully considered user profiles and typical job types to come up with a cluster design that improves performance for a diverse range of workloads, along with a pay-by-the-hour pricing model that satisfies the cost recovery requirement. Because of the team’s careful planning, users can pay a reasonable fee for exceptional HPC performance on an hourly basis. ARC-TS provides access to multiple other cloud-based HPC resources and services as well.
The Advanced Research Computing department at the University of Liverpool helps users solve computationally demanding problems, such as large-scale simulations or processing large, complex research datasets. The center provides advice, support and consultancy services along with a wide range of specialist software, including graphics and scientific applications. The university is also one of five Intel Parallel Computing Centers (IPCCs) collaborating with the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) and Intel® on a new Big Data Center (BDC) that will work on code modernization to tackle emerging science challenges.
The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre is a joint venture between the Australian government’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and several Australian Universities. The center provides services and expertise in supercomputing, data, cloud services and visualization to assist with projects in fields such as astronomy, life sciences, medicine, energy, natural resources and AI. It supports students and industry personnel, researchers, academics and scientists via seminars and symposia covering data, visualization and supercomputing, as well as training, internships and workshops covering advanced computing and research and development opportunities. In November 2019, the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre selected Dell Technologies to expand its current cloud system with five times more memory and 25 times more storage to form a new cutting-edge system.
Public/private partnerships help fuel start-ups
There are many examples of public/private HPC partnerships. These joint ventures are typically formed to create a synergy between commercial and public interests.
For example, the University of Michigan’s Mcity Test Facility is a one-of-a-kind living lab that enables comprehensive testing, evaluation and demonstration of connected and autonomous vehicle technologies. Industry, government and academic participants come together at this urban test facility to build a vision of the future of transportation and improve its safety, sustainability and accessibility.
The University of Florida makes its HiPerGator supercomputer available for academic users as well as commercial enterprises, with discounted commercial rates available for start-up companies, such as those associated with the university’s Innovation Hub. The program gives start-up companies access to the most powerful university supercomputer in the southern United States, and the third-fastest university supercomputer in the country. Two years after the HiPerGator supercomputer was introduced at the University of Florida, it was expanded to include 30,000 cores in approximately 1,000 nodes made by Dell.
The Center for High Performance Computing (CHPC) in South Africa recognizes the need for fueling innovation in the private sector, and has a commitment to allocate up to 30% of its HPC resources for non-academic use. The center partners with commercial businesses, providing pay-per-use access to the largest compute cluster in Africa — along with sharing its in-house expertise — to run large-scale modeling and simulation workloads.
The Pawsey Supercomputing Centre engages with industry groups either directly or through collaboration with CSIRO researchers. Pawsey has a strong commitment to its industry engagement and counts a number of successful industry partner projects, particularly in the agriculture, energy, health and geosciences sectors. Typical applications include computational modeling and feasibility studies as to whether companies can use HPC to benefit the common good.
Supercomputing Wales is dedicated to facilitating collaboration with the private sector, making its resources available to industry partners. Target industrial collaborations include nano scale materials, energy and the environment, life sciences and the digital economy. Supercomputing Wales recently collaborated with Norson design, a French boat design company seeking to use computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to design the world’s fastest, most stable boats. Norson engineers collaborated with Supercomputing Wales and a team of researchers at Swansea University to create a new CFD code and run it on the center’s powerful HPC systems.
Start your own advanced computing project today
As more and different types of organizations seek to leverage advanced computing for competitive advantage, the hybrid cloud model continues to be ideally suited for artificial intelligence and high performance computing. If you have a use case you think would be helped by access to AI/HPC resources and experts, reach out to a supercomputing center near you to find out what opportunities might be available.
You can also visit one of the Dell Technologies’ HPC and AI Centers of Excellence for more ideas and advice. There are many opportunities to get started, the only limit is your imagination. Visit delltechnologies.com/hpc and hpcatdell.com.
 Gartner, “Gartner Forecasts Worldwide Public Cloud Revenue to Grow 17% in 2020,” November 2019.
 HPCwire, “Hyperion: AI-driven HPC Industry Continues to Push Growth Projections,” November 2019.