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HPC: cloud computing

Lola’s focus is on computational fluid dynamics, to improve the aerodynamics of its cars ‘We pretty much got them the data

centre, procured the compute and sold them services,’ says Mannel. Roger Nolan, on the other hand,

questions whether an internal HPC cluster is cloud at all: ‘It’s down to the technology your platform is built on. If you’re just running a straight, non-virtualised cluster, I would call that a private supercomputer. If you add virtualisation, and maybe you want to run two applications and have them migrate some of the workload between nodes – then I’d say it’s a private cloud platform,’ he says. Keen to reach more clients, and to be able

to do more for each client, several providers are now expanding what they offer from Infrastructure as a Service into Platform or even Software as a Service – identifying the most popular software packages used in their target industries and ensuring they run well on their own infrastructure. Users, comfortable working in one CFD package, for example, are reassured that they can run it on the cloud service without a hitch. Bill Mannel says he has had software

companies approach him at SGI, wanting to 22 SCIENTIFIC COMPUTING WORLD WE’RE STARTING TO SEE



offer their services online, but without the resource to manage it themselves. ‘We have agreements with a few ISVs to

run their applications – if an end customer has code they want to run in [particular software] on Cyclone, they can. So we have a cooperative agreement.’ These industry suppliers are likely to

face more competition as research-based supercomputing centres begin to see a new route to making money, says Wuischpard. ‘We’re starting to see some competition

from some of the supercomputing centres in the US, who are starting to offer cloud services,’ he says. At the Barcelona Supercomputing

Centre, researcher Jordi Torres is looking into cloud provision –he does stress that for

the moment it’s not a commercial offering, only a way of working with researchers and a few companies with interesting projects, but Torres sees cloud as a natural route for smaller businesses looking for a path to HPC.

‘HPC has always been a tool for big

companies, with high-level requirements – but it really can be used by small companies. I think there’s a big market there,’ he says. Access to HPC could change whole

industries, says Mannel. ‘What I’m hoping over time is that we’ll

get easier access for everyone and we’ll see significant growth. We talk about small engineering firms using this but I’ve also been talking to folks that are running at petascale, and talking about what exascale is going to mean. They can do a thousand times what they do today. And if you scale that down through the organisations you have small business able to do the kind of simulation and modelling that big companies can do today. And meanwhile those big companies can do new designs, more efficient engines … it’s phenomenal what we can accomplish as we go forward.’

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