This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
Meeting demand U

ntil relatively recently, the use of high-performance computing (HPC) was dependent upon the ability to attract significant levels of funding

to make use of existing resources at large institutions, or indeed for the development of an in-house IT infrastructure. George Vacek, Life Sciences business

development at Convey Computer, summed it up nicely when he stated that there was a time when access to resources was so rare that the running of one HPC simulation or set of analyses would be worthy of a paper in itself. Tese days, scientific computing has become a fundamental part of research projects. Funding continues to be a significant hurdle for many, but an equally pressing matter is one of use. Not every user of HPC does so continuously and absolutely no one wants to be faced with, nor can afford, idle cycles. So what are the options for these users? Te answer is that there are several

possibilities for meeting intermittent demand – not least of which are HPC-on-demand services, cloud resources, and deskside supercomputers. Te latter remains a good choice for many modelling and simulation projects, and there are benefits in companies investing in their own small and unobtrusive system that can be customised to ensure it meets precise requirements. As the complexity of the models and simulations increases, however, it becomes necessary to move to higher levels of compute power. Of course this must then be weighed against the demand for capacity. Oliver Tennert, director HPC solutions at

Transtec, likens this to the difference between taking a taxi and buying a car: ‘If a customer is only in need of HPC capacity from time to time it makes sense to go into the cloud, but if that demand rises above a certain threshold then it is no longer a cost-effective option. At this point it makes sense to procure your own resources.’ Below this threshold, he added, users should consider cloud bursting as an option. Determining what this threshold is essentially


comes down to a calculation of what level of hardware and usage time would be maximised to fulfil the individual need for capacity. Companies then need to take a number of

factors into account, as Jerry Dixon, business development manager at OCF, explained: ‘Building and operating a HPC system, or even just a few racks, can be difficult. Making a capital investment is fraught with danger for the uninitiated – high performance equipment ages quickly – and maintaining investment in new equipment can be a burden. Moreover, the skills required to build and maintain a server cluster are costly. Such specialist people are difficult to keep too, so how does a department keep them fully utilised and occupied at all times?’ Each of these points must be answered

internally and then compared to the cost of on- demand services. Should the use of HPC move


beyond the occasional, and if the performance of a personal cluster is meeting demand, then a permanent resource is a sensible choice, but it is interesting to note that a number of large vendors, such as Cray and SGI, have pulled away from the deskside market in recent years. Could the rise in and accessibility of on- demand services account for this shiſt?

Cloud capacity Previously seen as little more than the latest buzzword, the cloud has garnered increasing amounts of attention in recent years. Reflecting this trend, the organisers of the International Supercomputing Conference, ISC Events, launched a new conference devoted to the topic in 2010 – a conference that has demonstrated growth year-on-year. Companies are taking

Once the sole domain of researchers with access to large budgets, high-performance computing is coming to the masses. Beth Harlen reports

note of this, and according to Oliver Tennert during the past 12 months Transtec has experienced a significant rise in customer demand for cloud bursting, a service whereby applications are deployed locally and then ‘burst’ into a cloud when additional compute capacity is required. To meet this demand the company

is currently building up its own cloud resources. Expectations are that in the second half of 2013 it will have a fully productive and resalable cloud capacity that will come with some applications pre-installed. Tennert stressed, however, that this market is just beginning to develop, making it incredibly difficult to predict where demand will lie in the future. He does believe that the number of HPC cloud capacity providers will steadily increase and that several consolidation processes will take place; either with regards to companies combining or moving towards a specialisation in niche areas of the market. Bart Mellenberg, the director of Dell HPC

for EMEA, believes that cloud bursting is not always the best option, however. ‘It really does depend on the application,’ he said. ‘If a user is running a local fluid dynamics application on 10 servers, but finds a need for the capacity of 20 servers they might feel that the natural choice is to rent 10 servers in the cloud and look at what they have as one big cluster. But that won’t work. At the very least, latencies will become an issue.’ He continued by saying that this model of

deployment does however work for certain applications, such as risk assessments within the financial industry, and could possibly be adapted and then adopted within certain areas of the scientific community within the next five years. Again, this depends on the computational demands of the applications in question. One key benefit of cloud deployments is

the assurance of the ideal resource for each individual application. ‘Not only might it be

@scwmagazine l

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32