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Cloud converges on HPC Almost everyone was looking to the cloud,

Robert Roe discovered when he attended the UK’s MEW25 conference in December


he convergence of cloud computing and HPC emerged as a major theme of this year’s Machine Evaluation Workshop, held at the Ricoh arena in

Coventry in December. Now in its 25th year, the event, organised by the UK Government- funded Science and Technology Facilities Council, offers a short but intense insight into developments in the HPC industry both in the UK and internationally. Many of the speakers saw the convergence

of cloud computing and HPC not as the next potential trend in the HPC industry, but as an inevitability on the march towards ever cheaper, ever faster HPC systems. Solutions are already entering the market, designed around cloud bursting or what was described as ‘HPC as a service’. Enterprise computing has embraced the

cloud faster and more enthusiastically than HPC, but now the same ideas are being applied to HPC and this is fundamentally changing the way many services are delivered. Bright’s cluster manager, for example, has been extended to manage cloud infrastructure. Te promise of increased capacity on-

demand, in conjunction with the reduction of investment in infrastructure, has led to a wealth of cloud based services from huge Amazon server farms to smaller niche offerings that can address the needs of HPC users. Mark Allsopp, ClusterVision’s country

manager for the UK and Ireland, said during his presentation at MEW25: ‘HPC, the cloud, and big data are coming together.’ He went on to explain that ‘the cloud gives you the flexibility to deploy the solution you want.’ ClusterVision focused its attention on

OpenStack, the open-source cloud operating system that enables the control of compute, storage, and networking resources directly throughout a datacentre. ClusterVision realises that, to make cloud-

based HPC an attractive option to customers, it needs to provide a flexible solution that can be tailored to the highly specialised hardware configurations and to the carefully optimised soſtware that is used by many of today’s HPC systems, Allsopp said. By adopting OpenStack as its method


of choice for cloud deployment of HPC, ClusterVision believes it can work with an already very active community to offer a solution that makes best use of the cloud infrastructure. However there have been some concerns over the performance of cloud infrastructure, Allsopp said: ‘We have a lot of technology that we are working on to ease HPC adoption.’ OpenStack uses one of multiple supported

hypervisors in a virtualised environment such as KVM and XenServer. However ClusterVision reported that it has had success using Docker, an open platform for developers to build, ship, and run distributed applications. Using Docker, ClusterVision found that it could minimise virtualisation overheads and achieve greater efficiency and performance. Docker removes the need for the guest OS;

instead it runs only the application and its dependencies through the Docker engine on the host operating system, sharing the kernel with other containers. Tis provides many of



the advantages of existing VMs such as resource isolation, but in a more efficient manner. Boston showcased a range of servers for

cloud-based deployments. Its ‘business in a box’ solutions provide a range of turnkey cloud computing platforms for composing, running, and scaling distributed applications, with the added bonus that they are designed to fit alongside existing IT infrastructure. David Power, head of HPC at Boston said:

‘We have a number of different deployments to suit a number of configurations.’ Tis year however Boston was highlighting the CloudX platform, based on Mellanox’s OpenCloud architecture. Not only is this platform designed around off-the-shelf building blocks, making it easy to configure and maintain but it can also be configured as an open-source environment

Jaguar Land Rover’s Andy Searle

Scientific Computing World’s Tom Wilkie

giving greater control of the cloud to engineers in the data centre. Te CloudX platform is designed to reduce

infrastructure costs, particularly compute and storage, but the use of Mellanox interconnect technology, principally 40 and 56Gb/s Infiniband and Ethernet, allows users to transfer data across the cloud into their data centre much faster than is typically possible. Tis in turn opens up the possibility of real-time analytics in the cloud. Bright has extended its cluster management

soſtware for use in cloud deployments, allowing users, especially those with experience using Bright soſtware, to easily manage and provision cloud resources to make best use of the infrastructure. Not only does the soſtware provide all the normal tools for managing an HPC cluster, it also enables users to create a new cluster on the fly in the cloud with just a few mouse clicks. Bright also paid special attention to

OpenStack, explaining that its soſtware could be used to manage an OpenStack cluster in much the same way as a traditional cluster. Teun Doctor, a soſtware developer at Bright Computing, warned that: ‘Managing an OpenStack cluster can be even more difficult than managing other types of clusters.’ Doctor continued: ‘Bright aims to provide a

single pane of glass to manage and monitor all aspects of an OpenStack cluster.’ By providing one integrated environment, Bright aim to

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