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HIGH PERFORMANCE COMPUTING


A flash in the pan


AS STORAGE TECHNOLOGY ADAPTS TO CHANGING HPC WORKLOADS, ROBERT ROE LOOKS AT THE TECHNOLOGIES THAT COULD HELP TO ENHANCE PERFORMANCE AND ACCESSIBILITY OF STORAGE IN HPC


The storage market in high performance computing (HPC) stretches from tape-based


archives that have been around for more than 50 years to flash-arrays with new storage-class memory technology on the horizon. In this varied and competitive market, choosing the right technology to suit a particular use case is paramount to ensuring efficient use of computing resources. This can make for a confusing choice


for HPC centres trying to decide what storage technology would be right for their procurement. Some vendors are pushing for tiered systems making use of flash, spinning disk and archive-based technologies in a single storage system. Others opt for software defined storage (SDS) or all-flash arrays, and this is further complicated by the use of cloud-based storage systems. ‘There are a number of things we take


into account,’ comments OCF’s HPC business development manager, Andrew Dean. ‘Obviously, technology is a big one. What is the right technology to meet customers’ requirements? As an integrator, we have essentially free reign to pick the right technology for a particular use case. ‘We have strong relationships with a


6 Scientific Computing World August/September 2018


number of vendors, so wherever possible we would use one of those vendors that we have experience with, but if a user was to have a requirement outside of that, then we would look at the market and find the right solution,’ added Dean. Dean notes that there is no easy answer.


In order to understand which technology would be best suited for a particular deployment, it is important to look at the underlying use case and competencies of the user community that the system will serve. OCF actively works with partners such as Lenovo, Netapp and DDN to provide storage systems for its HPC clients. These companies cover a wide range of


storage technologies for IBM Spectrum Scale, LUSTRE, GPFS, flash and hybrid flash arrays – and even object storage for archival. The user’s experience and familiarity with a certain technology could drive the decision for procurement, or it could be based on targeting certain workflows and trying to accelerate performance by removing a bottleneck in storage input/output (I/O) operations.


Changing approaches to HPC This varied approach helps to drive business by providing a wide range of products and services that help OCF to meet customer requirements. However, this approach is not taken purely from a commercial standpoint, as Dean explains. The way users consume HPC resources has changed. This is particularly true in academia, where resources are pooled to deliver better ROI when procuring HPC systems. This, in turn, creates a more varied user community with different application requirements and expectations for HPC performance.


‘Even in the last 10 years since I


have worked at OCF, there has been a change in the way that HPC resources are consumed. Different departments bought their own HPC systems, physics had a cluster, chemistry had a cluster but now they are being brought together as service,’ said Dean. ‘Systems are being designed now with the user in mind, rather than from a purely performance- or technology-based standpoint. You need the technology in place to meet the demands of users, but the technology has been slowly adapted to meet the needs of the user community – to offer the best service possible for a wide variety of users,’ said Dean. Alex McMullan, CTO EMEA


at Pure Storage, has a different view. He would argue that ‘everything is a parallel processing job it’s just a question of how it’s being dressed up’. While it should be noted that Pure


@scwmagazine | www.scientific-computing.com


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