Making the Most Out of HPC in the Cloud

by December 11, 2015 0 comments

From enabling us to model and manipulate any product, process or service at will, High Performance Computing (HPC) solutions are today considered an essential component for business success. From protecting the common man from marauding natural disasters or satisfying his taste buds with a perfectly contoured potato wafer, HPC is playing a pivotal role everywhere. By moving to the cloud and being available on demand, HPC has moved from being an expensive endeavour to a cost-effective technology within reach of virtually business enterprise and budget.
Who needs HPC?
It’s true; High Performance Computing solutions do deliver tremendous competitive edge in the marketplace. The ability to quickly model, manipulate a product/process and to see the impact of various design decisions even before a physical prototype is built is of immense value to any organization. Take for instance in the development of a new car; designers can use HPC to explore various new designs, optimize the product with numerous design/prototyping iterations, and then validate changes through on-demand simulation to achieve quick results. Use of HPC in this case not only cuts down budgets required for prototyping it also enhances the organization’s ability to bring better quality innovations to market fast and cost efficiently.

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Typical HPC Applications
It was a common misconception that HPC is deployed only for technical computing applications. The following table clearly demonstrates that HPC can and is also being used for business computing applications:

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HPC in the Cloud
The advent of cloud has made many things previously considered impractical suddenly practical. Not only does the cloud guarantee rapid access impervious to geographical boundaries it also promises to be make everything it hosts cheaper, flexible and pervasive.
Cloud based HPC, the latest method of throwing large computer cycles at a complex problem, employs the Internet as a basis for a cycles-as-a-service model of computing. The compute cycles in question live in the cloud somewhere allowing a user to request remote access to cycles on-demand. A cloud based HPC solution provides dynamic and scalable HPC resources to the end-user as a service. Although clouds can be cost effective and allow HPC to be purchased as an expense and not a capital asset, it does place some layers between the user and hardware resulting in some pressures related to bandwidth and data security while accessing or moving data from a public cloud or even a remote HPC center.
Within the cloud, however, not everything is equal. There is a marked difference between performance offered by traditional clouds and HPC specialized clouds. With a traditional cloud, for instance, users are guaranteed a minimal level of performance while promising them instant availability of resources, scalability and software choice. Thread applications, single programs that run multiple inputs points simultaneously, can run well and cost effectively on such clouds.

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HPC applications, however, need something more.They require specifically designed storage, tuned hardware that is closely coupled with processor speed, interconnect and memory, ability to communicate with remote user processes, optimized HPC libraries,hardware support and batch scheduling. Specifically, applications that are interconnect and I/O sensitive, require performance accelerators, parallel & superfast computation, interconnect and storage, and need to move large datasets in and out of the cloud without impacting computation time, must choose specialized HPC clouds for superior performance.
HPC in Cloud – Exciting Benefits
•    Easily Scalable & Flexible – Cloud based HPC solutions are truly scalable providing customers with the freedom to choose all the components of the virtual cluster including CPU cores, memory nodes, storage, operating system and software needed for each application. Additionally, users are also able to share control over their own virtual cluster with other users and share processing time, data and results
•    Easy to start – Businesses that use cloud based HPC applications do so because they are easy to launch. Especially when coupled with cloud automation, cloud based HPC applications are simple for even end users that have lesser experiences in setting up hardware and configuration. Automation allows these end users to launch virtual HPC clusters with the click of a button and the system dynamically handles resource provisioning on-demand and as per usage
•    OPEX instead of CAPEX – Using cloud based HPC applications, especially if you are a small business, is a cost-effective way to gain affordable access to otherwise expensive HPC resources
•    Outsourced Management – While users may stay focussed on their respective projects, the cloud based HPC environment is continuously monitored by qualified professionals. This approach also allows users to deploy HPC resources on call and only when needed, saving tons of money
•    Latest hardware, software, interconnect, virtualization, workload management techniques – Managed service providers are able to push upgrades with ease and simultaneously. This reduces discrepancy between the different versions of each application and compatibility issues that could be troublesome among team members working together on a project. It also provides access to current software and because end users are charged only for bandwidth and storage, it comes at no additional cost
•    Managed by experts you don’t own – Experts believe that only 7% of the total cost of acquiring and operating an HPC system, over three years, comes from hardware cost. The much bigger portion of the pie is comes from high cost of expertise (staffing), equipment, maintenance, middleware, and training. By opting for cloud based HPC environments end users benefit from availability of highly qualified HPC manpower and on a on-demand basis
Cloud based HPC solutions represent a new competitive advantage for many companies and industry sectors. Many organizations, maybe even your competitors, are using HPC in Cloud as a way to help reduce cost, design new products and processes, solve problems, and increase profitability.

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