ISC cloud 2011

The European conference concerning the intersection between cloud computing and HPC has just finished, and it's very pleasing to report that this conference delivered considerable helpings of useful and exciting information on the topic.

Though cloud computing and HPC have tended to stay separated, the HPC community starting with the sc2010 conference, interest has been gaining primarily because access to additional temporary resource is very temping. However, other reasons for HPC users and architects to evaluate the viability of cloud include total cost of ownership comparisons, and startup businesses which may need temporary access to HPC but do not have the capital to purchase dedicated infrastructure.

Conclusions varied from presenter to presenter, tough some things were generally agreed upon:

  1. if using Amazon EC2, HPC applications must use the cluster compute instance to achieve comparable performance to local clusters.
  2. fine grained MPI applications are not well suited to the cloud simply because none of the major vendors offer infiniband or other low latency interconnect on the back end
  3. running long term in the cloud, even with favorable pricing agreements is much more expensive than running in local data centers, as long as those data centers already exist. (no one presented a cost analysis which included the datacenter build costs as an amortized cost of doing HPC.)

Another interesting trend was the different points of view depending on where the presenter came from. Generally, researchers from national labs had the point of view that cloud computing was not comparable to their in-house supercomputers and was not a viable alternative for them. Also, compared to the scale of their in-house systems, the resources available from Amazon or others were seen as quite limited.

Conversely, presenters from industry had the opposite point of view (notably a presentation given by Guillaume Alleon from EADS). Their much more modest requirements seemed to map much better into the available cloud infrastructure and the conclusion was positive for cloud being a capable alternative to in-house HPC.

Perhaps this is another aspect of the disparity between capability and capacity HPC computing. One maps well into the cloud, the other doesn't.

Overall it was a very useful two days. My only regret was not being able to present Platform's view on HPC cloud. See my next blog for some technologies to keep an eye on for overcoming cloud adoption barriers. Also, if anyone is interested in HPC and the cloud, this was the best and richest content event I've ever attended. Highly recommended.


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