[Beowulf] cloudy HPC?

Jörg Saßmannshausen j.sassmannshausen at ucl.ac.uk
Thu Jan 30 13:24:41 PST 2014

Hi Mark,

interesting thread, specially as I wanted to ask something similar.

We are currently looking here into the possibility to do an off-site data 
centre for ??? (we don't know yet) and we also have to build a new data centre 
as the old one is in the way of a to be build (?) train line. 

Anyhow, similar to Mark's question: if you want to build a data centre from 
scratch in London, i.e. a densely populated area where floor space is an issue, 
what would be important to you? 
Virtualisation (for HPC number crunching)?
Energy saving?
50 kW racks?
Two data centres for resiliance/fail-over?
Trying out new and emerging technologies like the Iceotope cooling?
Data security?
Or forget all of that and use the cloud for number crunching HPC?

I know all of that is somehow important.

As Mark is asking similar questions I thought we might merge that into one 
thread instead of two interwoven ones.

All the best from a nearly flooded UK :D


On Donnerstag 30 Januar 2014 Mark Hahn wrote:
> Hi all,
> I would be interested to hear any comments you have about
> delivering HPC services on a "cloudy" infrastructure.
> What I mean is: suppose there is a vast datacenter filled
> with beautiful new hosts, plonkabytes of storage and all
> sitting on the most wonderful interconnect.  One could run
> the canonical HPC stack on the bare metal (which is certainly
> what we do today), but would there be any major problems/overhead
> if it were only used to run VMs?
> by "HPC services", I mean a very heterogenous mixture of
> serial, bigdata, fatnode/threaded, tight-coupled-MPI, perhaps
> even GP-GPU stuff from hundreds of different groups, etc.
> For instance, I've heard some complaints about doing MPI on
> virtualized interconnect as being slow.  but VM infrastructure
> like KVM can give device ownership to the guest, so IB access
> *could* be bare-metal.  (if security is a concern, perhaps
> it could be implemented at the SM level.  OTOH, the usual sort
> of shared PaaS HPC doesn't care much about interconnect security...)
> I'm not really interested in particulars of, for instance,
> bursting workloads using the EC2 spot market.  I know the numbers:
> anyone with a clue can run academic/HPC-tuned facilities at a
> fraction of commercial prices.  I also know that clusters and
> datacenters are largely linear in cost once you get to a pretty
> modest size (say 20 racks).
> If you're interested in why I'm asking, it's because Canada is
> currently trying to figure out its path forward in "cyberinfrastructure".
> I won't describe the current sad state of Canadian HPC, except that
> it's hard to imagine *anything* that wouldn't be an improvement ;)
> It might be useful, politically, practically, optically, to split
> off hardware issues from the OS-up stack.  Doing this would at the
> very least make a perfectly clear delineation of costs, since the
> HW-host level has a capital cost, some space/power/cooling/service
> costs, no software costs, and almost no people costs.  the OS-up part
> is almost entirely people costs, since only a few kinds of research
> require commercial software.
> thanks, Mark Hahn.
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Jörg Saßmannshausen
University College London
Department of Chemistry
Gordon Street

email: j.sassmannshausen at ucl.ac.uk
web: http://sassy.formativ.net

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