[Beowulf] cloud: ho hum?

Mark Hahn hahn at mcmaster.ca
Wed Feb 1 07:59:33 PST 2012

> - The ability to transform capital expense money into OpEx money alone
> is pushing some cloud interest at high levels. No joke. Possibly a very
> large cloud interest driver in the larger organizations. This is also
> attractive for tiny startups and companies just leaving the VC
> incubation phase.

why is that?  in a simple example, EC2 m1.small on-demand costs $745
per ecu-year; a $3k server gets you about 18 ecu-years and you can 
run it for at least 3 years.

going EC2 means you buy the server 4 times a year.  obviously a workload
with steep, narrow and sparse demand will prefer to rent - is that it?
(I'm not clear on why workloads would be like that...)

> - Deployment speed. We have customers who wait weeks after making an IT
> helpdesk request for a new VM to be created. Other customers take 1+

no.  there's nothing technical here: dysfunctional IT orgs should simply
be fixed.  outsourcing as a workaround for BOFHishness is stupid...

> - Quick capability gains - in some cases it's quicker and easier to get
> quick access to GPUs, servers with 10Gbe interconnects and well-built
> systems for running MapReduce style big data workflows on cloud platforms

again, this only makes sense if your demand is impulse-like.
is that actually the case?

> - Data exchange. Cloud is a good place for collaborators to meet and
> work together without punching massive holes in local firewalls. It's

again, fire your BOFHish IT.

> provider or collaborator/partner. Many Genome Sequencing outsourcing
> companies can deliver your genomes directly to an EBS or AWS S3 bucket
> these days.

interesting, but is this really a concern? how big is a genome "these days"?

> - I'm a believer in the pricing and economies of scale argument in some
> cases. For pricing take AWS S3 as an example - internal IT people who
> snipe at the pricing willfully (or not) seem to ignore the inconvenient
> fact that S3 does not acknowledge a successful object PUT request until
> the data has landed in 3 datacenters.

you lost me there.  do you mean your in-house IT can't do reliable 

> If you want an honest cost comparison for cloud-based object storage
> then you have to start with legit fully-loaded cost estimates for
> deploying and running an internal petascale-capable system that spans
> three separate facilities. That ain't cheap.

you mean "granularity is large", I guess.  obviously, it _is_ cheap:
anything above ~10 racks is linear (I claim).

> - Truthfully though I don't use or push cloud economic arguments all
> that much these days. It's incredibly easy to distort the numbers anyway
> you want so it's rare to have a

it's just that I can't figure out any way to make costs of running EC2
more than about $80 per ecu-hour (vs even spot pricing which is $237).

are you suggesting that ec2 compute costs are subsidizing the storage 
and transfer facilities (in spite of Amazon having separate prices for 

> - Ability to do work that was not considered viable at home. The 90,000
> core AWS Top500 cluster that was in the news is a good example. Some
> organizations have HPC or other problems of such scale that running them
> internally is not even on the radar. In rare cases spinning up something
> massive and exotic for a few days is a viable option.

I'd love to hear of a case that wasn't a PR stunt...

> - Cyclical needs. Some of my customers have big compute needs that come
> about only every 3-4 years; most are looking at cloud now rather than
> buying local gear and seeing it depreciate or be under-utilized most of
> the time

seems weird to me.


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