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IDG: Cloud Supercomputing (part 1): What is it?

As more and more High Performance Computing (HPC) moves into the cloud, we consult a panel of 12 experts to determine the role of cloud supercomputing and where it is heading. Part one of our four-part series addresses what “cloud supercomputing” really means and where we are now.

“It depends upon the definitions of ‘cloud’ and of ‘supercomputing’. Cloud is best defined as a service delivery model, and it really doesn’t matter where that service comes from so long as the quality of service is adequate. Cloud services are usually delivered as some kind of ‘utility model’ measured by usage rather than ownership or other criterion. In that sense, many collaborative supercomputing sites could be considered part of the cloud.  Think CERN, the Large Hadron Collider, and the Higgs boson discovery. A supercomputing workflow that involved ‘High Throughput Computing’ using OpenStack to find the result.  Is that cloud supercomputing? I think so, but others may argue.

At the end of the day, there are organisations that offer ‘service’ or ‘cloud’ based supercomputing capabilities and to me they qualify as ‘cloud supercomputing’ so long as they deliver the right quality of result.  The current state?  I think ‘cloud supercomputing’ is alive and well and growing in the way the people choose to access ‘supercomputing capabilities’, but that is not the same as thinking that you can do the exact same thing on AWS, Microsoft Azure, VMware vCloud Air, Rackspace or other services. There are some ‘high performance’ workloads that may work very well in those environments, but not all.  On the other hand, access to compute facilities of any kind is better than no access and these public cloud services enable things for people that do not have available access to other resources.”

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