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A Cost-effective Way to Handle Tomorrow's Performance-hungry Applications

How has Bare Metal Cloud democratized High Performance Computing

Written by Mantas Levinas
on June 10, 2019

High performance computing (HPC) is one of the more common buzzwords in the world of tech today. This makes sense given the power of the technology and impressive growth it has seen. HPC makes up a large chunk of computer sales and experts are predicting that the HPC market will reach $49.3 billion USD by 2023. HPC is the engine that drives A.I. (artificial intelligence), deep learning, neural networks, predictive analysis, business intelligence and so many other innovation-enabling technologies.

However, what is most exciting about HPC today is the shift towards democratization. No longer is HPC solely the domain of the largest, most well-funded enterprises. It is now accessible to even small teams thanks to advancements in server technology and services like bare metal cloud.

Bare metal cloud offers small and large businesses alike the ability to access the hardware needed to make HPC possible and the control required to optimize performance. As a result of this democratization of HPC, more innovation will be possible and more of the world’s “big problems” will be solved.

Democratization means you can play a part in driving this change as well. By using HPC to tackle complex problems and process massive amounts of data, you’ll gain valuable insights and make new discoveries. This holds true independent of the specific vertical you find yourself in. The vast majority of industries can benefit from the power of HPC, and this is why understanding the topic is so important.

Equipping yourself with knowledge of the subject allows you to get the most out of HPC and drive your business forward. In this piece, we’ll provide you with a crash course on HPC, explain how bare metal cloud compliments HPC and makes it accessible regardless of your team’s size, and what you should look for in an HPC bare metal cloud solution.

What is high performance computing?

As you can interpret from the name, high-performance computing involves the use of a significant amount of compute resources to solve advanced problems. However, that definition is broad enough to be almost ambiguous. This makes some sense when you consider the fact that technology changes rapidly and what was yesterday’s supercomputer eventually becomes subpar as server technology advances. For this reason, we’ll shy away from computing benchmarks that HPC systems hit today, and instead focus on their main characteristics.

As the tasks in the HPC space are so resource intensive, high performance computing generally consists of clusters of servers (a.k.a. nodes) that are working together on a given computational problem. What separates HPC clusters from, say, a standard group of virtual machines or physical boxes you may deploy on your LAN is their joint focus and configuration geared towards the same task.

The hardware used in HPC is also generally more robust than commodity servers used for standard web applications and lighter workloads. HPC workloads require significant computational power, so they need to be run on high-end processors like Intel Xeon Phi. HPC servers also often leverage GPU accelerators to further enhance processing power.

Additionally, ample amounts of high-speed RAM in HPC cluster nodes are a must to work with large databases. Working with data in memory is significantly faster than forcing Disk I/O, and lacking RAM on HPC computing tasks can lead to significant bottlenecks. When evaluating RAM for HPC nodes, look to leverage DDR4 over DDR3 wherever possible.

Additionally, high-speed networking and directly attached storage help further increase the overall speed of clusters and optimize HPC performance. A fast private network increases speed of communication between nodes, while directly attached HDD, SSD, or NVMe storage enable rapid I/O operations.

In addition to the hardware that makes up the physical side of HPC, there is a variety of software that is designed to allow you to get the most out of your HPC resources. The vast majority of HPC workloads are run on *nix based operating systems such as CentOS, RHEL, FreeBSD, Scientific Linux, and Ubuntu. Additional software common in the world of HPC includes NoSQL databases like Hadoop, orchestration management tools like Apache Mesos, and HPC development models such as Open MPI.

Use cases for HPC

While high performance computing used to be the domain of science, government, and academia almost exclusively, the paradigm has shifted and nearly all sectors now use HPC in some form or another. As technology like A.I., B.I. (business intelligence), and big data analytics become the norm, more and more businesses are leveraging this techniques to drive innovations and discoveries. Regardless of the industry you are in, it is likely that there are insights that can be unearthed using the computational power of HPC. Here are some of the more interesting and beneficial applications of HPC in modern business:

  • Training A.I.- Iteration and learning is at the heart of leveraging artificial intelligence. “Training” an A.I. model involves giving it a wealth of data to learn from, either by way of supervised, unsupervised, or reinforcement learning, and pointing it at an objective. HPC provides the platform for this to occur.
  • Predictive analytics- The Big Data movement has provided us with a wealth of data that could be refined into actionable business insights. However, there is a huge problem with unstructured data that prevents businesses from employing that data to make real world insights. HPC hardware coupled with NoSQL databases and analytics software can help you solve this problem and turn large data sets into actionable predictions and models.
  • Engineering models & simulations- HPC is playing a major role in engineering tasks across the globe. As mentioned by engineering.com, HPC is enabling workflows such as fluid dynamics, generative design, and architecture.
  • Financial models- The financial sector depends on highly-accurate, logic-based, predictions. For example, Monte Carlo Simulations enable highly detailed models of a variety of possible outcomes. HPC makes such predictions possible at a scale that was previously out of reach.

These are just a few of the examples of HPC’s potential applications. HPC can be used for weather forecasting, molecular modeling, crash simulations, and much more. What is important to understand is that these benefits are no longer off limits to those of us who cannot maintain supercomputers onsite. Computational technology has advanced to the point that HPC is becoming more and more democratized. This means even SMBs can achieve real bottom-line business benefits from HPC.

The benefits of bare metal cloud for HPC

While the benefits of HPC in general are clear, where exactly does bare metal cloud fit in? What makes bare metal cloud and HPC such a compelling match? The answer to these questions is twofold:

  • Bare metal machines have no underlying virtualization layer, so businesses get hardware level control that helps them run specialized HPC workloads in the cloud most efficiently. Traditional cloud IaaS offerings have virtualization overhead and limit users’ control, thereby limiting the performance of the HPC applications and increasing costs; not an attractive proposition when “high performance” is the name of the game.
  • Bare metal cloud provides the flexibility and scalability that enables democratization of HPC and makes affordable HPC available to enterprises of all sizes. Not only does this mean SMBs can get in on the benefits of HPC, it also means larger organizations can be more efficient with their HPC spend.

Let’s first dive further into the importance of hardware level control to HPC performance. With Bare metal the user has access to and control of all the server hardware. This enables tweaks and customizations that “canned” IaaS solutions simply cannot accommodate: the user can customize hardware components beforehand and control servers remotely through an IP KVM. For a simple LAMP stack running a website, this level of control doesn’t make sense. That’s why you don’t see it as part of the “traditional” IaaS offering.

However, in the world of HPC, customization and granular control make a huge difference in outcomes. The market is built around solving some of the most complex and challenging problems in the world, and therefore specialized hardware with no virtualization layer often becomes a must. Customizable dedicated bare metal servers help you get the most bang for your buck on your cloud spend when compared to virtualized general purpose servers. Bare metal cloud helps you avoid being stuck in a “square peg, round hole” situation when trying to select servers for your HPC application from a bucket of virtualized general purpose instances that most IaaS providers offer.

Additionally, access to bare metal means that you are able to limit vendor lock-in and more easily migrate to and from different on-premises and cloud environments. Even more importantly, as mentioned in this Network World article, with bare metal cloud on-premises migrations can occur without performance loss. An additional benefit mentioned in the Network World piece is the inherent resolution of the “noisy neighbor” issue. With multi-tenant IaaS infrastructures businesses can have their workloads impacted by CPU consumption of other virtual machines running on the same hypervisor. With a dedicated bare metal cloud server, this problem simply doesn’t exist. Your compute resources are your compute resources.

Having the benefits of bare metal cloud for high performance computing defined from a performance perspective, let’s move into how bare metal cloud helps democratize HPC. The first, and potentially most compelling, benefit of bare metal cloud is its ability to eliminate capital expenses from the equation that are otherwise mandatory to get an HPC project off the ground on-premises. In addition to sourcing the compute, networking, and storage hardware, businesses must also invest in powering, cooling, and maintaining hardware on-premises. Bare metal cloud offers all the benefits of HPC hardware, while abstracting away the maintenance tasks that would otherwise force businesses to waste resources on non-core business functions. Further, by shifting the spend to strictly operational expenses, organizations are able to significantly reduce the cost and time of getting an HPC project off the ground. This same benefit also means businesses can invest in short-term projects that would otherwise be financially infeasible and spin up or spin down HPC clusters with a high level of velocity.

Another benefit of investing in bare metal cloud is the ability to avoid running into issues with aging hardware that slows your projects down. Invariably, businesses want to maximize their CapEx investment. However, with rapid changes in the world of HPC, this can mean you’re forced to choose between using the latest hardware for the job or sticking to the budget. Bare metal cloud offers users much more flexibility and access to modern technology regardless of what last year’s investment was. Being able to spin up or down the HPC resources you need on demand is more flexible & cost effective.

What to look for in cloud-based HPC solutions

Now we know how bare metal cloud compliments HPC. However, there are a number of providers offering bare metal in the cloud. How do you know which one is best for you? We’ll help you understand how to answer that question here. While every use case in the world of HPC is different, understanding these particular aspects will allow you to identify a solution that makes sense for your business.

Ease & speed in provisioning

A core benefit of cloud computing is abstracting away the complexities of on-premises and enabling your employees to focus on the core business objectives, not maintenance and infrastructure tasks. Another often touted benefit of the cloud is its elasticity and ability to scale relative to on-premises solutions. While adding nodes to a cluster in an on-premises solution can take weeks, a cloud-based allows you to spin up new servers in minutes.

Bare metal cloud done right should bring you both of these benefits. Just because bare metal offers granular control of the infrastructure, that doesn’t mean you cannot reap the scalability & operational benefits of the cloud. Look for solutions that enable you to treat infrastructure as code & programmatically spin up servers through an API.

Robust, high performance hardware

Hardware can make or break an HPC solution. Ensure that your bare metal cloud provider offers servers with specifications that can meet your workload demands and the ability to customize solutions to meet your needs. Being able to add server components like GPUs, RAM or SSDs to tailor your infrastructure to your workload is a must.

Pay Per-Use

Shifting CapEx to OpEx is a major cloud benefit. Paying for more than you use is effectively defeating the purpose of making this shift. Unless there is a compelling business reason to do so, avoid locking yourself into plans that charge you for more resources than you actually use.

Private networking & large amounts of bandwidth

A private network for your nodes to communicate increases the performance and security of your HPC cluster. Further, the higher your network bandwidth, the less likely the network is to create a bottleneck in your workflows. Ensure that your bare metal cloud provider offers ample upstream and downstream bandwidth. After all, pumping the data into the cluster is one of the first steps in using HPC to refine it into something actionable.

Security

A data breach can cripple a business. Ensure that any provider you partner with takes security seriously. Be on the lookout for specifics about how they implement security and certifications or standards (e.g. ISO/IEC 27000) that help confirm a strong emphasis on security.

Support

HPC is complex. In variably, some customers will need some help “right-sizing” a solution. In other cases, things simply will not go according to plan, and you need to be able to trust that your provider will prioritize making things right for you. In the HPC space, 24/7 support and an emphasis on the customer is a must. Partner with providers that are willing to help you before, during, and after the sale. Look for customer testimonials (we’re quite proud of ours!), reviews, and case studies to help quantify what you can expect from a given vendor.

Conclusion: Bare metal cloud enables the democratization of high performance computing

As we have seen, HPC is changing the way businesses operate and bare metal cloud is driving the democratization of this powerful form of computing. By making enterprise-grade HPC available to organizations of all sizes, bare metal cloud is leading to a paradigm shift in the market. As it makes the advanced insights unlocked by HPC accessible to all, bare metal cloud will help drive innovation and productivity in a variety of markets.

Want to learn more? Contact the experts!

If you’re interested in learning more about HPC and bare metal cloud, we’d love to hear from you. Here at Cherry Servers, we’re passionate about the democratization of HPC and truly enjoy helping our customers succeed. We embrace an H2H (Human to Human) business model that emphasizes making human lives better and delivering real value. We’re experts in the field of bare metal cloud and can help you find a solution that is optimized for your needs. Contact us today to learn more.

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A Cost-effective Way to Handle Tomorrow's Performance-hungry Applications