ScaleMP, Microsoft Help Bring HPC and Cloud Computing Together

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted May 26, 2010

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Virtually Speaking: Cloud computing continues to find its way into some of the most unlikely places. The HPC community is beginning to embrace it. Is cloud poised to become the most ubiquitous technology of the 21st Century?

Once again, the HPC community is preparing for its semi-annual International Supercomputing Show in Hamburg, Germany. At the previous show held in November 2009, we observed that supercomputing appeared to be headed for the cloud.

Now, a mere six months later, we ask how far has it come on its journey?

The trajectory has indeed been set. Back in February, for example, the same week that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) began charging end users for its Windows Azure cloud computing platform, it gave free access to qualified scientific researchers. The idea, Datamation reported at the time, was that "the variety and sheer volume of data collected by scientific researchers has grown exponentially in recent years, and that cloud computing can help alleviate the challenges of supporting that research, including where to store and manage it."

Last week, Microsoft upped the ante even more. According to The Register, its newest arm, the Technical Computing group, "will let scientists focus on research without having to build or program complicated applications or server systems." The new tools are designed to aid scientists working on the desktop, cluster and cloud.

Its not only large companies with an eye upward. ScaleMP, which launched its initial cloud offering at last fall's Supercomputing show, this week announced a new version of its server virtualization and aggregation software. vSMP Foundation 3.0 allows virtual machines (VMs)to be provisioned within VMs. This is the first VM software to allow this type of stacking.

The stacking is significant because, as InternetNews reports, "vSMP Foundation is a server aggregator. It takes many x86 physical servers and makes them appear to the operating system as one giant machine with a large number of cores and large amount of memory." This provides a performance boost, which is highly useful for HPC, as it simplifies management.

Marketing VP Benjamin Baer told ServerWatch that vSMP has a customer base in an array of industries including manufacturing (both discrete and offset), life sciences (health, pharmaceutical and bioinformatics), education, and most recently, financial services.

It's looking more and more likely that cloud computing (and by extension virtualization) will become one of those rare technologies that covers the entire spectrum of enterprises, from government entities, to SMBs, to research institutions, to Fortune 500 companies.

Granted, there are kinks to be worked out -- Baer noted HPC has a limited presence in the cloud primarily because many of the apps enterprises require that cannot yet be run in a cloud computing environment. Time will likely take care of this, as cloud computing is turning out a technology on which both the CTO and the CFO can be easily sold.

Amy Newman is the senior managing editor of ServerWatch and Enterprise IT Planet. She has been covering virtualization since 2001, and is the coauthor of Practical Virtualization Solutions, published by Pearson in October 2009.

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