Cloud HPC


Cloud computing has become the default choice for many applications, for many companies, in many industries. Why? Business agility, competitive advantage, cost savings, the list goes on. But instead of another list of benefits, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the headaches that cloud computing eliminates for HPC administrators and managers. 


What can you stop doing when you switch to cloud? You can stop doing a bunch of  mundane, irrelevant, stressful, and sometimes costly activities. 


Running your own HPC servers is a lot of work. Many of our customers are switching to cloud HPC on an enterprise cloud such as Microsoft Azure. Let's say you decide to make this shift as well.


Here are some things that you don't have to worry about anymore:


  • Capacity Planning


At the beginning of each year, your boss asks you to make a plan for how many servers you need. The truth is, you don't know. No one does. Unless you work in a unique industry that never changes, you have no idea what's going to happen next year, let alone for the next three years. But you need to plan for something. So you make a guess, and hope you didn't screw it up too badly. Statistically, you either over-estimated or under-estimated. Both these errors are costly. The former means you spent money on servers you won't need. The latter means you'll run out of capacity when you need it most. 

With cloud, you still make estimates. But there's very little cost to being wrong. Provisioned too many servers? Shut them down and stop paying. Provisioned too few? Spin up more. 


  • System Failures


When you operate your own systems, you have to plan for hardware crashes, operating system bugs, process failures, and all the other problems of running complex systems. Someone will demand why the system failed, and you better have a good answer. In the cloud, all of these problems are not eliminated. But they are no longer your problem.

In fact, you can demand why the system failed and the cloud vendor better have a good answer.


  • Facilities Maintenance


If you run your own data centers, you have to be a facilities manager. You need to worry about power costs, HVAC systems, building codes, and a bunch of other activities that have no real competetive advantage. We have not even talked about backups, data replication, remote office planning, and disaster recovery planning. 


All of the facilities, backup, and DR activities now become your vendor's problem. You can sleep easy knowing there's a team of thousands working around the clock to keep things humming.


Running an HPC system is a lot of work. There are so many things that can go wrong, and its always your fault until you get it back up.  Now you can find vendors to share some of this burden, and you can start small. Try out the cloud for your HPC, chances are you'll never go back.




Topics: cloud hpc

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Thomas Francis

Posted by: Thomas Francis

Thomas has broad industry experience in enterprise software, cloud and IT operations. His most recent role was as Director of Software and Cloud Strategy at Dell. While at Dell he launched multiple cloud businesses including Dell Cloud Business Applications and Dell Cloud Marketplace. Previously, Thomas has held leadership roles in various technology companies including SanDisk and Landmark Graphics, a maker of 3D seismic interpretation software. Thomas has a Masters Degree in Aerospace Engineering from UT Arlington and an MBA from UC Berkeley and is based in Silicon Valley.

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