Penguin Offers Cloud Computing for HPC

Linux cluster vendor Penguin Computing has created a cloud computing environment aimed at the HPC space. Penguin's POD service is built on the vendor's Intel-powered Linux clusters, high-speed interconnect technologies like InfiniBand, NetApp SANs, Nvidia graphics chips and Penguin's Scyld ClusterWare management software, all important technologies for highly parallel, memory-intensive HPC applications. Penguin also is not using virtualization technologies on its server clusters, which officials said will improve server and I/O performance.

Penguin Computing is creating a cloud environment specifically for the high-performance computing space.

Penguin Aug. 11 announced its POD (Penguin on Demand) service that is aimed at researchers, scientists and businesses that need extra compute power for their HPC applications or organizations that want HPC capabilities without having to incur the acquisition and maintenance costs of the cluster hardware.

Charles Wuischpard, president and CEO of the Linux cluster vendor, said Penguin officials saw a need for a cloud computing environment that was made for HPC applications. Popular public clouds, like Amazon's EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) are good for the transaction-intensive, general-purpose applications, but are not made for the highly parallel tasks that are found in HPC environments.

"The workloads are different than what is on Amazon," Wuischpard said in an interview.

Penguin has built a cloud computing service based in a colocation center in Utah that is made for those HPC workloads. POD is built out of highly optimized Linux clusters that are powered by about 1,200 processing cores of Intel's Xeon 5400 processors. It also takes advantage of high-speed interconnect technologies, including InfiniBand and Gigabit Ethernet, and a high-speed NAS (network attached storage) from NetApp.

POD also comes with Penguin workstations powered by Nvidia's Tesla graphics processors. In addition, Penguin is not virtualizing its servers, as is normally done at places like Amazon's EC2. Instead, Penguin officials decided to offer customers all the resources of a server to increase performance and give businesses access to all the I/O, which is important when running the highly parallel, memory-intensive HPC workloads, Wuischpard said.

The result is that HPC workloads run as much as 30 times faster on the Penguin cloud computing service than on EC2. For example, one workload that takes 18 hours on EC2 can be completed in 30 minutes on Penguin's POD.

"Amazon does an excellent job of catering to server-based workloads," said Josh Bernstein, HPC architect and a principal designer of the POD technology for Penguin. However, its EC2 is not built for HPC tasks.

The entire environment is managed by Penguin's Scyld ClusterWare software, and the vendor offers a variety of support services, including application set up, creating an HPC environment and ongoing maintenance. Penguin also is working with software makers who will offer their HPC software on POD.

POD is the latest step for Penguin officials in their efforts to focus the company on HPC. Since taking over the reins of the company two years ago, Wuischpard has shed a lot of Penguin's ancillary Linux computing business to focus on HPC, a move he said has resulted in strong growth during that time.

Penguin's POD is a further example of how Wuischpard and other officials are looking to expand the company's reach.

"The way it changes our business is that it takes us out of the pure hardware game," he said.