Cloud computing for HPC?

One of the interesting projects we are dealing with is the feasibility to use cloud computing for high performance computing. I remember a paper on using the Amazon EC2 for HPC, and the conclusion was that some GB of bandwidth are missing between the compute nodes… J  In the past, high-performance computing has not been a good candidate for cloud computing due to its requirement for tight integration between the servers’ nodes via low-latency interconnects.  Moreover, the performance overhead associated with host virtualization, a pre-requisite technology for migrating local applications to the cloud, quickly erodes application scalability and efficiency in an HPC context.  Furthermore, HPC has been slow to adopt virtualization, not only due to the performance overhead, but also because HPC servers generally run fully-utilized, and therefore do not benefit through consolidation.

Not all clouds are the same, nor will be, and while virtualization is needed for enterprise applications, yet for HPC clouds is not a must, and application provisioning can be done on a physical server granularity. Moreover, there are emerging virtualization solutions that reduce the overhead and enable native application performance.

The council had presented some of the first finding from the HPC cloud project at ISC’09 (posted on the advanced topics section at We have submitted a full paper for publication, and hope to post it on the web site soon.

Next phase of the project will be adding the virtualization aspect, in particular Xen and KVM, and explore the effects on application performance, as well as the system utilization and efficiency capabilities.  

Gilad Shainer,
HPC Advisory Council Chairman