Clouds and supercomputers are a great combination, if you scan recent headlines.
Amazon Web Services announced last week the availability of supercomputing services from its cloud network. The project is among the first efforts to emerge from a $200 million federal "big data" project, also unveiled last week.
In India, the National Council on Supercomputing is reportedly planning a massive cloud of computing and storage power for national use.
And in China, supercomputing is paired with state-owned cloud centers to serve the government and industry computing needs.
These are just a few recent examples of the value cloud services can bring to organizations that require supercomputing. But it's a pairing that's been discussed for a while, particularly as IT costs continue to be reined in at enterprises worldwide.
The combination of cloud services and supercomputing stands to grow in sectors such as university research, where institutions strapped for funding no longer have the means to acquire and maintain supercomputers for scientific and industry research.
"I have long argued that development of commercial clouds to support research will fundamentally change cyber-infrastructure at universities," wrote Canadian consultant Bill St. Arnaud in a note last week. "HPC [high-performance computing] will remain an important niche, but analyzing large volumes of data is ideally suited for commercial clouds."
Government is another area where supercomputing clouds could support a mandate to work smarter with less waste. Here too St. Arnaud sees progress, as exhibited by the Obama administration's announcement of big data funding last week. "It is great to see US and European governments undertake initiatives to promote the development of research into Big Data utilizing commercial clouds," St. Arnaud wrote.
Technology itself supports supercomputing in the cloud. IBM has worked with Rutgers University to create a "federated cloud" using virtualization. And at least one source, Stacey Higginbotham of GigaOM, has written about how the kind of scalability required in cloud computing is starting to rub off in the supercomputing field, especially when it comes to new chips and processors.
Expect some surprises in this area. One author notes that in addition to "research as a service," we might see other apps turning up as supercomputer-based clouds. Case in point: IBM's Watson, whose smarts IBM has acknowledged just might turn up in a future cloud service.
— Mary Jander , Managing Editor, Internet Evolution