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HPC CIOs drifting into clouds

Not just for webish apps

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Platform Computing - a pioneer in grid-style supercomputing - is trying to figure out how to make a living in this cloud-computing racket, so it's asking potential customers what they're up to, cloud-wise.

The company is keen to keep itself relevant as computer architectures continue to evolve not just inside the high performance computing arena, but in the IT space at large. To do so, it's aiming its code and expertise into the cloud.

To become attractively cloudy, Platform Computing has to figure out what IT shops think cloud computing means and what they are planning to do with cloud-style architectures. To that end, the company conducted an informal survey of chief information officers and IT managers at June's International Supercomputing Conference in Dresden, Germany.

The results of those surveys were announced today. Of the 103 IT executives polled - arguably not a large number and not necessarily a statistically significant pool of respondents - 28 per cent said that they would deploy a private cloud of some sort this year.

The use of private-cloud infrastructure is on the rise, says Platform Computing, for the same reason that everyone in IT thinks they can make money on this metered, sometimes virtualized, always abstracted, extremely automated approach to doling out processing, memory, storage, and I/O capacity. To wit: workloads are getting more complex and demanding at the same time that IT shops in corporations, governments, and academia are all being told to cut costs.

If you'll remember, Platform Computing and a bunch of other minor players were poised to get rich on grid computing a decade ago. However, the grid was not web-enabled, and it was far from easy to configure and reconfigure capacity to support ever-changing workloads. Grids enabled sharing of server nodes in an HPC cluster, or adding spare capacity on PCs to a cluster running supercomputer applications, but they were far from malleable.

Given the pool of respondents attending ISC, it's no surprise that among those IT execs that are planning to build private clouds, 67 per cent said they were planning on using the clouds to run simulation and modeling applications.

Personally, I'd love to see a before-and-after stack of hardware and software to learn how the HPCers' new private clouds differ from the parallel supercomputers and grids they're already running. We may be merely witnessing a buzzword shift.

Another 32 per cent of respondents to the ISC survey said they would use private clouds to support web services, and another 18 per cent said they would use cloudy iron to run business analytics.

Not at all ironically, the IT execs polled at ISC say that one of the biggest hurdles to deploying private clouds to support HPC workloads - or any other kind of workload - is that "they do not feel that business decision-makers understand the potential of private clouds."

While this may be true, it's also probably true that business decision-makers probably think they've shelled out enough cash to get an IT utility built in the basement already, and they're a bit perplexed as to why IT is so calcified.

Anyway, 26 per cent of those polled said that the complexity of managing a private cloud was a barrier to adoption, and 21 per cent said security was an issue - although this is an odd response, considering that in a private cloud your security is as good as anything else you have plunked behind the firewall.

Only 8 per cent cited upfront cost as a barrier to building a cloud, and an equal number called software licenses a roadblock to private-cloud adoption. ®

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