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Adaptive Computing consolidates cloud control

Behind-the-scenes VM embrace

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When Cluster Resources became Adaptive Computing last summer, the hybrid HPC cluster management specialist promised to ramp up its tools for virtualized servers to boost its enterprise business. And with the Moab Adaptive Computing Suite 5.4, it's doing just that.

In fact, according to vice president of marketing for Adaptive Computing Peter ffoulkes, most of the tweaks and changes relate to consolidating the management of the many different server virtualization hypervisors and provisioning tools that companies have deployed, which are generally incompatible with each other.

With Moab 5.4, the Services Manager module is now able to hook into IBM's open source Extreme Cluster Administration Toolkit (xCAT), which killed off Big Blue's closed-source Cluster Systems Management (CSM) product for AIX and Linux systems last fall.

CSM was an offshoot of Parallel System Support Program (PSSP), which was created in the mid-1990s for some big AIX supercomputer contracts when IBM started getting serious about parallel computing and the HPC market.

IBM stopped selling CSM in January this year, but will continue to support it until January 2011. xCAT was created in 2002 specifically for massively parallel BlueGene supers and was then extended to other RISC/Unix and x64 architectures. It is distributed under the Eclipse Public License.

The thing that is important about xCAT for enterprise customers, rather than traditional HPC shops, is it now knows how to provision virtual machines based on ESX Server (from VMware), KVM (from Red Hat and Canonical mostly), and Xen (from Citrix Systems and Oracle mostly).

That means the Moab orchestration tools can monitor workloads running on clouds of virtualized servers and automatically provision machines as workloads are staged in the Moab job queue, and conversely, as workloads finish running, Moab can prepare to reach in to the virtual servers and start decommissioning them through xCAT. Ffoulkes says Adaptive Computing is working with Microsoft to get support for provisioning Hyper-V virtual machines, but this is not supported with the Moab 5.4 release.

Moab 5.4 can hook into IBM's Tivoli Orchestrator provisioning tools and link into Hewlett-Packard's separate Operations Orchestration and Server Automation tools, Platform Computing's LSF grid provisioning, and Altair's PBS Pro provisioning.

The tool also hooks into the Unified Fabric Manager network management tools from switch maker Voltaire and the hypervisor management tools, such as VMware's vCenter, to coordinate the live migration of ESX Server virtual machines from node to node as they need more performance or can do with less for a particular job. Moab is also savvy to all the tricks of boosting performance with VMs, including oversubscription of CPU, memory, and I/O resources, so its policies of minimizing compute resources or maximizing performance can bring these to bear as well.

One other change with Moab 5.4 is its own memory requirements have been cut back by 80 per cent, which allows a single instance of the tool to manage larger numbers of virtual and physical servers.

While HPC shops are generally comfortable with command-line interfaces, and so are plenty of techies in the commercial world, you need a graphical user interface to peddle anything to the big IT bosses out there in Data Center Land. And hence, Moab 5.4 is being delivered with a new Web 2.0-style interface and self-service portal called Moab Viewpoint 1.0.

This Viewpoint interface lets server administrators add and subtract resources from virtual private clouds, archive server images, monitor server state and see where there are problems in the virtual infrastructure, and manage both physical and virtual servers through Moab policies that in turn pull the levers on provisioning and management tools customers deploy.

The Moab software stack is available in three different bundles: the base Moab Cluster Suite, the Moab Adaptive HPC Suite (aimed at traditional supercomputer shops that don't give a care about server virtualization), and the Moab Adaptive Computing Suite (which has all the bells and whistles).

The software is licenses on an annual basis, per server socket, ranging from under $100 per socket for Moab Cluster Suite to $300 per socket for Moab Adaptive Computing Suite. Generally speaking, ffoulkes says that the Moab software accounts for between three and five per cent of the total cost of a commercial cluster.

HPC in the Cape

In a separate announcement, Adaptive Computing says the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) in Cape Town, South Africa, has chosen Moab to manage its heterogeneous supercomputers. CHPC was founded in 2007 and installed IBM Cluster 1350 systems, and then added pSeries Power/AIX boxes and BlueGene Power/Linux in the following years. Last year, the South African HPC lab added Sparc Enterprise 9000s and six x64 clusters.

This is a classic HPC siloed environment, and according to ffoulkes, the lab was getting poor utilization on its machines and was manually provisioning server nodes. The BlueGene machine was running at 50 to 60 per cent utilization because the system management tools incorrectly reported when resources were freed up, but now that Moab is in charge of all the systems, the BlueGene box is humming along at 97 per cent utilization.

Moab is also being used to automatically provision Windows and Linux instances on the x64 clusters, allowing researchers to choose either platform to run their jobs. It isn't just take Linux or leave it any more. ®

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