Feeds

Amazon adds GPUs to EC2 HPC clouds

Where's InfiniBand networking?

Mobile application security vulnerability report

SC10 VMware's ESX Server virtualization and Amazon's EC2 cloud got their starts among developers frustrated with the time and money it took to get physical infrastructure approved and set up so they could monkey around with their code. And it is a safe bet to guess that hybrid CPU-GPU clusters are going to get some serious action now that Amazon has plugged in Nvidia's GPU co-processors into its Cluster Compute instances.

Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing subsidiary of the online retailing giant, rolled up and rolled out its virtual HPC clusters back in July. These HPC instances are similar to regular extra large virtual server slices on the EC2 cloud, except Amazon guarantees that the slices are built using a two-socket x64 server with Intel's Xeon X5570s running at 2.93 GHz and 8 MB of on-chip cache memory. Those processors are a year and a half old, which is not a big deal because the GPUs are going to be doing a lot of the math anyway.

This Cluster Compute instance is rated at an aggregate of 33.5 EC2 compute units in the Amazon virtual server relative performance scheme and presents 23 GB of virtual memory and 1.69 TB of disk capacity to the HPC application running atop it. This is four times the extra large EC2 slice in terms of compute units, according to Amazon.

The virtual HPC slices run in 64-bit mode, which is necessary to address more than 2 GB of memory in a node. The HPC slices are unique in that programmers know the exact iron underneath the slice (not so for other slices on EC2) and that they are also linked together with 10 Gigabit Ethernet links.

Peter De Santis, who spoke to El Reg about the addition of GPUs to the HPC slices, said that there was "a lot of excitement about experimenting with GPUs," and that is why Amazon has very quickly added this feature to the Cluster Compute instances. Customers are concerned with the power and thermal issues of putting GPUs in their own systems as well as the high cost of buying them, and are interested in giving the idea a whirl on EC2 first before making any commitments to actually invest in GPU iron.

In most cases, adding GPUs to clusters will require new servers, which were never designed to have multiple hot components in them. Because of the hassle, it may turn out that a lot of Amazon's virtual ceepie-geepie users start out on virtual HPC clusters with GPUs and just stay there, never investing in the iron at all and preferring to rent time on Amazon's cloud.

The Cluster Compute instances run a Linux operating system atop Amazon's homegrown variant of the Xen hypervisor for x64 servers; but other than that, according to De Santis, Amazon is not adding any special software to the stack. Amazon is also not managing the cluster images or the cluster job scheduling on behalf of customers. The idea is to provide the raw nodes and let customers deply x64-based cluster provisioning, management, and job scheduling tools as they would internally.

De Santis would not divulge how large the virtual HPC cluster is that the company has set up in its data center in Northern Virginia, but says to date customers are running virtual clusters with dozens to hundreds of nodes. (These are without GPUs.) NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is experimenting with the Cluster Compute instances to do image processing for the images it collects from its exploration robots, just to name one customer.

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

More from The Register

next story
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
FLAPE – the next BIG THING in storage
Find cold data with flash, transmit it from tape
Seagate chances ARM with NAS boxes for the SOHO crowd
There's an Atom-powered offering, too
Gartner: To the right, to the right – biz sync firms who've won in a box to the right...
Magic quadrant: Top marks for, er, completeness of vision, EMC
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.