A new day for High Performance Computing with SUSE Linux | SUSE Communities

A new day for High Performance Computing with SUSE Linux



SUSE has had a long and successful history of supporting High-Performance Computing, with over 50% of the Top 100 HPC systems running on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) technology. SUSE is a platinum sponsor for OpenHPC and SUSE Linux is the foundation for the build and test environment for OpenHPC on ARM.

High Performance Computing has gone through many changes over the past few years. Businesses are increasingly adopting HPC technology to apply sophisticated analysis techniques to business data. At the same time, we see an increased use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and high-performance data analytics approaches in traditional HPC environments.  We also see that Spectre and Meltdown reinforces the need for maintenance and support. All of these changes drive increased customer demand for HPC solutions that are easier to deploy and support.

SUSE recently made some significant changes to our HPC offerings to address these needs.

New life cycle offering for HPC – Extended Service Pack Overlap Support (ESPOS)

HPC environments often have thousands of systems to provide the compute resources necessary for solving complex problems. One of the most challenging aspects of using HPC is managing the software stack running on the cluster. After the software stack, including the underlying operating system, is installed on all the cluster nodes, administrators are reluctant to update or change that stack. The support life of the operating system is important, particularly for systems that are subject to security compliance requirements.

SUSE releases a new Service Pack for a given SUSE Linux release (such as SLES 12) approximately every twelve months. Each Service Pack is supported for approximately 18 months. That eighteen months includes a six month overlap period between a Service Pack and the subsequent Service Pack. After that six months of overlap support, customers will not receive new fixes unless they upgrade to the later service pack or purchase Long Term Service Pack Support (LTSS).

SUSE now provides new subscriptions for HPC that include a longer support life for each SUSE Linux Service Pack. This additional support life is called Extended Service Pack Overlap Support (ESPOS). Customers who purchase the SLES for HPC subscription with ESPOS get an additional year of support, for a total of 18 months.  This gives customers more time to upgrade and can allow a customer to skip an intervening Service Pack completely. SLES 12 SP3 for HPC is the first Service Pack that can be supported for an additional 12 months via ESPOS.

In the generic example below, a customer who purchased the HPC subscription with ESPOS could stay on a Service Pack for up to three years, while continuing to be supported by SUSE.

Support during the ESPOS period includes telephone support and fixes for critical system and security issues.

Note that ESPOS is only available for customers purchasing a SLES for HPC  subscription. ESPOS is not available for regular SLES.

New offering: Long Term Service Pack Support for HPC (LTSS for HPC)

Long Term Service Pack Support (LTSS) for HPC provides customers with telephone support and fixes for critical system and security issues for up to three years beyond the end of the normal Service Pack overlap.  LTSS for HPC can be purchased in one-year increments. The new LTSS for HPC can only be used to extend the life of a SLES for HPC subscription and customers must maintain the underlying SLES for HPC subscription in addition to the LTSS.

In summary, you can purchase these subscriptions for HPC clusters:

SLES for HPC can be purchased for new clusters or when renewing existing clusters. Customers can convert to SLES for HPC from a standard SLES subscription at renewal. Customers must have the same subscription, such as SLES for HPC with ESPOS, for all HPC nodes in a cluster. Customers cannot mix subscriptions with ESPOS with  subscriptions that do not include ESPOS in a cluster. Similarly, customers must purchase LTSS for HPC for all nodes in the cluster.

For most HPC customers who need a longer support life, SLES for HPC with ESPOS is the most cost-effective approach because it provides up to 30 months of support for a service pack. SLES for HPC with ESPOS is less expensive than purchasing a standard 18-month subscription and adding one year of LTSS.  Customers who need more than 30 months of support can always purchase the add-on LTSS support for the final two years after ESPOS support ends.

Lower prices for SLES for HPC

HPC clusters generally consist of two types of systems: Head Nodes and Compute Nodes. Head Nodes provide the management function for the cluster and typically run tasks such as workload schedulers, input/output management, hosting shared filesystems, login nodes, cluster authentication, etc. Compute Nodes, as the name implies, only provide the processing resources needed for the HPC workloads.

The key attribute of an HPC cluster is that all the systems are focused on performing compute or I/O intensive subtasks to solve a computation task that is larger than any single system can solve.  The SUSE Terms and Conditions define which workloads and configurations are considered “HPC”.

SUSE has a single price strategy for HPC that uses the same product for both HPC Head Nodes and HPC Compute Nodes.  We believe that a simple pricing model that applies to all HPC cluster systems is easier for everyone.

HPC environments might have a thousand systems to provide the resources necessary for solving complex problems. But these clusters are more homogeneous than a random collection of a thousand systems because all of the compute nodes are running identical copies of the operating system and running subtasks of a larger workload. As a result, the support costs for HPC are lower than for general purpose systems.

Operating Systems vendors traditionally charge less for subscriptions for HPC environments due to these lower support costs and because of the sheer number of systems involved. SUSE provides HPC specific products such as SLES for HPC or SLES for HPC with ESPOS to deliver SUSE Linux for HPC environments. Because SLES for HPC has unique prerequisites and restrictions,  these products cannot be directly purchased by a customer; they must be purchased through a SUSE business partner or through a SUSE direct salesperson.

We also made significant price reductions as part of the overall changes to the SUSE HPC offering. We believe that these price reductions will encourage more organizations running HPC workloads to consider using SUSE Linux. The recent Meltdown and Spectre security issues have reinforced the need for customers to have a strong partner like SUSE that is able to respond to these kinds of problems quickly.

Enhanced product offerings for HPC partners

Most SUSE Linux HPC clusters are delivered by SUSE hardware and solution partners. These partners often provide  Level 1 and Level 2 support to customers and only involve SUSE for problems that require our back-end engineers. In recognition of this service, SUSE now provide SLES HPC products to partners that acknowledges that SUSE only needs to provide L3 support.

New support for Arm HPC systems

SUSE has supported 64-bit Arm systems since November 2016 with the introduction of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for Arm (SLES for Arm). Most of the early 64-bit Arm systems were unsuitable for HPC workloads. That changed in late 2017 with the introduction of ARM-based systems intended for HPC environments by HPE and Cray. These systems, based on Arm chips such as the Cavium ThunderX2 and Qualcomm Centriq 2400, provide unique capabilities for HPC environments.

SUSE had already provided general support for these system in SLES 12 SP3 for ARM in September 2016. SUSE has now recognized this new option for HPC customers by expanding the platform support for SLES 12 for HPC to include X86-64 and ARM AArch64 hardware platforms.

HPC Module continues to be enhanced

SUSE continues to deliver on our commitment to make HPC easier to implement by adding additional packages to the HPC Module. The HPC Module is intended to simplify deployment and management of HPC environments by providing a number of fully supported HPC packages to our SUSE Linux customers.

These packages were built and tested by SUSE and are provided at no additional cost with the SUSE Linux support subscription. All of the packages are open-source and many are based on packages from OpenHPC.  The HPC Module is provided for customers using X86-64 and ARM AArch64 platforms and is available to customers with SLES for HPC and SLES subscriptions.

The module structure allows SUSE to deliver additions and enhancements to HPC packages more frequently than possible via Service Packs. SUSE delivered two releases of the HPC Module in 2017 but we hope to deliver updates to the HPC Module more frequently in 2018.

PackageHub for HPC

Not all packages desired by HPC customers are suitable for inclusion in the HPC Module as a supported component of SUSE Linux for HPC. Examples are packages that are not broadly used or that are in an early development stage. SUSE provides easy access to those packages via PackageHub. We currently provide several packages of interest to the HPC community via PackageHub including singularity, robinhood, and clustershell.


We are confident that the changes we have made to our HPC offering enhance our ability to meet the needs of the evolving HPC community. We look forward to continuing to improve the value provided by SUSE to HPC customers and welcome your comments and feedback.

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