SUSE and High Performance Computing – Part III: Challenges and Trends of the HPC Market

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Back in June, when I was speaking about SUSE’s position in HPC, I promised to continue with the short series of HPC blogs – it took a while but finally here you go! Another important topic which we have to discuss quite often are the challenges and trends of the HPC market, and what innovations developed for HPC might find their way into “regular” business products.

Based on our work with customers, SUSE sees a number of market needs for high performance computing, and we are collaborating closely with our partners to address these needs. Performance itself, particularly in connection with virtualization, is a key challenge. We have many HPC customers who would like to virtualize their workloads, sooner rather than later. But each percentage point they lose in performance because of the hypervisor overhead requires an incremental investment in hardware. Therefore we continue to work on improving the hypervisor and virtualization technologies delivered with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

In addition there are a couple of operating system challenges, such as debugging and self-healing, which HPC customers need to have addressed, and we are actively working with them in these areas. Here we have seen great improvements with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 and the two Service Packs that have been released so far.

However, the biggest challenges that HPC computing need to solve in future are especially: managing complexity, providing power and cooling, and ensuring efficient application scaling and hardware utilization.

There is no doubt, the HPC market has always been the vanguard of “strange” new computing technologies. These days, the HPC market is where vendors test out the ideas that will drive tomorrow’s commercial products. Multi-core processors had been one innovation driven by high performance demands which had been adopted by regular IT. Power efficiency is another – look at blades that are used for space, power, cooling reductions, and at the operating systems optimized for those systems to meet the same requirements.

Within the triad of HPC environmental challenges (power, cooling and facilities space), electrical power is likely to be the most important. We see more emphasis on power-efficient HPC systems and more RFPs specifying power limitations. This trend in turn supports the increased use of accelerators, which for certain problems can exploit more parallelism at lower clock periods to deliver higher performance. And this technology development indispensably finds its way into commercial businesses.

If you want to discuss challenges and trends of Linux in the HPC market face-to-face with our SUSE experts, just find them at SuperComputing 2012  at our booth #4827. Read also Amie’s blog – it contains the SUSE theater session schedule!

Coming next: Part IV –  Linux and “High Productivity Computing” in the Enterprise

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Meike Chabowski
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Meike Chabowski

Meike Chabowski works as Documentation Strategist at SUSE. Before joining the SUSE Documentation team, she was Product Marketing Manager for Enterprise Linux Servers at SUSE, with a focus on Linux for Mainframes, Linux in Retail, and High Performance Computing. Prior to joining SUSE more than 20 years ago, Meike held marketing positions with several IT companies like defacto and Siemens, and was working as Assistant Professor for Mass Media. Meike holds a Master of Arts in Science of Mass Media and Theatre, as well as a Master of Arts in Education from University of Erlangen-Nuremberg/ Germany, and in Italian Literature and Language from University of Parma/Italy.