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Docker Containers Come to Cray XC Software

docker-100275159-origToday Cray announced plans to deliver an HPC-optimized Docker solution for the Cray XC line of supercomputers. Available in 2016, the HPC virtualization capabilities will be offered for the Cray CS400, Cray XE and Cray XK platforms.

With Docker as part of Cray’s official software distribution, Cray’s customers will be able to implement software containers that package an entire software stack – application codes, shared libraries, base operating system files, user environment variables, dependencies and more – into easily-deployable images that contain everything an application needs to run with increased efficiency across multiple platforms. Docker containers for Cray XC systems are designed to provide better application portability and bring ease-of-use to running highly-scalable applications on advanced supercomputers.

Via an established Center of Excellence, Cray has collaborated NERSC on a container project codenamed “Shifter,” which is designed to extend Docker capabilities to HPC environments and all Cray XC series users. Through technology co-development efforts that were validated on the Cray XC30™ system nicknamed “Edison” at NERSC, the Cray-NERSC collaboration brings Docker container capabilities to large-scale supercomputing.

“Container computing, exemplified by Docker, is poised to revolutionize the way scientific and technical computing is carried out,” said Shane Canon, project engineer for advanced systems technology at NERSC. “Having these capabilities on HPC platforms, like those from Cray, will lower the barriers for many workloads and will boost productivity. Containers can also help with the process of science itself, since it can ease reproducibility and simplify sharing. The partnership between NERSC and Cray is critical in taking this from a concept to reality for HPC platforms. While NERSC has been evangelizing the promise of containers, having a commercial vendor like Cray supporting this will enable this new paradigm to have greater reach and impact.”

The Docker container implementation for Cray XC customers is designed to significantly expand the number of applications available, and at the same time, reduce the time needed to get applications running on a supercomputer. The benefits of Docker include streamlining workflows, reduced application porting, more predictable and consistent code behavior across platforms and operating systems, and improved time-to-results.

The supercomputing community continues to evolve in our shared quest for discovery and scientific breakthroughs,” said Ryan Waite, Cray’s senior vice president of products. “We are seeing an increasing number of developers using new technologies to solve their problems. For some of our customers, the use of languages like Python and R and system technologies like Docker is ideal for their modern supercomputing applications. With support for Docker on our XC line of supercomputers, we are opening the power of supercomputing to a new community of users. We are delighted to have partnered with NERSC in the development of this important technology.”

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