Platform turns its HPC management software up a notch

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Platform hopes its HPC Enterprise Edition will encourage commercial adoption of HPC

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This week Platform Computing announced that it was turning some of its focus back to HPC, after spending the past year or so aiming at a more traditional large-IT audience. On Monday the company announced the launch of HPC Enterprise Edition, a package of tools that Platform believes will help “enterprise” (I read that as either non-traditional or inexperienced) users in the commercial market ease into HPC.

Platform HPC Enterprise Edition brings together several pieces of Platform’s HPC toolkit into one offering that will help customers manage their cluster from deployment and management to monitoring and job submission. It includes Cluster Manager, LSF, Platform MPI (recall that Platform bought MPI stacks from both HP and Scali), Application Center, RTM monitoring dashboard, and ISF Adaptive Cluster into a single, web-based interface for the entire system lifecycle.

Enterprise Edition is the evolution of what Platform used to call Platform HPC Workgroup Manager — now called HPC Workgroup Edition — but without the 32-node limitation of that solution. Although it could theoretically be used to manage systems of arbitrary size, it really is designed for smaller clusters and COTS applications.

Platform hopes that it can ease the cluster integration and training worries of the IT admin group by providing its pre-integrated tools for installation, management, and monitoring. HPC EE will probably run on your favorite x86-64 Linux, with support for popular distros such as Red Hat, SUSE, CentOS, and Scientific Linux. If you are a mixed Windows/Linux shop then Adaptive Cluster, which integrates with LSF to reconfigure a pool of nodes for either Linux- or Windows-based jobs on the fly, will also address the real requirement that companies not have to reinvent their application infrastructure to move to HPC.

Getting users over the hurdle

But it is the inclusion of Platform Application Center and the pre-integrated COTS applications templates that will help get the users of these systems over some of their entry hurdles. Launched during SC09, Application Center is a shrink-wrapped role-based portal framework. Users or system managers can create templates for various applications and types of jobs (using XML) that allow users to launch applications and manage files from within a web portal. HPC Enterprise Edition comes with seven templates that integrate applications popular with Platform customers: Abaqus, Ansys, Blast, Eclipse, Fluent, LS-Dyna, and Nastran. Visualization is not supported out of the box with HPC Enterprise Edition, but users can upgrade their installation to enable vis in the portal.

The pre-integration of those seven application templates is part of what William Lu, Platform’s director of HPC marketing, emphasized when I spoke with him as the shrink-wrapped advantage. “HPC Enterprise Edition groups our existing commercial-grade technologies together into a single solution,” Lu says. “It is not just a collection of open source technologies.” Whether this line of marketing continues to hold up over time is entirely up to the open source community.

If you’re going to have an HPC hardware vendor as your launch partner…

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When asked about pricing Lu said that HPC Enterprise Edition will run customers “a few hundred dollars per node,” and that Platform expects the majority of licenses will ship out through hardware partners, although they will also sell to users directly through their existing sales channels (you can’t buy this online at the website — not yet, anyway). HPC Enterprise Edition is already available, and Platform is launching with a significant HPC hardware partner: Cray. Cray is rebranding the software with its own Cray Cluster Manager nameplate and shipping it to CX1 and CX1000 customers. Although Lu wasn’t ready to talk about other partners yet, he did mention that they are in discussions with Dell and HP.

Interestingly, Cray’s Ian Miller (senior vice president of the productivity solutions group and marketing) told me that Cray Cluster Manager is now the default clusterware on both the CX1 and the CX1000. The Cray CX1-iWS sold by Dell won’t ship with CCM, which makes sense since it is entirely a Windows platform. “However, some customers have their own preferred cluster management software,” says Miller, “and some of our resellers are also aligned with other partners in this space, giving us the flexibility to be able to handle these situations too.”


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