Interview: Wolfgang Gentzsch on the Changing Landscape for ISC Cloud’14

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ISC_cloud_logoThe ISC Cloud Conference returns to Heidelberg next month. We caught up with conference chair Wolfgang Gentzsch to learn more.

insideHPC: This is your fifth year as Chair of the ISC Cloud Conference. How has the focus of the program changed over time?

Wolfgang Gentzsch

Wolfgang Gentzsch

Wolfgang Gentzsch: Five years ago when we started with the ISC Cloud Conference, our focus was on Cloud HPC, very close to the focus of its mother conference ISC. Since then the focus has broadened, now spanning all scientific and engineering computing in the Cloud. In our research about the audience interested in Cloud Computing we found out that especially engineers and scientists who just have a workstation on their desk (which in fact represent over 90% of end-users) are very interested in bursting into the bigger Cloud resources as needed, for larger simulations for example, finer geometries, shorter simulation times, higher quality results. Today we found a nice balance between HPC and engineering experts looking for the Cloud.

insideHPC: Who will be the Keynote speakers this year?

Wolfgang Gentzsch: Stuttgart HPC Center (HLRS) director Michael Resch will speak about “HPC & Simulation in the Cloud – How Academia & Industry Can Benefit“. Traditionally HLRS is serving university and research centers. But beyond this, and almost as an exception from the standard, I find it interesting that his center emphasizes on serving the industry as well. Indeed they have a long tradition of working with local industry. As a technical university, they prepare engineering students for the industry, which naturally leads to an excellent relationship with industry. In 1986 they started providing HPC services to Porsche, which grew into the foundation of the HPC Center for Science and Industry (HWW) in 1995. Today, they serve a dozen companies in the region, with 20 years of experience in providing computing and services.

insideHPC: The ISC Cloud’14 program features a session on Challenges. Would you say that it is much easier to move HPC workloads to the Cloud than it was just a few years ago?

Wolfgang Gentzsch: I would say it is somewhat easier, but there has to be more done to make Cloud computing for HPC workloads attractive. What has changed dramatically is the wide adoption of mainstream Cloud computing, for business applications like CRM, ERP, online accounting and other business software, today being a $150B market. And this is a driver also for R&D Clouds. But while today business Clouds are easy to access and use, R&D Clouds have not yet reached this level, with their sophisticated applications and architectures. It’s a similar difference with business applications versus HPC applications; it takes a few hours to start using a CRM application on’s platform, while it still might take weeks for an engineer to get an application like ANSYS Fluent or Simulia’s Abaqus up and running in the Cloud.

insideHPC: You have a session on ISVs and the Cloud. What are their concerns in this area and are you seeing more ISVs warm up to the idea of Cloud computing?

Wolfgang Gentzsch: ISVs are concerned because Clouds disrupt their traditional business model mainly based on annual and perpetual licenses. Now, with on demand, pay-per use licenses they might lose license revenue and in the worst case lose customers who turn to the Cloud model completely. At the ISC Cloud conference we will discuss these challenges and how ISVs can successfully cope with them.

insideHPC: Along those lines, what is new with your efforts over at The UberCloud?

Wolfgang Gentzsch: The UberCloud started with its HPC Experiment two years ago, taking end-user applications to the Cloud and studying the challenges and how to remove them, potentially. Now, with 155 experiments as of today, and learning about all kinds of roadblocks, we have developed Linux container based technology which reduces or even removes most of the challenges, in fields like security, losing control, portability, licensing, data transfer, missing standards, price transparency, resource availability, and extra expertise needed to get to the Cloud. The UberCloud just opened its UberCloud Marketplace which offers complete solution packs at your finger tip, on demand, with a fixed price tag. We have about ten software packages in the pipeline which we are currently preparing for the Marketplace. As an example, you can buy CFD software OpenFOAM for $199, on 32 cores for 24 hours. As soon as you have paid, you are getting an email with the link to your OpenFOAM in the Cloud, ready to go within minutes.

ISC Cloud’14 takes place in Heidelberg, Germany Sept. 29-30. If you are interested in attending the ISC Big Data’14 Conference, which takes place right after the ISC Cloud, a combined pass including both events can be purchased for 750 € + tax.