The time is right for virtualizing HPC systems

Virtualization of high performance computing is more viable than ever with VMware vSphere Scale-Out Edition on Dell EMC Ready Solutions for HPC.

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Dell Technologies

In today’s enterprise IT shops, everybody understands the benefits of server virtualization. When you virtualize servers, you can turn a single physical host into multiple virtual systems, each with its own operating system and applications. You can then greatly increase the utilization of the physical systems while accelerating the provisioning of resources, increasing IT responsiveness and simplifying data protection.

Everybody gets it, and everybody is doing it — and not just for servers, but also for storage and network resources. But — wait — you’re different, and what about high performance computing systems? Despite the wide acceptance and well‑understood value proposition for virtualization of rank-and-file data center resources, many organizations have yet to virtualize their HPC clusters.

Why so? For starters, there is a common perception that virtualization comes with a performance penalty stemming from the addition of a layer of software between the operating system and the hardware. Although this may have been true years ago, the reality is different today. Advances in hypervisors and hardware virtualization support in x86 systems have yielded big increases in performance for virtualized HPC workloads. With these advances, your IT team can now gain the benefits of virtualization for HPC workloads while delivering performance that is comparable to bare metal for many workloads.

Another perception in IT shops is that per‑core licensing costs make virtualization prohibitively

expensive for HPC clusters. Today, VMware addresses this concern with VMware vSphere Scale-Out Edition, a virtualization SKU designed for big data and HPC workloads. This software suite delivers all of the core vSphere features required for big data and HPC workloads with cost‑effective license packs for eight CPUs.

And finally, there is also a perception that if you virtualize an HPC environment, admins won’t be able to access all of the features they need. Here again, with vSphere Scale-Out, the reality is quite different from the perception. The vSphere Scale‑Out package offers many of the popular features used in other VMware environments, along with the support of a broad ecosystem of technology partners who provide value‑added services.

Compelling benefits

OK, now that we’ve addressed the perception-vs.-reality issues, let’s talk about some of the specific benefits that come with the virtualization of HPC systems. For starters, virtualization adds a flexibility, operational efficiency, agility and security at levels that cannot be achieved in bare‑metal HPC environments.

For example, system expansion and contraction are simplified when provisioning is done with virtual machines. Cloning a VM as a new member of a cluster takes minutes. Virtualization with vSphere Scale-Out also gives you the ability to move workloads with VMware vSphere vMotion for maintenance or proactive fault avoidance.

Even better, virtualization can help you centralize bare‑metal islands created by individual departments running HPC workloads. This centralization positions your team to drive up resource utilization and to give more users access to HPC resources. And by using familiar virtualization management tools, your IT shop can assign exactly the compute and storage power that is needed by any one team — without dedicating significant hardware to that one purpose.

Bringing it all together

When you’re ready to roll out virtualized HPC resources, Dell Technologies and VMware can help you bring together everything you need. We make it easy with enterprise-grade Dell EMC Ready Solutions for HPC with VMware.

These solutions deliver a new level of flexibility and agility to HPC. Rapid provisioning of infrastructure on‑demand enables speedy iteration and scale‑out — so you can spend more time helping people gain insights from HPC and less time on setup and retooling. The solutions also simply day‑two operations, such as ongoing provisioning and infrastructure maintenance, and help your team avoid planned downtime through live migration features.

Ready Solutions for HPC with VMware also address data governance and security concerns. Security isolation prevents VMs from seeing each other’s data in the same cluster. Each VM can access only the virtual disk files designated for it. This adds up to increased VM and host security for data.

To learn more

For a deeper dive into the virtualization of HPC resources, see the VMware reference architecture “Virtualizing High-Performance Computing Environments.” And to explore Dell EMC Ready Solutions for HPC, visit “Solutions for High Performance Computing and AI.” And be sure to join us on 6/2 at crowdchat.net/makeaireal to find out what Dell Technologies and VMware have in store for HPC and AI.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.