Sunday, October 18, 2009

Embracing Low Performance Computing (LPC)

Had an interesting time in Banff last week at the Summit09 conference. The conference was a combination of events including the Cybera/CANARIE Summit, OGF 27 and IEEE Grid 2009 which focused predominately on the emerging opportunity for Cloud Computing with in the intersection of High Performance, Grid and Distributed Computing realms. The Summit brought the leading figures from around the globe including organizations such CERN as well as various other academics.

A few of the more interesting tidbits included, the discussions around the future of the Open Grid Forum. It seems that the OGF is currently going through a major transition as the Grid world is quickly distancing itself from the stigma surrounding the use of the term Grid or High Performance Computing. There were several conversations discussing whether the OGF should even continue calling themselves the Open Grid Forum with a few even suggesting the Open Cloud Forum might be more suitable name. Also notible was most of the marketing materials at the Summit simply refers to the OGF.

What I also found quite interesting was that there is little discussion on the topic of traditional high performance computing. But instead what everyone seemed to want to know was this thing called Cloud Computing and how it could benefit or improve their existing grid deployments. It was clear that the vast majority of attendees seem to realize that cloud computing isn't just another way to describe grid or distributed computing, but instead the opportunity to reimagine how they could address the shift to globalized web centric computing.

For the most part this reimagining seem to mean the movement from the traditional aspects of HPC to the notion of Low Performance Computing or LPC. Several times I heard the analogy of "I'd rather have something done now that takes a few days to complete then wait two weeks for something that takes a few hours to complete." These comments seem to hit at the heart of the opportunity. The new reality facing traditional grid centric architecture is that of efficiency and adaptability. The old grid computing systems and platforms tend to focus on one or two specifically optimized operations, but do little else. With the introduction of virtualization and infrastructure as a service platforms there seems to be a renewed excitement in the ability to quickly re-provision and rapidly implement self service applications.

Another comment I heard several times was the less these grid folks needed to involve their system admins, the better. The idea of humanless computing was a topic that kept coming up. The idea that the more tasks that could be automated, the less chance for human errors to be introduced into the various work flows. Simply humans seem to be the biggest obstacle facing grid related technologies.

All in all a very interesting week in Banff.
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