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HPC on Demand: 2013 Review

The adoption rate for cloud computing, particularly in the UK, continues to astound even those who predicted rapid migration to cloud. Certainly, the major hardware vendors have to react very quickly to the change in the IT landscape, and for almost all this is a painful process. But will this rush to the cloud turn out to be the utopia that many believe it to be? I am not sure that many organisations have as yet fully counted the cost of cloud services, or in fact identified them. It is not uncommon to hear of large organisations where IT departments are unaware of cloud accounts set up by line-of-business groups.

2013 has brought a more controlled, and perhaps cautious, approach to off-premise computing

2013 has brought a more controlled, and perhaps cautious, approach to off-premise computing

The contractual conditions for mainstream cloud providers are also a cause for alarm if you are running critical or sensitive applications. The ability for an organisation to negotiate the terms of a cloud contract appears very limited, so it can only be the economic benefits and immediate availability of cloud resources that are driving the adoption rates currently being seen. The lock-in factor will become evident in 2014 and beyond as the market matures and service offerings rapidly develop. “Simple” is not a word I expect to be associated with moving from one cloud provider to another!

At OCF, with our focus on HPC, we are seeing a more controlled, and perhaps cautious, approach to off-premise computing. The economics are slightly different to those around mainstream cloud services, and are related more to short-term business requirements rather than permanent migration. Organisations with a high level of in-house cluster utilisation will continue to invest in their own systems and use external capacity as and when they need it.

Software licensing continues to be a major inhibitor for HPC in the cloud, however we are beginning to see some signs that software vendors are preparing to relax their grip and begin, albeit reluctantly, to embrace the cloud. The “flexible” license options we have seen so far have generally carried a high cost. But this will inevitably change as ISVs become bolder.

We’ve been working with a CFD application provider, Next Limit Technologies, who have a full token-based license model that requires no up front investment. It’s entirely on-demand. We hope to look back at this in a couple of years and see it as the beginning of a huge change in licensing models that led to true “on demand” computing.

The cloud will continue to fill the trade press, but expect a few horror stories in amongst the tide of good news around enhanced services and user benefits.


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