15 Things You Must Consider When Buying an HPC Cluster

Posted on February 23, 2016

HPC clusterAdvanced Clustering Technologies is celebrating 15 years in business as a leading provider of turn-key HPC solutions including high performance computing clusters, servers, workstations and on demand HPC cloud computing as a service. To commemorate the occasion, the company is sharing 15 things you should know when buying an HPC cluster.

1. Turn-key is key. Advanced Clustering conducted an intensive consultation with Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and determined a cluster upgrade (adding nodes and increasing memory) would meet the institute’s computational needs. Customer Huang said: “What we ended up with were the necessary components that met the demands of our computationally intensive and memory demanding data analyses.”

2. You should expect (and receive) superior customer service. As customer Dana B. of Oklahoma State University said: “The engineers and techs at ACT work with us to continuously improve the cluster, most recently with the addition of their job submission software, eQUEUE. We have been thoroughly pleased with how products and service from Advanced Clustering just work.”

3. Customization is critical. Customer Washington University in St. Louis needed an HPC solution that would be scalable for future needs but the initial plan was cost-prohibitive. Advanced Clustering offered a solution, proposing the new Intel Haswell processors while other vendors were offering the previous generation. Advanced Clustering engineers did extensive testing with the new processors and helped with a presentation that demonstrated the advantages of more cores with fewer nodes. The result, according to customer Malcolm T.: “Advanced Clustering helped us understand how various hardware and software solutions could allow us to gain cost savings while maintaining the level of computing power that we needed.”

4. Experience matters. Customer Malcolm T. said: “Since we were not familiar with some of these technologies, there was a level of uncertainty on our part. When these situations arose, Advanced Clustering brought in their technical people, who provided enough information to make us comfortable enough to proceed.”

5. On demand is in demand. Advanced Clustering customers are turning increasingly to ACTnowHPC, the on demand HPC cluster in the cloud, for pay-as-you-go access to the latest technology on bare metal hardware. As customer Barry L. said: “On our current system, we can run just three large jobs at the same time. On ACTnowHPC, we’ve more than tripled our productivity with even faster turn-around time job-per-job than on our own system.”

6. Have the talk: getting the most for the money. Advanced Clustering Technologies worked with Argonne National Laboratory to design a high-performance computing system with the horse power they needed to further develop their lithium products at a price they could afford. The result: a cluster that provides Argonne with new insight into the energetics, dynamics and structure of new materials at the molecular level.

7. Take advantage of training to bring your whole team up to speed. Customer Evan L. said: “Jordan and Jim came down for our installation and training, and I cannot think of anything that could have been done better.”

8. Look for balance to meet varied needs. One customer needed to meet a diverse set of technical requirements that meant delivering outstanding performance for both compute- and memory-bound workloads. The result: A cluster where some biology and physics applications run up to twice as fast on these systems as on the customer’s previous-generation cluster.

9. Don’t forget the bottom line – quality. Customer Tom M. said: “The short story is that I love the Advanced Clustering Technologies cluster. On every major account including quality, price, management and fun, our cluster scores very high.”

10. Utilization is important. Do you have a plan? Washington University in St. Louis used eQUEUE, Advanced Clustering’s web-based job submission tool, to increase utilization of the university’s HPC cluster by providing a Linux desktop environment in numerous labs and classrooms. This also freed up space in what had previously been a dedicated Linux lab. As customer Mark B. said: “A project that ends with making space available for other uses at a university is hard to find, and eQUEUE is an incredibly economical way to make that happen.”

11. Focus on flexibility to increase productivity. Working with General Atomics on various system topologies, Advanced Clustering Technologies devised a plan that provided a computing solution flexible enough to handle the small and intermediate-sized jobs in a most efficient way. Did it help? The customer said: “Immensely.”

12. Expect speedups – and plan for them. As customer Mike V. said: “The cluster is running great. We were able to complete some production runs and a set of CFD runs that previously took 6.5 days was completed in 14 hours.

13. RMAs don’t have to be complicated. Customer Damon G. said: RMAs can be such a pain with some companies, but Advanced Clustering makes it painless.”

14. Increasing efficiencies saves money. Advanced Clustering Technologies built a cluster for MIT that offered an excellent trade-off between cost and performance. The cluster has boosted MIT’s capability to carry out their solar panel project to find a better way to deliver solar energy to the home.

15. Working with a small business means more attention for your needs. Customer Malcolm T. said: “There were some concerns about choosing a smaller vendor, but Advanced Clustering’s reputation for providing quality support quickly put those to rest.”

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