22 Jun 2016 Frankfurt - On the Exhibition floor at ISC 2016 in Frankfurt, Germany, Primeur Magazine talked with Bill Nitzberg from Altair who had three exciting announcements to make. The first was that you can now download an open source license version of PBS Pro. One day after the announcement, Altair already had its first contributor from outside of Altair. The second announcement was about two new products that are coming out in the next couple of months. One is a simulator for PBS and for HPC clusters. The other one is PBS Cloud Manager, a product that lets you build full appliances - hardware, middleware, software - in the Cloud, on Amazon Azure as well as on-premise.
Primeur Magazineasked Bill Nitzberg what open source exactly means for Altair. Bill Nitzberg said that he spent many years in industry and in his opinion, the HPC world is really split between the public sector and the private sector. In the HPC space in particular, there are probably a dozen workload managers. There have been a lot of efforts to merge them but none of them succeeded. Why are there really a dozen? Because nobody can actually take over this space and fulfill the full needs of both the public and the private sector at the same time. The best way to do that is by using de facto standards. The reason that you can't, is that in the public sector the players are universities, research labs, risk takers, innovators and international collaborators, whereas in the private sector they just want tools to do a job. They are not really interested in taking risks and they are natural competitors.
What this led to is that in the public sector some resources have a real preference and in the private sector commercial software is not always the preference but a requirement for what they are doing. Altair wanted to be able to provide something that bridges the gap between these two worlds. You have one thing that both can play in the public sector and in the private sector. What Altair announces and delivers is PBS Professional dual license. There is an open source license for PBS Pro but there is also the fact that Altair is continuing its commercial license for all of its commercial customers. For them, nothing changes. Altair is using a common core. By having a single common core - not a stripped down version, not a limited version - Altair can take all the community innovations that are done in the public sector and move those over to the private sector.
Altair also takes some of the enterprise innovations that happened in the private sector and move them back. Altair can really try to finally have something where there is the economy of scale, where the bulk of the HPC effort can go into one thing that can help the whole community instead of having two separate communities that are working independently. This is the same reason why Altair is happy about what the OpenHPC effort is doing. Altair is a founding member of OpenHPC. It is driven by a similar mission which is to try to build a de facto standard that we can use to cross the barrier of the entire HPC community and really focus the energy in one direction instead of focusing energy in all sorts of different directions. Bill Nitzberg personally thinks that this is a fantastic opportunity for the HPC community.
Primeur Magazine:If you have a paid license you can get things like support and so on, is that the idea?
Altair is still going to offer support for both versions. Altair is still offering a commercial license and what comes with a commercial license, such as the usual legal stuff, identification and everything else. Altair also has a full set of commercial tools. That is actually a good introduction to the two other things that Altair announced, which will be part of the enterprise toolset that you can get from Altair. These are in addition to the existing commercial tools that Altair has for end user engineers' and scientists' portals for job submission and especially for remote visualization.
Altair is adding more tools for the HPC administrator and that is where the PBS simulator comes in. The PBS simulator is a new thing. Altair is getting a lot of really good feedback from people it has talked to. The PBS simulator lets you try things out so you can actually imagine you are running your HPC system and you are not getting the service level you want for your high priority queue: it is taking too long for jobs to start. You can go to the simulator and you can push to have it taken a snapshot of your live system. You can make some modifications on your simulator system.
You can, for instance, turn pre-emption on because you think you might want to use pre-emption in order to bring down the job turnaround time. You are not sure that is actually going to work so you can try it out in a simulated world. You can configure a simulated PBS system to have run your last month's workload. You want to compare and you run one last month's workload and both what happened in your last month for real versus the simulated one with pre-emption and put them together to see whether pre-emption really fixed your problem and achieve the goal you were looking for. But you can also see whether it messed something else up. This sounds like a good thing to do because maybe you know everything else on the system doesn't happen the way you want it to do. You will be able to use the simulator to do this sort of 'what-if' tests but even more than that: you can actually use it to take, for example, a configuration proposal to the upper management to show that this not only might be a good idea but to see that it actually turns out to be that way.
The third thing that Altair announced at ISC'16 and that is going to be released within two months is a product called PBS Cloud Manager. This is a product targeted at HPC appliances for building HPC appliances both in the public Cloud, such as Amazon Azure, as well as building appliances on your local on-premise hardware. In the HPC appliance, you define in an abstract way the hardware that you need and how it is connected together with storage and network, as well as the middleware that you want to deploy on that hardware, as well as the applications, such as the manufacturing applications, the biomedical applications or the weather applications.
A solution architect does that part in a natural way. The other side of Cloud Manager allows anybody, even up to the end user engineer, to say: "I am ready to do some CFD work and I need a CFD appliance. I don't know anything about IT and if I want one, I just have to click a button, saying I could use five implicit nodes and six explicit nodes and 2 GPU nodes". The appliance is a configured but the end user doesn't have to know anything about HPC. He is just talking in his language to say: "Please, make this option for Azure" and he gets back a web address to which he can connect. He can have a job portal and do remote visualization. Everything is up and running and he doesn't have to worry about anything.
Primeur Magazine:This is a product that will be coming out. It is not yet available?
Bill Nitzberg said that you can join the PBS Pro open source community and download the software right now at PBSpro.org. The PBS simulator and the PBS Cloud Manager are announced and will be coming out. You can contact Altair if you want to see the early access. The beta will start for both of these products in the next couple of months.
The complete interview can be watched below: