The Oort cluster has recently opened up to the whole Dutch Research and Academic community. Existing and coming users can benefit from various changes over the old Cloud, such as more powerful hardware, a robust and user-friendly interface and many other new features.
The Oort cluster consists of powerful compute and high-performant storage nodes, the physical machines where the users run their Virtual Machines (VMs). The hardware powering Oort includes:
In addition, the Oort cluster has 24 K2 NVIDIA GRID cards in 12 nodes.
The total number of SPECints amounts to 42.840 for all servers in the Cloud.
The new HPC Cloud uses Intel Haswell CPUs for good overall performance, and offers GPU nodes for GPU-accelerated applications. There are 2 storage types: Ceph and SSD. Data stored on Ceph is replicated, to protect against data loss in case of hardware failure. Users can keep the operating system images on SSD, and store the bulk data on Ceph datablocks. Small, local, and fast storage is typical for High Performance Computing and mainly used for computations and operating systems, whereas "Big Data" input and computed results are copied to the larger and more reliable network storage (Ceph).
The HPC Cloud service at SURFsara started in 2011. It was one of the first Cloud infrastructures in Europe dedicated to HPC. The HPC Cloud was implemented as an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) platform, relying on the OpenNebula Cloud middleware software. The goal was to provide scientists with their own virtual environment, including processing, storage and networking resources and full control over their own virtual machines (VMs). Scientists can log into their virtual machines, install their own operating system and applications, upload data and launch their HPC analysis. Some users prepare single multi-core or high-memory VMs, and others launch multiple VMs that cooperate in a private cluster, depending on the research requirements.
Many scientists benefit from the system's flexibility, because running their applications on the HPC Cloud requires less modification than running their application on other traditional HPC environments. The users appreciate this flexibility, and SURFsara has seen a steady increase in the number of projects. Thus far, about 300 projects from various research fields, including Life Sciences, Informatics, Ecology, Business Social sciences, Engineering, etc., have successfully used the HPC Cloud.
However, the old Cloud was designed mainly for compute power. With the growing popularity of the HCP Cloud, the focus shift towards more data centric science and the variety of projects run on the Cloud, the users needed a more optimized platform. Therefore, a completely new system has been built in order to meet these demands. The new Cloud is designed to fulfil as many user requirements as possible: a lot of computing power, lots of fast data storage and a fast network, all delivered through a user-friendly web interface.
The engineering team has installed and configured Oort piece by piece. Together with the advisors, the SURFsara Cloud team has worked hard to make the massive infrastructure upgrade possible. The upgrade includes major changes in both the software and the hardware backend.
The underlying Cloud software on the new HPC Cloud runs on the latest version - v4.12 - of OpenNebula. This offers an intuitive user interface, a scheduler for well-balanced and efficient use of the resources and the possibility to accommodate various user profiles, for novice, advanced and master users.
Launching VMs on the new HPC Cloud is easier than ever. Anyone who acquires an account on the user interface can import a pre-made OS image from the AppMarket repository, then configure the Virtual Machine's number of CPUs, amount of RAM, network, boot and data images at will and fire up the machine. This way, the VM is tailored to the user's needs.
The SURFsara engineering team introduces a new, more sophisticated user interface (UI). The users interact with the HPC Cloud via the web interface that OpenNebula offers. This is far more intuitive than before; it is now possible to run a VM on the Oort cluster with just few clicks.
The new role of the "groupadmin" allows master users to have full control of their projects. This includes creating new users, assigning quotas and tracking the project accounting in a dashboard.
Similarly to the old Cloud Wizard, the new HPC Cloud allows easy creation of a Linux VM from the AppMarket or through the appliances repository.
Ceph datablocks are used as local disks on virtual machines. They can be partitioned and formatted in any file system type, so they can be used on Linux or Windows systems, with full control of permissions and ownership of files.
It is also possible to connect and disconnect disks to or from running VMs, without the need for a machine reboot. All changes will take effect instantly with new disks appearing 'automagically' inside the user's machines after a successful action.
Several users have already experienced the new features of the HPC Cloud during the Beta phase and since recently also the production phase. The feedback is very positive and encouraging so far. The users find the UI a lot better than before, the VM instantiation and boot on local SSD very fast, CEPH more stable and faster than the previous NFS implementation and the AppMarket easy to use. The users report performance improvements in long-running computations and like the possibility to book large RAM memory spaces.
Up to now, SURFsara's HPC Cloud mainly accommodated individual scientists or small research groups who required HPC resources to successfully run their project. Although the HPC Cloud will remain the most suitable HPC platform to build this type of self-service running systems, SURFsara anticipates that the new Oort Cloud capabilities will attract new user segments such as: