HPC Matters is a joint blog consisting of contributors from the Tabor Communications team on their observations and insights into HPC matters.
July 25, 2008
Server partitioning -- one of the many implementations of IT virtualization -- has for the last half decade seen strong interest within commercial computing environments. This interest has been driven in large part in response to the population explosion of small servers that occurred in the first part of the decade. Confronted with the availability of inexpensive powerful PC-based servers, many users adopted the strategy of "a server for every application, and an application for every server."
This approach worked well until those pesky little boxes began to form herds, with each member requiring "care and feeding," which added up to some major system management expenses. To make matters worse, these herds of servers were generally underutilized (what does a print server do when no one is printing, other than generate heat?). Thus, users looked to virtualization and partitioning as a way to keep the herd of killer micros under control. By dividing an underutilized server into multiple logical partitions each configured to meet the requirements of a specific set of applications, users began to consolidate their servers (i.e., cull the herd). They have never looked back.
While this saga played out in the commercial computing world, HPC users have gone about their business, showing no great interest in the charms of partitioning -- in our recent HPC Site Census, only 18 of the 124 systems in the survey were partitioned. I think there are several major reasons why a technology that has been a superstar in the commercial sector is only getting third or fourth billing in HPC environments:
That said, we are hearing about partitioning more often, and there are several ways that partitioning might begin to move toward HPC's center stage:
A final point worth noting is that the different levels of interest in partitioning between commercial and HPC users illustrate the divide between them. These two branches of computing have fundamental differences in workflow patterns and end-user requirements that can lead to different strategies for configuring and managing computer room environments…. [Editors note: At this point the author began a manic rant, which quickly mounted to the incomprehensible. He has been sedated (we keep a dart gun for this purpose), and has been given into the care of professionals. We expect him to be back to (an approximation of) normal shortly.]
Posted by Chris Willard - July 24, 2008 @ 9:00 PM, Pacific Daylight Time
Christopher Willard, PH.D. is Chief Research Officer for Intersect360 Research
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