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How Penguin Computing Is Fighting COVID-19 With Hybrid HPC

'We have several researchers that have joined in and are utilizing that environment, and at the moment, we're doing that at no cost for COVID-19 research,' Penguin Computing President Sid Mair says of the system integrator's cloud HPC service, which complements its on-premise offerings.

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Supporting Research On-Premise And In The Cloud

Penguin Computing President Sid Mair said the company is using its high-performance computing prowess on-premise and in the cloud to help researchers tackle the novel coronavirus.

The Fremont, Calif.-based company this week announced it is working with AMD to upgrade the U.S. Department of Energy's Corona supercomputer — a coincidence of a name — with the chipmaker's Radeon Instinct MI50 GPUs to accelerate coronavirus research. But that's not the only way the system integrator is looking to help researchers study and understand the virus.

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In an interview with CRN, Mair said the company is in multiple discussions for additional opportunities to help researchers using Penguin Computing's HPC capabilities to study the virus and COVID-19, the disease it causes. But the company is also using its own internal capabilities, an HPC cloud service called Penguin Computing On Demand, to deploy compute resources when there isn't enough time or money for researchers to stand up new on-premise HPC clusters for research.

"We have several researchers that have joined in and are utilizing that environment, and at the moment, we're doing that at no cost for COVID-19 research, even though it is a production commercial system that we currently sell high-performance computing compute cycles on today," he said.

HPC is seen as a critical tool in accelerating the discovery of drugs and vaccines for COVID-19, as demonstrated by the recent formation of the White House-led COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, which counts chipmakers AMD and Nvidia as well as OEMs and cloud service providers like Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Microsoft as members. The effort is also receiving support from Folding@Home, a distributed computing application that lets anyone with a PC or server contribute.

This strategy of utilizing both on-premise and cloud servers to deliver HPC capabilities is referred by some experts as "hybrid HPC," which Mair said allows researchers to offload compute jobs into the cloud when there isn't enough resources to deploy new on-premise servers.

"They can't upgrade quick enough in order to continue to do their research, so being able to walk in and move their workflow over into an HPC environment that works and acts and implements just like they would do it on-premise but they're doing it in the cloud is becoming very, very beneficial to our researchers," he said.

William Wu, vice president of marketing and product management at Penguin Computing, said Penguin Computing is also planning to expand its offerings for researchers doing anything related to COVID-19, which could include running simulations to understand the impact of easing stay-at-home restrictions.

"We do intend to roll out something much more broader to allow anybody that is doing anything related to COVID, either directly or indirectly, to take advantage of what we're offering," he said.

In Mair's interview with CRN, he discussed how Penguin Computing's new GPU upgrade deal with AMD for the Corona supercomputer came together, how the company protects its employees during server upgrades, why GPUs are important for accelerating COVID-19 research and whether the pandemic is shifting the demand between on-premise and cloud HPC solutions.

What follows is an edited transcript.

 
 
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