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CentOS based OpenStack Cloud Computing platform boosts CHPC’s virtual environment service offering

The Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) has introduced a CentOS-based OpenStack cloud-computing platform to boost support to users running jobs in the cloud environment.

OpenStack is a set of software tools for building and managing cloud-computing platforms for public and private clouds and is managed by the OpenStack Foundation, a non-profit organisation that oversees both development and community building around the project. The addition enhances the CHPC’s significant portfolio of hardware and software applications that are available to the research community to allow them to perform world-class research.

The CentOS based OpenStack Cloud is a self-service Virtual Machine (VM) provisioning portal where common administrative tasks like VM creation, recouping of unused resources, and infrastructure maintenance tasks are automated and capacity analysis, utilisation, and end-user costing reports can be generated. It has replaced the centre’s VMware virtual environment or IT-Shop cluster that had limited memory resources due to the large demand of numerous projects requiring high-specification virtual machines and was no longer able to serve the requirements of CHPC users when its capacity deteriorated over time.

Improved service offering

The CHPC’s new virtual environment will offer the following benefits and functionalities:

  • Self-Service Portal:cloud users will now have the ability to deploy application on-demand with limited technical support to promote rapid and efficient IT Service;
  • Metered Service and Resource Monitoring: theCHPC will now be able to monitor resource utilisation from individual users or projects to prepare billing statement as per the centre’s cost-recovery model;
  • Avoidance of Vendor Lock-in: the OpenStack solution is open source. CHPC will reduce on cost related to proprietary software such as the VMware vSphere Solution; and
  • Enable Rapid Innovations (DevOps):the CHPC staff can significantly reduce on development and testing periods and have more freedom to experiment with new technology or even do customisation to expand the capabilities of the OpenStack Cloud.

“The cloud platform further enable CHPC to gather the necessary expertise both technical and operational to develop, provision and operate a national federated OpenStack platform, and allow for global connectivity in a virtual environment for mega project like the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) and those similar in stature”, said Ms Dorah Thobye, Technical Manager: CHPC.

Technical specifications of the CHPC’s virtual environment

The new solution is built on Supermicro server and storage systems, using the Supermicro TwinPro servers to provide 320cores/640threads (2.50 - 3.90GHz) and over 3TB DDR4 memory providing some 9GB RAM per core and all in just 4U of rack space. It is connected through Mellanox 100GB ethernet networking to Supermicro Ultraand Supermicro Simply Double Servers,providing a CEPH Storage cluster with over 1.5PB (1500TB) of mechanical disk storage and more than 220TB of flash storage.

The addition of the cloud-computing platform to the CHPC service suite, is not only in-line with international standards of High Performance Computing (HPC) centres, but will assist the centre to support its users that are running virtual jobs in the cloud environment such as custom workflows, pleasingly parallel workloads and webhosting. Furthermore, the OpenStack service enables the CHPC to be a road-header for virtual HPC application provisioning and configuration in the future. “OpenStack provides a different offering for other users of HPC and this implementation is a step in the right direction to revolutionise HPC and drive towards converging platforms,” said CHPC Acting Director, Dr Happy Sithole.