European researchers switch from super computers to cloud computing
More than ever now, the European Commission needs to focus on building and growing the high-performance computing (HPC) market. High-performance computing (HPC) uses supercomputers to solve advanced computation problems and is a key enabler of ground-breaking innovation that creates high wage jobs and allows Europe’s competitiveness to be maintained.
The world of high-performance computing is in the middle of a radical change and more focus will be laid on software rather than on hardware.
An example of this trend is cloud computing that promises to facilitate the high performance computing market. The cloud computing power is supplied from large data centres in the network, and offers economies of scale as the cost per server is drastically lowered based on a “pay per use” principle.
The European Commission started collaborating with IDC to support the development of a supercomputing strategy for Europe. The number of European supercomputing vendors has decreased radically over the last decades. After the collapse of Olivetti and Siemens Nixdorf, Europe’s computer industry has largely vanished. On the list of HPC Vendor Revenue Shares, 2010, there is only one European vendor listed: Bull, with a 1% market share.
As global economic indicators show uncertain times ahead, it is imperative that organizations in commercial and academic sectors not only maintain maximum operational efficiency but also again look to innovation to compete in the market, which presents great opportunities especially for small European businesses. This was confirmed by Earl Joseph, Vice President of IDC, who said, “HPC Leadership is not about having the biggest computer. It is about how you use those computers to make scientists, your factories and everyone else more productive and innovative…It is around software. Not around hardware.”
So, although the majority of the super-computing hardware industry may have vanished from Europe, the game is not over. The European Commission promotes research and gives special attention to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), putting an emphasis on catalysing software innovation that can bring European research and development ahead of its competition and can increase productivity and ground-breaking innovation in Europe.
In our company, Techila, we have noticed that unavailability of computing capacity is no longer the problem in high-performance computing. There are almost infinite amounts of computing capacity available in cloud services. According to the leading research companies Gartner, Saugatuck Technology and IDC, the key problem in business and operational computing is that applications cannot utilize the available capacity to make their performance scale up.
At Techila, we promise to make high performance computing (HPC) as easily available as plugging into a socket to access the electricity grid. Using cloud computing, Techila enables European HPC to reach new heights, but without large ownership costs or investment in hardware. This product, which has already enabled completing a 15-year long European breast cancer research in 4,5 days, is a live example of developing HPC leadership with software: enabling the use of computers to make European scientists, factories and everyone else more productive and innovative.
In the treatment of breast cancer, it is important to be able to assess the likelihood that a primary tumor develops metastases – a very meticulous operation as there are a series of analysis that need to be conducted. This means that high computational power is required. For the first time a research team at the University of Helsinki has now utilized the enormous computing capacity of the Windows Azure cloud service through the middleware solution developed by us at Techila. These researchers have been introduced to an easy to use and secure technology that distributes HPC applications to existing computing resources, manages workloads to achieve results in an optimal time.
Sampsa Hautaniemi, a docent at the University of Helsinki states “the fact that computational resources provided by the cloud services available increases prospects to conduct really demanding projects that were not possible a few years ago. Previously we had to limit our research plans due to the inability to perform certain computations”.
On average, 95% of the computing capacity of desktop computers in universities is wasted. By using Windows Azure, this capacity is maximized up to 99%. The traditional European supercomputing industry has largely vanished, but so what? It is all about software. Not about hardware.
Techila Technologies Ltd is a privately held provider middleware solutions to produce HPC from the cloud. The company was founded in 2006 in Finland. Techila enables applications to harness and utilize the infinite capacity of the Cloud quickly and easily. Unlike any other HPC middleware solutions, Techila can be integrated easily and used securely, without the complexity.
Techila's typical customers are large organizations doing business critical optimization, modeling, simulations or data-analysis, and who need faster access to results in their business critical computing.
Techila is also part of the Microsoft BizSpark programme (supporting start-ups and small businesses with access to technology and financing streams) and the winner of the 2nd place at this year’s Microsoft BizSpark Summit.
In order to address the challenges of the data explosion, Techila Technologies, University of Helsinki, University of Cambridge, Malaga University as well as VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and two European SMEs have agreed to start an EU FP7 funded project “BIO knowLEDGE Extractor and Modeller for Protein Production” (BIOLEDGE).
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