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Overcoming Dark Clouds In Cloud Computing

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More and more businesses are embracing cloud computing for their CFD simulations.

Our destination as engineers is clear. Our destination is finding solutions to problems, and our journey is the method we use to find our solutions. However, as with any journey, we face delays, roadblocks and turbulent patches from time to time. These patches of turbulence can not only affect us financially, but can impact on business growth and confidence, whether a large organization or a CFD freelancer.

In this article, we apply this metaphor to cloud computing, identifying the key roadblocks identified by engineers, and addressing how these can be easily overcome. So fasten your seatbelts, and read on.

A recent report summarized a discussion in 25 HPC and CAE LinkedIn Groups, highlighting the concerns of engineers, and how they form their opinions of the cloud, as well as how they identify areas of limitation.

The report shows that many engineers compare the benefits of workstations against in-house servers in a rather misinformed way, selecting the most positive aspects of their workstation and comparing against the most negative roadblocks of the cloud. This is not a fair or true comparison.

In this article, we address some of the key 'turbulence' areas or roadblocks, currently preventing users from embracing remote cloud computing. We address the current and traditional situation, and then go on to highlight 'the cloud advantage'. For CFD engineers and engineering consultants, the ability to tackle challenging problems and scale quickly is critical. Affordable solutions like EXN/Aero make it easy to augment your simulation throughput without increasing your costs or hardware footprint. 

SECURITY

Cyber security is a hot topic right now, and a concern for individual users, global organizations and governments around the world. The reality is that many companies or individuals cannot afford to pay large salaries to security experts, and as such, infrastructure and assets remain vulnerable.

Cloud computing has a particular problem when it comes to the perception of just how secure it is. In reality, the cloud is no more or less secure than any other model. Data can be vulnerable wherever it is hosted, whether on premises or on the cloud, particularly when policies or routine procedures are negligent or inadequate.

The Cloud Advantage; Any cloud provider today has integrated high levels of security to protect data and exchanges. Interconnections are covered by a secure protocol, and IP addresses are filtered (only the client’s own domain name is allowed). For security reasons, application installations are carried out by badged cloud experts only within cloud provider organizations. Other options (VPN, encryption…) are possible depending on the context and needs. A recent article by Search Cloud Computing assessed how in many ways, cloud computing can offer better security than traditional systems.

PROCUREMENT

The procurement process is the act of buying expensive hardware, software, and services above a certain budget limit, bound to approval from senior management. The procurement process for CFD software and hardware can often take months, involving IT purchase planning, standards determination, specifications development, supplier research and selection, value analysis, financing, price negotiation, making the purchase, supply contract administration, inventory control, accepting delivery, installing and certification testing the hardware, training people, and other related functions. 

The Cloud Advantage; Cloud services are usually short-term on-demand or on-reservation, and this can quickly cut the previously time-exhaustive process of procurement. Pricing models such as EXN/Aero on-demand cut the approval time substantially.

BUDGET (CAPEX & OPEX)

It has to be said – cloud computing can most certainly help you to cut back on costs, and budgets certainly remain at the forefront of issues important to consultants and organizations. 

Companies find themselves dealing with two different kinds of budgets: CapEx and OpEx. CapEx is the budget amount spent on acquiring or upgrading assets including compute servers, often required to increase capacity and efficiency of a company for more than one accounting period. OpEx, on the other hand, is the budget amount a company requires on an ongoing, day-to-day basis. 

The Cloud Advantage; There are many advantages to shifting cloud computing costs from CapEx to OpEx, and these were explored in a recent article. Notably, costs can be accounted for in the same accounting period, offering less risk and reducing the need to make large costly transaction.

FLEXIBILITY

A number of obligations are carried with your own server. In addition to these, you may find restrictions when it comes to your choice of resources such as the cloud. Many may not work effectively on your system, and you may find your system to not be fully utilized or optimal. As a result, your options may not be as open as you would like.

The Cloud Advantage; With the cloud, there is flexibility in your choice of hardware, software, timing, pricing, related tools, and utilization. An article by Rick's Cloud, addresses some of the ways cloud computing brings flexibility and scalability. Read it here.

RELIABILITY

Without multiple compute servers in an organization, the risk of a catastrophic failure is great, and during regular system maintenance, the company may find itself enduring outage periods.

The Cloud Advantage; Cloud-based services offer a solution during these times of outage, and many on-demand services have a greater level of infrastructure, preparing for and investing in the prevention of technical problems, reducing risk and inconvenience to you. Matthew Finnie of the Huffington Post, produced an article delving further into the reliability of the cloud. Read it here.

UTILIZATION

The higher the utilization of your compute server, the better the 'cost per core hour', and thus the better the overall economics. Utilization is often unpredictable, especially in small and medium enterprises, often owing to different project deadlines, engineer business trips or vacations, or time periods where a server may be completely 'jobless' i.e. weekends. Average server utilization numbers are just around 20%, leaving a massive 80% wastage, and reflecting 

The Cloud Advantage; In clouds, prices 'per core per hour' are calibrated with high utilization assumed; cloud service providers with many different customers can obviously much easier utilize their systems to the full.

ACCESSIBILITY

Over recent times, much work has been done to ease the access to high performance computing. This includes developing system and workload management software, portals, software and other tools. The disadvantage has been the large costs spent not only in making these developments, but also in the continuous training of users.

The Cloud Advantage; All of this time consuming work is done for the user, by the cloud service provider experts. In many ways, access to the cloud today can be considered seamless. Media Access Australia produced an interesting paper, assessing the accessibility of cloud computing. Read it here.

TECHNOLOGY

Systems and technologies continue to advance, and new products come to market on almost monthly basis. To remain relevant, we have to upgrade our existing equipment and hardware, often investing more money. During the depreciation phase, we are often forced to stick with our existing systems. 

The Cloud Advantage; To remain competitive, cloud providers are regularly refreshing their infrastructure to appeal to potential customers, and provide the best solution. The advantage therefore, is that we can shop around for the most suitable hardware and services.

WAIT TIMES

When you own a compute server, it is often too big at times of low demand, and too small at times of high demand. At peak load, jobs can be queued for hours, resulting in inconvenience all round. 

The Cloud Advantage; The cloud offers 'infinite' resources, and offers a level of convenience to the user. Should the resources provided by one cloud provider not be enough, a user can simply move on to the next provider. The cloud inherently has very little or no wait time.

Flight EXN/AERO to Cloud Computing, is now boarding.

    As the industry jumps onboard, ready to take a journey to widespread cloud use, the need to be fully aware of the many misconceptions is essential. The comparisons made by many are simply not 'like for like', and are often misinformed. 
    By fastening our seatbelts, and riding through these areas of turbulence, the CAE community can prepare to see the world from a new perspective, arriving at a destination where simulations are quicker, more affordable, and relevant with current technologies and advances.
    EXN/Aero is an example of an on-demand, HPC cloud-based solution, made available to engineering consultants and organizations on an affordable, accessible basis. This shapes the future of the industry, at a time where users need to overcome limitations to remain competitive, relevant, and pro-active.

Ready to try it for yourself?

EXN/Aero is a general purpose computational fluid dynamics, cloud solver that speeds up simulation runs by an order of magnitude. Compatible with most meshing tools, and using open source post-processing, there are a range of on-demand options available to users, helping them to overcome common limitations in their everyday work. 

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2017-05-31 | Categories: CFD, simulations, HPC