For Genentech, this was cheap and easy compared to the alternative of buying 10,000 cores for its own data center and having them idle away with no work for most of their lives, Corn says. Using Genentech's existing resources to perform the simulations would take weeks or months instead of the eight hours it took on Amazon, he says. Genentech benefited from the high number of cores because its calculations were "embarrassingly parallel," with no communication between nodes, so performance stats "scaled linearly with the number of cores," Corn said.
Cycle also used some of its own software to detect errors and restart nodes when necessary, a shared file system, and a few extra nodes on top of the 10,000 to handle some of the legwork. To ensure security, the cluster was engineered with secure-HTTP and 128/256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard encryption, according to Cycle.
Cycle Computing boasted that the cluster was roughly equivalent to the 114th fastest supercomputer in the world on the Top 500 list, which hit about 66 teraflops. In reality, they didn't run the speed benchmark required to submit a cluster to the Top 500 list, but nearly all of the systems listed below No. 114 in the ranking contain fewer than 10,000 cores.
Genentech is still waiting to see whether the simulations lead to anything useful in the real world, but Corn says the data "looks fantastic." He says Genentech is "very open" to building out more Amazon clusters, and Cycle Computing is looking ahead as well.
"We're already working on scaling up larger," Stowe says. All Cycle needs is a customer with "a use case to take advantage of it."
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