January 3, 2012
Right at the tail end of 2011, the TOP500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers got an update. And while the top spot expectedly went to Fujitsu’s K Computer, the Amazon EC2 cloud platform had an impressive showing, placing as the 42nd most powerful supercomputer in the world. That’s a huge potential boon for Amazon resellers and developers that use the IaaS platform as the foundation of their cloud efforts.
Now, Amazon EC2’s high placement on the Top500 comes with its share of caveats: As Wired pointed out, computing performance under the list’s benchmark test might vary wildly from your actual virtual machine (VM) speed, and what’s more, it’s not designed with the kind of machine interfaces advanced supercomputer applications need to take full advantage of the impressive hardware specs. In other words, it’s good, but the cloud isn’t going to remove the need for more “traditional” supercomputers anytime soon.
That said, the cost savings are too great to be ignored. Mashable mentioned a case in which an unnamed pharmaceutical giant rented Amazon EC2 as a supercomputer at a peak rate of $1,279 per hour for seven hours. That’s still worlds cheaper than a legacy supercomputer. The lesson to be learned: There’s still plenty of potential application for a cloud-based supercomputer that’s somewhat limited in functionality.
Amazon’s put a lot of time, money and effort into improving the EC2 platform over the least year or two. TalkinCloud is going to keep close watch, so stay tuned.
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