VMware Readying HPC Cloud Offering

July 15, 2016

By: Michael Feldman

A report by CRN says that VMware is developing a high performance computing service using the company’s vCloud Air IaaS platform. According to the report, the new service  will be aimed at “large enterprise customers.” The story was based on three unnamed sources that had been briefed on the product.

Launched in 2013, vCloud Air is VMware’s public cloud offering, an IaaS which is built atop vSphere, the company’s own virtualization platform for cloud computing. Both a subscription and pay-as-you-go service are available. VMware claims it delivers lower latency and better performance than either Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure.

From the CRN report:

“This will be a full-blown HPC cloud service targeted at vCloud Air's existing installed base, at first,” said a source, who didn’t want to be named because he’s not authorized to speak publicly about the offering.

As the article noted, VMware HPC evangelist Josh Simon has written about HPC customer interest in running their codes on vSphere on many occasions, and most recently about using accelerators like Intel’s Xeon Phi processors and NVIDIA’s Tesla GPUs in this environment. In a blog Simon posted in March, the implication was that VMware was indeed working to support both of these devices.

It’s possible VMware has other HPC-specific support in mind as well, but whether that would be enough to capture a reasonable slice of the HPC cloud business is an open question. The cloud market for high performance computing is a relatively small part of overall HPC spend -- about 3 percent according to Intersect360 Research. And while the market has shown signs of growth at times, the formula for success in this corner of the cloud space has been elusive.

More generally, as the CRN article points out, the vCloud Air service has had trouble competing against the really big public cloud providers like AWS and Azure. While the Air service is especially tuned to VMware technology, apparently that hasn’t been enough for the business to really take off. The alleged move into the HPC space may be part of a strategy to try to establish itself in a more specialized niche, while at the same time attempting to utilize cloud capacity that is currently sitting idle.

According to the story’s main source, VMware is currently testing the HPC service with early access customers and expects these trials to be completed by mid-August. The source surmised that the new service could be announced at the VMworld conference at the end of August.