The Cloud Breathes New Life Into Workstations - Page 2

 By Brian Proffitt
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If this sounds a bit like grid computing, you would be close, but the key difference here is that unlike grid, plugging workstations into the cloud doesn't require the administrative overhead of managing a grid computing infrastructure. Local applications and operating systems will still need to be configured, of course, but the burden is still less than managing a grid.

This approach can be less painful economically, too. GreenButton, for instance, offers a $19.95 base monthly subscription rate for 100 allocated cores, 100 maximum users, but only one job at a time, or a $0.30/core hour rate with 360 cores/pool, six users, and the capability to run simultaneous jobs.

Other services will offer similar rates, likely tied into the rate plans from Azure and Amazon Web Services.

Disruptions ahead for supercomputing

Once such services become more prolific and more ISVs provide the apps to work with such platforms, then it will be only natural to see even more disruption of supercomputing, particularly as verticals like geological research and biotechnology start to make use of such systems in favor of high-cost local supercomputers, which are inherently limited by their size. Plugging into cloud-based processing, however, isn't limited by hardware: the only limit is your budget.

There are trade-offs, of course: though administrating this kind of architecture costs less than grid computing, it's still about the same as managing a typical client-side architecture. And let's not forget, workstations aren't cheap. The average desktop PC runs for about $500, while workstations can average around $1100. These costs will definitely have to be considered if you plan to deploy this kind of architecture.

Still, now that customers can have direct access to scalable supercomputing power from within native applications with which end users are already familiar, the possibility of getting months of lead time on competition thanks to much-shortened simulation or processing times.

That kind of benefit could be the difference between winning and losing in today's tightly competitive markets.

Brian Proffitt is a technology expert who writes for a number of publications. Formerly the Community Manager for Linux.com and the Linux Foundation, he is the author of 20 consumer technology books, including the most recent Take Your iPad to Work. Follow him on Twitter at @TheTechScribe.

This article was originally published on Jan 12, 2011
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