Government agencies increasingly rely on high performance computing (HPC) to manage large volumes of data and put that data to work to solve mission critical challenges. In recent years, HPC has helped the federal government develop treatments for COVID-19, conduct military simulations, and advance scientific discovery. And with the complexities of the challenges facing the US today, the demand for HPC is only going to continue to grow.
Managing these complex environments which include cloud computing, big data analytics, AI, simulation, storage, and network and ensuring maximum performance is challenging. Lack of preparedness and action can impact the number of complexities that an agency will face. By developing an environment and bringing in partners, agencies can help mitigate the challenges that HPC brings. Let’s look at three critical steps government agencies can take to manage HPC workloads now and in the future.
Some workloads, such as genomic sequencing, are simply too demanding for a single computer or server to process. A high performance computing environment addresses these challenges by combining a cluster of servers, storage, and other technologies working in parallel to boost processing speed.
Many agencies opt to use a hybrid HPC model, which allows them to run an on-premise data center but scale up public cloud resources quickly and cost-effectively as needed.
Cloud providers who maintain cutting-edge technology will be vital to agencies as they embrace HPC. Federal IT leaders must also ensure their cloud services operate at maximum performance, particularly during peak times, and that’s where it gets complicated.
Traditional performance monitoring solutions are not built to meet the needs of modern hybrid cloud environments spanning networks, regions, and complex software stacks. To ensure deep visibility in a single pane of glass across multi-vendor infrastructure and network environments, agencies must find ways to monitor up and down the entire HPC stack – both on-premises and in the cloud.
Observability is essential. Observability takes conventional monitoring a significant step forward by layering in cross-domain analytics and actionable intelligence. This allows IT pros to better visualize, observe, remediate, and automate their hybrid IT environments.
2. Secure HPC Systems and Infrastructure
As more agencies rely on HPC to process their data, these systems will become high-profile targets for attackers. The simplest way to protect any information stored in HPC environments is through encryption.
The Biden Administration’s Executive Order on Improving the Nation’s Cybersecurity mandates that data be encrypted in transit and at rest. Indeed, leaving agency data unencrypted at rest is like leaving the front door unlocked. If an intruder breaches an HPC system, the encrypted data acts as a virtual deadbolt.
Having a database backup strategy is also essential. If the agency experiences a cyberattack, it’s vital to separate critical data before and after a breach. Database backups can help accomplish this by protecting at-rest data stored in HPC systems and ensuring rapid restoration in the event of an attack. As a best practice, IT teams should encrypt or password-protect their database backup files, balance workloads, so backups won’t impact other operations, and stagger backups to avoid bandwidth throttling.
3. Run Consistent Workloads Across Hybrid Environments
Each workload must run consistently, whether an agency is managing HPC workloads on-premises or in the cloud. For instance, after an agency moves a workload to the cloud, it must perform simulations just as it did on-premises. This allows teams to deliver results reliably.
Most importantly, everything agencies need to rely on, including software, data, and computations, can easily be moved from one data center to another when service outages happen. This also gives federal agencies the flexibility to use big data efficiently at a low cost.
As more government agencies turn to high performance computing it’s vital that they find ways to eliminate complexity while protecting mission-critical systems and data. By keeping these three considerations in mind when building out their HPC environments, they’ll be able to put data to work to solve today’s – and tomorrow’s – most pressing issues.
The author, Brandon Shopp, is GVP, Product Strategy, SolarWinds