One of the underappreciated benefits of containers is the degree to which they make IT infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) platforms more available on demand.
Case in point is Nimbix, a provider of a high-performance computing (HPC) platform based on graphics processor units (GPUs) and field-programmable gate arrays dubbed JARVICE that is made available as a service. To make that service more accessible to developers, Nimbix has added support for Docker images to the container architecture for which JARVICE was originally built.
Nimbix CTO Leo Reiter says this Push-to-Compute capability is designed to make it possible for Docker developers to create HPC applications without having to invest in the IT infrastructure required to build them. In effect, Reiter says Nimbix has created a serverless computing platform that can be invoked as part of a hybrid microservices architecture. Developers can create their Docker applications anywhere, but then execute them on JARVICE.
To achieve that goal Nimbix distributes single node “JARVICE emulators” built into free Docker base images that developers can use to build and test their applications on local hardware. Developers maintain control of how much or how little of their code is exposed to end users. That approach should significantly reduce the cost of building and running HPC applications, says Reiter.
In addition, Nimbix offers a software-as-a-service (SaaS) marketplace where developers and independent software vendors are paid on a per usage basis when their workflows are consumed, all of which can be seamlessly updated via Push to Compute.
The marriage of microservices and serverless computing holds a lot of promise for transforming IT. Serverless computing doesn’t eliminate servers; rather, it makes them invisible to developers. By leveraging remote procedure calls (RPCs), additional compute, storage and networking resources are made available transparently to developers on demand.
In contrast, most cloud service providers today require developers to commit to consuming a specific amount of IT infrastructure resources. All too often developers oversubscribe the amount of IT infrastructure they need for fear of suddenly running out of capacity. Serverless computing eliminates that capacity management concern altogether in an HPC environment that now also makes it simpler to run applications in parallel or simply treat the Nimbix cloud as a natural extension of a distributed computing environment.
Nimbix is not the only cloud service provider investing in serverless computing. Amazon Web Services. IBM, Google and Microsoft have either rolled out a serverless computing service or are in the process of building one. But from a Docker container compatibility perspective, Nimbix is clearly pretty far along in terms of making back-end HPC services transparently available to developers that have embraced Docker containers.
In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see how Docker image compatibility might ultimately drive up consumption of HPC. Historically, deploying HPC systems required massive amounts of both capital investment and operational expertise. Now thanks in part to the rise of Docker containers, it’s starting to appear that HPC may soon become yet another service that has been democratized in the cloud.