Supercomputing company Interactive Supercomputing has introduced a less than usual service that lets users tap into a supercomputer for a small fee. Since total ownership costs for a machine rigged with hundreds of cores would bring any average user to bankruptcy, buying supercomputing time seems the only acceptable solution for the moment.
The new service, called Star-P On-Demand is primarily targeted at small and mid-sized businesses as well as at individuals coming from the scientific / research environments, who need increased computing power. The company is providing its customers with scaled access to the supercomputer's resources for a small nominal fee.
However, the company does not offer a software-as-a-service product, that gives the user access both to the preferred software application as well as to the computational resources, but rather to the supercomputer's processing power only.
This means that the user must have its preferred application installed and working on their desktop PCs or notebooks. Right after collecting the data to be processed, the user offloads it to the rented processor cores, when it gets "crunched" and processed. The results are then passed from the supercomputing platform back to the users in a processed form.
According to Dave Gibson, head of business development at Interactive, users can connect using Secure Shell or SSH to pass data to and from the supercomputer.
The company grants users access to any number of the 168 processor cores on Intel quad chips. Depending on the amount of data to be processed, users can rent the computer's resources on a hourly basis. The company charges $2.77 per processor core per hour, which means that the entire supercomputer with all its cores would cost about $465 an hour.
The prices might seem a little bulky at the first glance, but in fact they are cheaper than building, maintaining and operating your own supercomputer. More than that, why buy an entire supercomputer if you plan to use it for a short while? Supercomputers are extremely picky creatures that are supposed to run in humidity- and electromagnetic- controlled environments, not to mention their huge appetite for energy.