Oak Ridge National Lab Turns to the Cloud to Meet High-Performance Computing Demands


Written by Dave Nyczepir

Oak Ridge National Laboratory intends to use the first high-performance computing platform to obtain FedRAMP Moderate operating clearance to meet the growing demand from researchers for its computing power.

ORNL is the first post-licensing customer of the Rescale ScaleX Government platform and will use the secure environment to rapidly scale its capacity to accommodate researchers running sensitive simulations.

The National Renewable Energy Lab sponsored Rescale’s Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) operating license, which agencies — especially those running clusters of supercomputers called high-performance computers (HPCs) — can now reuse to streamline purchasing.

“[S]access to the upper computer is reserved months in advance, and researchers generally have more ad hoc requirements for their simulations,” said John Turner, director of the computer engineering program at ORNL, in Monday’s announcement. “Rescale gives our researchers the flexibility to run their HPC computation in the cloud and collaborate in a secure, FedRAMP-compliant manner with other government agencies on shared datasets and algorithms.”

ORNL needed ScaleX Government because of supply chain issues that left it waiting on supercomputer hardware, but it will also leverage multi-cloud capability, said Ernest de Leon, director of the cybersecurity at Rescale at FedScoop.

Most agencies don’t have two or three HPC clusters on-premises on standby in case something goes wrong with one, so Rescale enables the use of multiple cloud providers – Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure in this case. from ORNL.

“If there was a capacity issue or some kind of operational issue that prevented them from running workloads in AWS, they could run them in Azure and vice versa,” de Leon said.

ScaleX Government also functions as an International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) secure environment if agencies need to run code and software in US regions only to meet these requirements. The platform can handle high-CPU, high-memory workloads related to aerospace codes for ORNL, but the lab also needed GPU clusters for the simulations the Department of Energy wants to run.

Under ITAR, regulated companies must control unintended exports by limiting access to protected data to US persons. They must also restrict the physical location of protected data to the United States.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research uses ScaleX Government for weather forecasting, which relies on large volumes of data, as does the US Geological Survey for its own research.

“Slowly we’re bringing more and more of these agencies into the tent,” de Leon said. “These specific agencies are running what we would call massive compute workloads.”

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