Oak Ridge National Lab turns to 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 a FedRAMP Moderate authorization to operate to meet researchers’ growing demand for its computing power.

ORNL is the Rescale ScaleX Government platform’s first customer post-authorization and will use the secure environment to quickly scale its capacity to accommodate researchers running sensitive simulations.

The National Renewable Energy Lab sponsored Rescale’s Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP) authorization to operate, which agencies – particularly those running clusters of supercomputers called high-performance computers (HPCs) – may now reuse to streamline procurement.

“[S]upercomputer access is booked months in advance, and researchers commonly have more ad hoc requirements for their simulations, ”said John Turner, director of the Computational Engineering Program at ORNL, in Monday’s announcement. “Rescale gives our researchers the flexibility to run their HPC computing in the cloud and to collaborate in a secure, FedRAMP-compliant manner with other government agencies across shared datasets and algorithms.”

ORNL needed ScaleX Government due to supply chain issues that left it waiting on supercomputer hardware, but it will also take advantage of the multi-cloud capacity, Ernest de Leon, director of cybersecurity at Rescale, told FedScoop.

Most agencies don’t have two or three on-premise HPC clusters on standby should something go wrong with one so Rescale allows the use of multiple cloud providers – Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure in ORNL’s case.

“If there was a capacity issue or otherwise 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 a secure International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) environment should agencies need to run codes and software in US regions only to meet those requirements. The platform can handle high-CPU and high-memory workloads related to aeronautic codes for ORNL, but the lab also needed GPU clusters for simulations the Department of Energy is interested in running.

Under ITAR, companies that are subject to the regulations must control unintended exports by restricting access to protected data to US Persons. They must also restrict the physical location of protected data to the US.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research uses ScaleX Government for weather prediction, 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,” Leon said. “These specific agencies are running what we would call massive compute workloads.”

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