Putting our head in the clouds. What’s the difference?

A question we’re often asked is  “What exactly is High-performance Compute as a Service (HPCaaS) and how is that different to what the large public clouds offer?”


Public, private, “As a Service”, baremetal, virtual, secure… so many different terms to describe cloud computing. But what do they all mean and how do they impact your compute decisions? First, let’s define some of the terms, as simply as we can. 


Cloud: computer(s) located in a remote datacentre, accessible from anywhere in the world.

Public cloud: the computer you access is directly connected to the internet (has its own IP address).

Private cloud: you have to “connect” in a secure and safe fashion to the provider before you can connect to the computer.

HPCaaS: large amounts of compute provided as a service, with full support.  The setup, configuration, storage and compute servers are sold as a single service.

Baremetal: you run on physical hardware and can directly access the ram, network, disk drives etc.

Virtual: you run on a “virtual” computer hosted on a physical server.  One physical server can “host” multiple virtual computers. Cloud providers usually assume you won’t use all the resources you request, so they over-subscribe the physical servers.

Secure: There are many levels, but broadly you can secure the physical infrastructure (not the virtual computers or services you run), you can secure the border to the physical computers/service, or you can secure the whole system.


So what are you signing up for when you join a cloud service?


Large public clouds generally offer virtual computers with the vendor securing their infrastructure, leaving the security of the virtual computers and applications up to you, the user.

Private cloud providers can be virtual or baremetal, with secure infrastructure and strong security at the border – services can not talk directly to the internet.  Access is only via secure methods using sophisticated encryption and authentication methods (two factor authentication, certificates etc).

In general both public and private cloud providers provide the infrastructure only and all operational steps needed to get up and running, like job queuing, file sharing, and, software optimisation, and security need to be managed by the user. 


With all the “as-a-service” offerings the whole service is provided, secured and maintained by the vendor, regardless of whether it is public, private, baremetal or virtual.  You just use the service and execute your workflows.

HPCaaS provides the full high-performance computing stack as a service – supercomputer as a service. This includes all the trimmings you don’t normally get in a system – batch job scheduling, workflow management, expert HPC support, scalable high bandwidth, super low latency network, and full flash universal storage.


So how do you decide what you need?  

If you need absolute raw performance then you want baremetal.

If you want to provide a web-service to the general public, you really need to be on a public cloud.

If you just want to run a workflow and don’t need the general public to access services from your job, then you probably want a private cloud or HPCaaS. If you don’t  have the expertise and time to set up and configure the virtual machines, manage job queuing and workflows, optimise your software for the hardware, and oversee the security then you choose HPCaaS. 


At DUG, we offer private baremetal HPCaaS – pure performance in a secure, fully-provisioned, fully-supported environment. Our HPC is ready to run jobs straight away. There are no virtual machines to set up or partitions to configure. The environment is built using familiar HPC components, including standard libraries, queuing, data storage, and more. Plus we have experts on hand to get you completely set up, ready to roll.

  • You can transfer your data directly over the internet or use our data loading service and we’ll take care of it for you.
  • We have an expert QC team on staff.
  • Our custom job management system will track your project from start to finish and ensure there aren’t any costly delays.
  • We have a team of world-class research physicists, mathematicians and software engineers to get your software running and optimise it for our environment. 

Want to learn more about DUG McCloud and our HPCaaS offering? Visit our website today, or contact us for a private chat.

By Stuart Midgley

Stuart Midgley is DUG's CIO and self-confessed "mad scientist". He holds a PhD in theoretical physics and is a world expert in high-performance computing. Stuart designed and developed the DUG Cool system of immersive cooling technology and was instrumental in the construction of DUG's world-class greenest data centres on earth. He's just as handy behind a BBQ. After all, he owns 17 of them.