Microsoft Gets HPC Boost with Cycle Computing Buy

Microsoft on Tuesday announced its acquisition of Cycle Computing, a provider of solutions for managing large workloads in the public cloud, as well as in hybrid and on-premises datacenter infrastructures.

Founded in 2005, Cycle Computing built its business on developing orchestration software designed to deploy and manage virtual clusters and storage to enable high-performance computing (HPC) workloads, including machine learning, genomic research and complex simulations.

The company's orchestration software now can run those workloads using any combination of the three largest public clouds: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Cycle Computing says its software is used by companies of all sizes, including those -- like JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, Pfizer and Purdue University -- with some of the largest workloads.

Cycle Computing's orchestration platform, called CloudCycle, includes a workflow engine and load balancer that utilizes cloud resources to enable computation at any scale, while using encryption to ensure data remains secure. Cycle Computing is on pace to manage 1 billion core hours this year and is growing at a 2.7x annual pace, according to CEO Jason Stowe in an announcement about the Microsoft acquisition.

Cycle Computing's CloudCycle HPC workflow and load balancing platform.

Cycle Computing's customers spend $50 to $100 million on cloud services, according to Stowe, though he emphasized its software also supports on-premises and hybrid workloads. "Our products have helped customers fight cancer and other diseases, design faster rockets, build better hard drives, create better solar panels and manage risk for peoples' retirements," Stowe noted.

In Microsoft's announcement, Corporate Vice President Jason Zander said Cycle Computing brings its tools, capabilities and experience in supporting some of the largest supercomputing scenarios to Azure. Zander also believes Cycle Computing will play a role in picking up the pace in mainstream cloud migration.

"Cycle Computing will help customers accelerate their movement to the cloud and make it easy to take advantage of the most performant and compliant infrastructure available in the public cloud today," according to Zander.

Asked whether CloudCycle will continue to support AWS and GCP, a spokesperson for the company said it will continue to support existing clients whose implementations include the two competitors. However, "future Microsoft versions released will be Azure-focused. We are committed to providing customers a seamless migration experience to Azure if and when they choose to migrate."

Interestingly, AWS showcased Cycle Computing at the 2013 AWS Summit event in New York. In an interview at that event, Stowe described an HPC project for a major pharmaceutical firm that used 10,600 server instances in AWS' Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). To run that simulation in-house would require the equivalent of a 14,400 square-foot datacenter which, based on calculations from market researcher IDC, would cost $44 million, he said at the time.

"Essentially, we created an HPC cluster in two hours and ran 40 years of computing in approximately 11 hours," Stowe explained. "The total cost for the usage from Amazon was just $4,472."

During that interview, when asked if he was looking to other cloud services such as Azure, GCP or others, Stowe responded that only AWS was suited to such jobs. "Who knows what the future holds, but from our perspective, AWS has a tremendous advantage in its technology," he said at the time.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.