Amazon opens supercomputing service

A new option for Amazon Web Services has arrived: the raw computing power of supercomputing clusters now widely used in research circles.

The service, called Cluster Compute, is a variation of one of the earliest services Amazon offered, EC2, or Elastic Compute Cloud. Compared with the standard EC2, Cluster Compute offers more processing power and faster network connections among the cluster's computing nodes for better communications, Amazon said Tuesday. The service retains the same general philosophy, though: customers pay as they go, with more usage incurring more fees.

The cluster service, which is available with Linux and a customer's own software added into the mix, is best suited to parallel tasks that can be divided into independent pieces that run simultaneously.

The special-purpose version of EC2 is better than the generic, according to Keith Jackson, a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory computer scientist. "In our series of comprehensive benchmark tests, we found our HPC (high-performance computing) applications ran 8.5 times faster on Cluster Compute Instances for Amazon EC2 than the previous EC2 instance types," he said in Amazon's announcement.

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