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Maurizio Davini, CTO, University of Pisa and Thierry Pellegrino, Vice President of Business Strategy & HPC Solutions, Dell Technologies join Stu Miniman for coverage of VMworld 2020.
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Q&A: Medieval University of Pisa embraces virtualization technology
BY DIEGO ASTURIAS
The University of Pisa is a medieval institution that was built to last. One of the oldest and well-established universities in the world, and home to the teachings of the famous Galileo Galilei, the University of Pisa proves that innovation is key to not only staying alive, but thriving.
Fast forward 700 hundred years. Today the University of Pisa embraces technology. Now it is no longer about telescopes or thermometers, but about scientific computing, virtualization and high-performance computing.
“The University of Pisa is a campus in the sense that [its] faculties are spread all over the town,” said Maurizio Davini (pictured, left), chief technology officer of the University of Pisa. “A medieval town like Pisa poses a lot of problems from the infrastructural point of view. So, we have worked a lot in the past to try to adapt a medieval town to the latest technologies advancements … at a certain point, we decided to try to understand if VMware virtualization would be good also for scientific computing. Why? Because at the end of the day, the requests that we have from our internal users is flexibility.”
Davini’s team discovered that virtualization would help them keep the innovation going. So they designed their new IT systems with virtualization in mind and chose VMware for their core database and server systems. They used VMware to create a cluster split across multiple sites, and they also concentrated on virtual storage and hyperconverged systems to increase flexibility and reliability.
Davini and Thierry Pellegrino (pictured, right), vice president of workloads and solutions at Dell EMC and vice president and general manager of HPC at Dell Technologies, spoke with Stu Miniman, host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s livestreaming studio, during VMworld. They discussed the University of Pisa’s infrastructure, GPUs, and virtualization’s flexibility. (* Disclosure below.)
[Editor’s note: The following has been condensed for clarity.]
One of your historical teachers, Galileo, taught at the university. So phenomenal history. Help us understand, what does that encompass?
Davini: During the last 20 years, the university has done a lot of effort to build an infrastructure that was able to develop and deploy the latest technologies for the students. So, for example, we have a private fiber network covering all the town, 65 kilometers of a dark fiber that belongs to the university, four data centers, one big and three little centers connected today at 200-gigabit ethernet.
Maurizio, let’s get in specifically to how you’re partnering with Dell. You’ve got a strong background in the [high-performance computing] space, working with supercomputers. What is it that you’re turning to Dell and their ecosystem to help the University with?
Davini: We have several systems for doing HPC — traditional HPC that are based on a Dell Technologies software. We have a strong relationship with Dell Technologies developing solutions to leverage the latest technologies to scientific computing, and this has helped a lot during the research that has been done during this pandemic.
Pellegrino: Every time we have new technologies that are to be evaluated, of course, we spend time evaluating in our labs, but we make it a point to share that technology with Maurizio and the team at the University of Pisa. That’s how we find some of the better usage models for customers, help to tune some configurations, whether it’s on the processor side, the GPU side, the storage, and the interconnect.
Thierry, you and I had a conversation earlier in the year when VMware was really gearing their full GPU suite. VMware was talking a lot about AI solutions and how this is going to help. What is it that this enables them [customers] and how Dell and VMware bring those solutions to bear?
Pellegrino: Can you believe that only, on average, 15 to 20% of GPUs are fully utilized? So, when you think about the amount of technology that’s at our fingertips and especially in a world today where we need that technology to advance research and scientific discoveries, wouldn’t it be fantastic to utilize those GPUs to the best of our ability?
Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of VMworld. (* Disclosure: Dell Technologies Inc. sponsored this segment of theCUBE. Neither Dell Technologies nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)
Maurizio Davini cover the CTO role at University of Pisa. He is in charge of IT R&D, Technology Transfer and Industrial Partnerships. He is in charge of the HPC and Scientific Computing Resources. He is in charge of the HW acquisitions and DataCenter Operations. Holds 25 years of experience in HW and SW Design ,Test and Benchmarks of Server, Storage and Network and more than 15 years of experience in Design and Operations of HPC Systems. He pioneered Web in early ‘90s and Linux Clusters in late 90’s. He has been involved in the design of a couple of Top500 HPC Systems. His current work spans from DataCenter to HPC,BigData and Cloud Solutions design and operation. Maurizio has been member of TC Executive Advisory Council of Microsoft Corp. and senior consultant for Ferrari F1 Team.View the profile
From around the globe. It's the cue with digital coverage of vmworld 2020 brought to you by the end where and its ecosystem partners. I'm stupid and welcome back to the cubes coverage of the emerald 2020 or 11 to you're doing the show of Courts, be Global virtual event and what are we love talking about? On the QB love, talking to customers. It is a user conference, of course. Oh, really happy to Welcome to the program. From the University of Pisa, the chief technology officer, Mauricio dip in joining him is Terry Pellegrini one of her Cube alumni who's the vice president of
worldwide workload Solutions in HPC with Dell Technologies. Co. Thank you so much for joining us. Thanks to next to you. All right, so we're to look like, let's start University of Pisa. Obviously, everyone knows Pisa. What? One of the famous city iconic out there, I know you're going to we all know things in Europe are little bit longer when you talk about. And you know, this is some of the venerable institutions here in the United States has a couple hundred years, you know, how they're using technology.
Everything I have to imagine the University of pizza that has a long story history. So just if you could start before we dig into all the texts. Give us our audience little bit that you know, if they were looking up on Wikipedia what was the history of the University, founded? 1343 by University during the latest, the Middle Ages. So he's really one of them is not the oldest, of course, about the one of the oldest bottle has never Stop the innovating. So anything in Pizza is so always being there.
Gold for innovating, the soul, either for the, for the teaching. Girl, or now, for the, for the technology applied to remote calculation of scientific Computing. Never try to leverage the new technologies, the new kind of approach to science Industry. Yeah, it, you know you even want one of your historical teachers Galileo, you know, taught at the University. So you know phenomenal history, help us understand the sitio there, what does that Encompass Health in a, how many students do you know what are there, certain areas of research that that are done today? Before
we kind of get into the end of the specific use cases today. So consider that to University of Pisa. Add a compass. In the sense that to the University faculty are spread all over the top. Major imagery what town, like pizza in the pasta to try to adapt a medieval town to the latest technology. So Advanced that we have 50,000 students and the general part was universe. So we cover science like we cover letters engineering sing that song during the the latest to 20 years
and a lot of effort to build an infrastructure that was able to develop and deploy the latest Technologies for the students. So for example, 65 km of the dark fiber, but belongs to the university for data centers around began. Three little data center connected. It today after 200 for the Italian University, of course not, and you ask University web, please Which also old infrastructure for the Enterprise services and scientific computing. Maurizio's, it's great that you've had that technology Foundation. I have
imagined that the global pandemic covid-19 had an impact House University of dealing with things like work from home and then in a cherry would love love. Love your commentary 2. You know. We, of course you are not ready. So we we're eating by the pandemic, and we have to adopt a water service, offer to Transformer from Jackson to remote services. So we did a lot of work, but you are able to text to the technology that we have chosen to serve her Almost 100% of all of this program. We did a lot of work in the pasture, to
move to visualization to enable our users search for remote. The eye doctor for were stationed, out for remote laboratory or remote. Calculation Beach, relaxation. As designed in the past hour, our services. And of course, when we were eaten by the pandemic, we were almost ready to transform our service to from Barcelona to remote. Yes, I think it's, it's true. Like Mauricio said, nobody really was preparing for this pandemic and an even 4 for Dell Technologies. It was it was an interesting transition and as you can probably realize a lot of the way that
we connected to customers is in person and we've had to transition over to notes or digitally connected with his customers. We've also spent a lot of our energy trying to help the community use PC in the eye, Community fights, the movie, The Meg made some of our own clusters that they use in our HBC Nai Innovation Center here in Austin available to genomic, research or other companies that are fighting the the virus and it's been, it's been interesting position. I can't believe that's already being that over 6 months
now. But we should we found her a new The New Normal. Let's get in specifically to how your partner Adele. You've got us a strong background in the HPC space working with. Supercomputers what is it that you're turning to a hotel in their ecosystem without University with So, we are. We have a long history in HPC, of course. Like you can imagine the North to the biggest HBC like he's done in the u.s. oh and the biggest a supercomputer Santana, Europa we have a
HPC. We typically are still all kinds of the technology space but now he's available that you are offering two hours to our research students. We have a strong relationship with Della Technologies to develop things together solution to Labor. Adrian play the latest technology today. I do the same thing because scientific Computing has been done during this pandemic. Yeah, I'm stupid. I'm in now it's yours is humble but the every time we have new technologies that are to be evaluated, of course we spend time evolving in our
Labs the week. We make it a point to shut a technology with Marissa and the team at the AMC pizza. That's how we find some of the better usage models or customers help tuning. Something situations where there, it's on the process aside the gpus side of the storage. I need to connect. And then for the topic of today, of course, with our partners, at the end where I wish I had some really great advancements. Merici on the team are a what we call a center of excellence. We have a few of them across the world, where we have a unique relationship, sharing technology, and collaborating on the
advancement. And recently, emerged from the team has even become one of the VMware certified Center. So, the great marriage for this new world, where virtual is becoming to know But what are you? And I had a conversation and talk earlier in the year, when VMware was relieved, seeing their full kind of GPU sweet. And in a big Topic, in the keynote, Jensen, the CEO of Nvidia was up on stage and we're talking a lot about AI Solutions in house. That is it, this is going to help. So I work with a lot of customers theory, has it that this enables for them and how to, you know,
Dell and Indian War, bring bring the solutions, the bear one statistic and you believe that only on average, 15 to 20% of gpus are fully utilize it. So it when you think about the amount of Technology that's alright. I don't finger tips and especially in the world today where we need the technology to advance research and scientific discoveries wouldn't be fantastic to utilize these cheap used to the best of our ability and it's not just gpus. The industry has in the IT world leverage virtualization to get to the
max number of Cycles for CPUs and in storage and networking. Now you bringing the GPU in the phone have a perfect musician and also flexibility across all those resources. So what we've seen is that convergence between the IT world that was highly virtualized. And then this is highly optimized world of HBC on the eye because of resources out there and researchers. But also data scientist in company want to be able to run their day-to-day activities on that infrastructure. But then when they have a big surge need for research or data
science, use the same environment and then we move things around. What was what? Yeah, it was Terry. I do believe your status, you know, the joke, we always have. Is anybody from a networking background? There's no such thing as eliminating, a bottleneck, you just move it. And if you talk about utilization, we've been Michelle game over my entire career of. Let's try to optimize one thing and then do, there's something else that we're not doing. So, so, you two so important, what I hear from your standpoint, you know, virtualization nhpc uses their
what time does this bring it to you and, you know, key learnings you had in your organization? Salt. We as University are a big users of VMware Technologies. Starting from the traditional Enterprise workloads, the MVD. I buy significant almost all the services at the University. Give to our to our internal Personnel or staff or students at a certain point that we decided to try to understand a foot being where we still ization would be good for scientific computing. Yyb, because we're at the end of the day, they request with whoever from our
internal users is flexibility. Flexibility, in the sense of a. Be fasting. The blowing up be fast to reconfigure ringer, try to have the latest beats on the software side, especially on the AI research. It's at the end of the day with it, we designed a via where solution like you. I can't, I can't say we haven't and we are able to design a new solution of his wife for the end to deploy as fast as possible face. S, i t is not the request of the maximum performance of our researches. Ask ask for flexibility
in the wrong to be able to avert the maximum possible flexibility in configuring the systems. How can I say we can deploy as much tests cluster on the vehicle infrastructure aminos or we can use cheap used inside the infrastructure, brake shop before we can use fastest order drinks. I do, if your PlayStation to see how certain agreements with internal development, Can leverage was the latest the beat sing that you started your. I can be amazed at the starting point, we decided to do to to try because they shown that as a as the as a
base for HP, cfbank the computer. Yeah, I think my words to describe it to its flexibility. And of course, if you think Optimal Performance, you looking at the bare metal but in this day and age, as I said in the beginning, there's so much technology so much infrastructure available that flexibility at times Trump the robber 4 months. So when you have two different research departments to different portions are certain parts of a company looking for an environment note to environments are going to be exactly the same. So you have to be flexible
in how you? I began the different components of the infrastructure, and then think about today. It's actually fantastic. Marissa was sharing with me earlier this year. That at some point, as we all know, there was a lockdown. You can really get into a Data Center and move different cables around or reconfigure servers to have the right ratio of memory to CPU to storage. Raiders having been at the Forefront of this enablement has really benefited as a pizza and giving them the flexibility that they really need.
Wonderful. Well, Mauricio am. I understanding of giving a presentation as part of the activities this week. Give us a final Glimpse as to how, you know, what you want your peers to be taken away from what you've done? We at what we have down there is is something that is very simple, in the sense that we adapter summer, open source, software to our infrastructure. In order to enable our last, our system manager to end users to deploy HBC in the yard solution.
Fastly. And in an easy way to our VMware infrastructure, we started doing the sort of POC we designed the statue early this year and then and then will you be call factory production? Because you had acted about the results. And so this is what we represent in the sense that You can never tell a lot of way to deploy. HPC the bottle. We we go for it. We went for What is simple and open source solution. Also, thanks to the our friends of Dell Technologies in some parts
that you need to go in production. And this Theory told before that too, as a law to during the pandemic that you could affect the rectum. Wonderful. I'll let you have the final word. What what things are you drawing customers to attend to really dig in? Obviously there's there's a cost savings. Are there any other things that this unlocked for them? Diamond cost savings. We talked about flexibility, we talked about the utilization. You don't want to have a lot of infrastructure sitting there and
just waiting for a job to come in once every two months. And then there's also that the world we live in. We all live our life at your through a video conference or at times through the interface of a phone and being able to have this web page, web base interaction with a lot of infrastructure, and a x. The best infrastructure in the world, makes things simpler easier and hopefully bring science at the tip of our data scientist without having to worry about knowing every single detail on How to Build a Better infrastructure
and with the help of the nearest pizza, one of our centers of excellence in Europe. We've been innovating and everything that's been accomplished for years of peace. I can be accomplished by our customers and I'll park. Terry Mauricio. Thank you much for you so much for sharing and congratulations on. I don't know, you've done building out, that's the way. Thank you. Thank you. Stay with us. Lot more coverage from vmworld 2020. I'm assuming a man is always. Thank you for watching the cube.
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