Cloud computing refers to the practice of using a network of remote servers to store, manage and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer. In recent years, cloud computing has become the dominant method of providing computing infrastructure for Internet services.
While most of the original concepts for cloud computing came from the academic research community, as clouds grew in popularity, industry drove much of the design of their architecture. Today's awards complement industry's efforts and will enable academic researchers to experiment and advance cloud computing architectures that can support a new generation of innovative applications, including real-time and safety-critical applications like those used in medical devices, power grids, and transportation systems.
These new projects, part of the NSF CISE Research Infrastructure: Mid-Scale Infrastructure - NSFCloud program (http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=504951), continue the agency's legacy of supporting cutting-edge networking research infrastructure.
"Just as NSFNet laid some of the foundations for the current Internet, we expect that the NSFCloud program will revolutionize the science and engineering for cloud computing," said
The first of the NSFCloud projects will support the design, deployment and initial operation of "Chameleon," a large-scale, reconfigurable experimental environment for cloud research, co-located at the University of
Chameleon will consist of 650 cloud nodes with 5 petabytes of storage. Researchers will be able to configure slices of Chameleon as custom clouds using pre-defined or custom software to test the efficiency and usability of different cloud architectures on a range of problems, from machine learning and adaptive operating systems to climate simulations and flood prediction.
The testbed will allow "bare-metal access"--an alternative to the virtualization technologies currently used to share cloud hardware, allowing for experimentation with new virtualization technologies that could improve reliability, security and performance.
"Like its namesake, the Chameleon testbed will be able to adapt itself to a wide range of experimental needs, from bare metal reconfiguration to support for ready made clouds," said
One aspect that makes Chameleon unique is its support for heterogeneous computer architectures, including low-power processors, general processing units (GPUs) and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), as well as a variety of network interconnects and storage devices. Researchers can mix-and-match hardware, software and networking components and test their performance. This flexibility is expected to benefit many scientific communities, including the growing field of cyber-physical systems, which integrates computation into physical infrastructure. The research team plans to add new capabilities in response to community demand or when innovative new products are released.
Other partners on the Chameleon project (and their primary area of expertise) are:
The second NSFCloud project supports the development of "CloudLab," a large-scale distributed infrastructure based at the University of
"Today's clouds are designed with a specific set of technologies 'baked in', meaning some kinds of applications work well in the cloud, and some don't," said
In total, CloudLab will provide approximately 15,000 processing cores and in excess of 1 petabyte of storage at its three data centers. Each center will comprise different hardware, facilitating additional experimentation. In that capacity, the team is partnering with three vendors: HP,
Other partners on CloudLab include Raytheon BBN Technologies, the
Each team is led by researchers with extensive experience deploying experimental cloud computing systems. Ricci and the CloudLab team have successfully operated Emulab (http://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/goodbye?http://www.emulab.net/) since 2000, providing a network testbed where researchers can develop, debug and evaluate their systems in a wide range of environments. The Chameleon team includes several members of FutureGrid (http://www.nsf.gov/cgi-bin/goodbye?https://portal.futuregrid.org/), an NSF-supported testbed that lets researchers experiment in the use and security of grids and clouds.
Ultimately, the goal of the NSFCloud program and the two new projects is to advance the field of cloud computing broadly. The awards announced today are the first step in meeting this goal. They will develop new concepts, methods and technologies to enable infrastructure design and ramp-up activities and will demonstrate the readiness for full-fledged execution. In the second phase of the program, each cloud resource will become fully staffed and operational, fulfilling the proposed mission of serving as a testbed that is used extensively by the research community.
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