Technology Research

Carnegie Mellon Joins Test Bed for Cloud Computing Research

Carnegie Mellon University has opened up one of its computing clusters to others involved in a research project on cloud computing. The university's School of Computer Science is the latest research institution to host a site as part of Open Cirrus, a global, open-source test bed for the advancement of cloud computing research and education. Carnegie Mellon is adding a computing cluster housed in its Data Center Observatory to the test bed.

Open Cirrus was launched in 2008 by HP, Intel, and Yahoo! to promote open collaboration among industry, academia, and governments on data-intensive, Internet-scale computing. The test bed now includes cloud computing infrastructure at 10 "centers of excellence."

Cloud computing allows organizations to use shared services, data processing, and storage resources that are managed by other organizations. But universities have had limited access to cloud computing infrastructures that students could work in. That lack of access also inhibited academic research on new applications for the cloud and on how to improve the software and hardware that enables cloud computing.

"Having a facility like this and being able to participate in Open Cirrus will provide us with unprecedented opportunities for research and education on Internet-scale computing," said Randal Bryant, dean of the School of Computer Science. "We see applications well beyond those being pursued by industry today, including astronomy, neuroscience, and knowledge extraction and representation, and we will be able to delve more deeply into the design of the system itself."

This isn't the university's first foray into cloud computing. Carnegie Mellon made use of M45, a 4,000-processor, open source Hadoop-based computing cluster that Yahoo! made available to academic researchers beginning in late 2007. Since then, M45 research by the institution has resulted in infrastructure innovations, such as new approaches to diagnosing performance problems and a technique for shrinking the storage requirements for data files by 33 percent. Carnegie Mellon researchers also have used the Yahoo cluster to develop applications in natural language processing, automated extraction of knowledge from the Web, and doing research on when the "wisdom of crowds" is effective and when it's not for services such as Wikipedia.

Carnegie Mellon researchers have also had access to an Intel Labs Open Cirrus site located on its campus. Together with M45 and the university's new computing cluster, Carnegie Mellon researchers now are running experiments on three cloud-computing clusters.

The new computing cluster, also funded by Intel, has 159 servers and 1,165 processing cores with 2.4 TB of memory and almost 900 TB of storage. The computing cluster will be made available to researchers worldwide later this year.

Greg Ganger, professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of Carnegie Mellon's Parallel Data Lab, said much of the research at the Carnegie Mellon site likely will focus on areas such as how to make the cloud computing infrastructure faster, more reliable, and more energy-efficient and how to use the cloud in innovative ways for new applications. "This site embodies our commitment to the collaborative, open-source research environment that Open Cirrus promotes and to aggressively pursuing cloud computing research on this campus," he said.

Other organizations involved in the test bed include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the Steinbuch Centre for Computing of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany; the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow; the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute in South Korea; MIMOS, a Malaysian research and development organization; and Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore.

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