Campus Researchers to Launch Study on Cloud Computing

UC Berkeley Scientists Receive $16 Million DOE Stimulus Grant to Fund Magellan Project

Photo: UC Berkeley professor Kathy Yelick is the director of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, where the hardware for the Magellan project will be installed.
Shirin Ghaffary/Photo
UC Berkeley professor Kathy Yelick is the director of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, where the hardware for the Magellan project will be installed.

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Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is expecting a shipment of computing hardware for the pursuit of research in cloud computing next month, after receiving $16 million in stimulus funding in August.

The study will provide more resources for scientists to analyze data and study results of larger problems, such as climate change.

The lab's study of cloud computing, which is funded by stimulus funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), will evaluate the cost-effectiveness and energy efficiency of cloud computing for scientific use. The lab is sharing a $32 million grant with Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois.

According to researchers, cloud computing refers to a model for on-demand access to a shared pool of computing resources.

The project has been named Magellan in honor of the Portuguese explorer and for the cloud-like star formations named after him.

Berkeley Lab's hardware for the study will be installed at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) in Oakland which serves 3,611 users, according to Kathy Yelick, director of NERSC and UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer science. Of these users, 246 are from UC Berkeley.

Yelick said the researchers will test the systems with a few current users in December before opening up the experiment to more users in January.

While NERSC currently serves more sophisticated high-end users who use supercomputers for larger projects, the new hardware will serve mid-range users who are not necessarily familiar with supercomputers, Yelick said.

"The idea with cloud computing is you take a lot of these mid-range users and you put all their computing services in one place," Yelick said. "You build a large cluster and everybody has their own kind of virtual, small cluster. That's their piece of the cloud."

Yelick said mid-range users at universities and labs commonly buy clusters of computers which tend to be inefficient and hard to manage. Cloud computing is more cost-effective and energy efficient than clusters.

In conjunction with the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, NERSC plans to test cloud computing services for scientific use.

Researchers said the combined systems will create a cloud testbed for the science community's research endeavors in a variety of disciplines and accelerate scientific processes.

"We feel that if we can centralize and provide on-demand access to computing services, (the time it takes to make discoveries) will be reduced," said Ian Foster, director of the Computation Institute at the University of Chicago and Argonne Lab.

Yelick said the Magellan project aims to understand how cloud computing can be expanded from its commercial use so it can be used for research in chemistry, physics, biology and energy sciences in a "science cloud."

"What does it look like, what kind of services do they need and to what extent can the science community use commercial clouds?" she said.


Contact Stephanie Baer at [email protected]

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