What kind of cloud computing project would you build with $32M?

A cost-effective and energy-efficient way for scientists to accelerate discoveries?

The US Department of Energy said today it will spend US$32 million on a project that will deploy a large cloud computing test bed with thousands of Intel Nehalem CPU cores and explore the work of commercial cloud offerings from Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

Ultimately the project, known as Magellan, will look at cloud computing as a cost-effective and energy-efficient way for scientists to accelerate discoveries in a variety of disciplines, including analysis of scientific data sets in biology, climate change and physics, the DOE stated.

Magellan will explore whether cloud computing can help meet the overwhelming demand for scientific computing, the DOE stated. Although computation is an increasingly important tool for scientific discovery, and DOE operates some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, not all research applications require such massive computing power. The number of scientists who would benefit from mid-range computing far exceeds the amount of available resources, the DEO stated.

While shared resources are not new to high-end scientific computing, smaller computational problems are often run on departmental Linux clusters with software customized for the science application, the DOE stated. Cloud computing centralizes the resources to gain efficiency of scale and permit scientists to scale up to solve larger science problems while still allowing the system software to be configured as needed for individual application requirements.

DOE is funding the project with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money that will be divided equally amongst its Argonne National and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories. The combined set of systems will create a cloud testbed that scientists can use for their computations while also testing the effectiveness of cloud computing for their particular research problems. Test staff will use performance-monitoring software to analyze what kinds of science applications are being run on the system and how well they perform on a cloud.

The DOE facilities will be linked the agency’s blazing 100Gbps Energy Sciences Network (ESnet). Lawrence Berkeley recently got $62 million to enhance ESnet wit the equipment to take it to 100Gbps.

Such high bandwidth will facilitate rapid transfer of data between geographically dispersed clouds and enable scientists to use available computing resources regardless of location, the DOE stated

The Magellan system will be used to measure a variety of DOE applications and analyze its suitability for a cloud model by making Magellan available to Lawrence Berkley’s 3,000 science users. ESnet serves an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 DOE users, as well as more than 18,000 non-DOE researchers from universities, government agencies, and private industry.

“We know that the model works well for business applications, and we are working to make it equally effective for science,” said Pete Beckman, director of Argonne’s Leadership Computing Facility and project lead. “We know that the model works well for business applications, and we are working to make it equally effective for science.”

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