FutureGrid: An Experimental, High-Performance Grid Test-bed

This project provides a capability that makes it possible for researchers to tackle complex research challenges in computer science related to the use and security of grids and clouds. These include topics ranging from authentication, authorization, scheduling, virtualization, middleware design, interface design and cybersecurity, to the optimization of grid-enabled and cloud-enabled computational schemes for researchers in astronomy, chemistry, biology, engineering, atmospheric science and epidemiology. The project team will provide a significant new experimental computing grid and cloud test-bed, named FutureGrid, to the research community, together with user support for third-party researchers conducting experiments on FutureGrid.

The test-bed will make it possible for researchers to conduct experiments by submitting an experiment plan that is then executed via a sophisticated workflow engine, preserving the provenance and state information necessary to allow reproducibility.

The test-bed includes a geographically distributed set of heterogeneous computing systems, a data management system that will hold both metadata and a growing library of software images, and a dedicated network allowing isolatable, secure experiments. The test-bed will support virtual machine-based environments, as well as native operating systems for experiments aimed at minimizing overhead and maximizing performance. The project partners will integrate existing open-source software packages to create an easy-to-use software environment that supports the instantiation, execution and recording of grid and cloud computing experiments.

One of the goals of the project is to understand the behavior and utility of cloud computing approaches. Researchers will be able to measure the overhead of cloud technology by requesting linked experiments on both virtual and bare-metal systems. FutureGrid will enable US scientists to develop and test new approaches to parallel, grid and cloud computing, and compare and collaborate with international efforts in this area. The FutureGrid project will provide an experimental platform that accommodates batch, grid and cloud computing, allowing researchers to attack a range of research questions associated with optimizing, integrating and scheduling the different service models. The FutureGrid also provides a test-bed for middleware development and, because of its private network, allows middleware researchers to do controlled experiments under different network conditions and to test approaches to middleware that include direct interaction with the network control layer. Another component of the project is the development of benchmarks appropriate for grid computing, including workflow-based benchmarks derived from applications in astronomy, bioinformatics, seismology and physics.

The FutureGrid will form part of NSF's TeraGrid high-performance cyberinfrastructure. It will increase the capability of the TeraGrid to support innovative computer science research requiring access to lower levels of the grid software stack, the networking software stack, and to virtualization and workflow orchestration tools. Full integration into the TeraGrid is anticipated by 1st October 2011.

Education and broader outreach activities include the dissemination of curricular materials on the use of FutureGrid, pre-packaged FutureGrid virtual machines configured for particular course modules, and educational modules based on virtual appliance networks and social networking technologies that will focus on education in networking, parallel computing, virtualization and distributed computing. The project will advance education and training in distributed computing at academic institutions with less diverse computational resources. It will do this through the development of instructional resources that include preconfigured environments that provide students with sandboxed virtual clusters. These can be used for teaching courses in parallel, cloud, and grid computing. Such resources will also provide academic institutions with a simple opportunity to experiment with cloud technology to see if such technology can enhance their campus resources. The FutureGrid project leverages the fruits of several software development projects funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0910812 (PI:Geoffrey Fox; co-PIs: Jose Fortes, Andrew Grimshaw, Katarzyna Keahey, and Warren Smith). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.