Filter By Category:
The success of any research project depends on its ability to bring results to the marketplace.
The next generation of Cloud Computing Platforms
Cloud computing is transforming the way we use the web but there’s still a long way to go before we make full use of the promise it offers. Professor Ignacio Martin Llorente looks ahead to a more flexible and agile future of internet-enabled service provision in a virtual computing environment..
Ask anyone in the computer industry when the term ‘cloud computing’ was first coined and you’ll get a variety of answers going back to the 1990s. But it is only in recent years that the concept – which first emerged four decades ago – has really taken hold of the popular imagination; today it is one of the most dynamic fields of research in computing.
“Cloud Computing is a platform for the on-demand provision of IT-enabled capabilities,” explains Ignacio Martin Llorente, professor in computer architecture and technology, and head of the Distributed Systems Architecture (DSA) research group at Spain’s Complutense University of Madrid.
Clouds can be private (delivering services to a restricted number of clients), public (where clients source the services themselves over the internet) or hybrid (where some resources are provided in-house and others externally).
But what’s clear is that Cloud Computing is already transforming the way we use the web. Just as we do not concern ourselves with how our electricity is generated but simply flick a switch whenever we need power, so Cloud Computing provides a platform for the development of a service-based online economy in a virtual computing environment
Cloud Computing allows data centres to operate more like the internet by enabling computing across a distributed, globally accessible fabric of resources. Benefits include far lower costs – companies supplying internet-based hosting today typically need to over-provision their servers by as much as a 500% to handle peak loads – and less hardware, along with a reduction in software complexity, faster time to market, improved reliability and greater accessibility of consumers to government and business services.
But a great deal of work still needs to be done before the possibilities offered by Cloud Computing are fully realised, says Prof Llorente: “Cloud Computing is not only a way to use existing technologies; new technologies and enhancements of existing technologies are required to address the requirements of Cloud infrastructures.”
Cloud Computing offers two key areas of research challenge: “Those addressing the requirements of next generation private, public and hybrid Cloud Computing platforms; and those addressing the adaptation of service workloads to take advantage of next generation Cloud Computing platforms.”
Prof Llorente’s DSA group, which was set up in 2002 to conduct research in advanced distributed computing and virtualisation technologies for large-scale infrastructures and resource provisioning platforms, is a core partner in RESERVOIR, the main European research initiative in virtualised infrastructures and Cloud Computing.
The three-year Resources and Services Virtualisation without Barriers project was launched in February 2008 with 12 partners and a €17.3million budget of co-funded by the European Commission under the Seventh Framework Programme. “The aim is to develop the open-source technology to enable deployment and management of complex IT services across different administrative domains,” says Prof Llorente.
“RESERVOIR’s open-source approach supports the definition of open standards for Cloud Computing, breaking the lock-in imposed by vendors today and allowing any organisation to build its own local or public Cloud infrastructure.”
Of the three different types of Cloud infrastructures – SaaS, PaaS and IaaS, Prof Llorente believes “the main novelty and greater potential is at IaaS level”.
In SaaS (Software as a Service) an application is licensed to customers for use as a service on demand, whereas PaaS (Platform as a Service) involves a scenario in which 3rd-party applications are developed for individual pieces of service-delivering software. But in IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), services are delivered, on demand, over a network of a virtual computing environment.
Important topics of research for this kind of infrastructure include interoperability and portability between Cloud providers; open business framework for relationships between infrastructure providers; and higher value self-awareness, self-knowledge, and self-management capabilities.
When it comes to its Cloud manager, RESERVOIR uses the open source virtual infrastructure engine OpenNebula. “It is the result of many years of research and development in efficient and scalable management of virtual machines on large-scale distributed infrastructures,” says Prof Llorente.
“The technology has been designed to address the requirements of business use cases from leading companies in the context of flagship international projects in Cloud Computing, such as RESERVOIR. OpenNebula is now a widely used open-source Cloud manager that fits into existing data centres to build private, public and hybrid IaaS Clouds.
“Among the main innovations developed in RESERVOIR are: support for elastic multi-tier services; flexible and scalable back-end for virtualisation, storage and networking management; and support for Cloud federation and interoperability.”
What’s the difference between Cloud Computing and Grid Computing, which uses many computers in a network for a single task or goal, often to solve a scientific or technical problem? “In my view, while Grid is about interoperability, Cloud is about on-demand provisioning of virtualised resources. I venture these complementary technologies will coexist and cooperate at different levels of abstraction in future e-infrastructures,” says Prof Llorente.
“On one hand, Clouds could help to overcome many of the barriers to Grid adoption. On the other hand, Clouds should take advantage of the research and development conducted by the Grid community, for example in the adoption of standard Grid interfaces and functionality."
Cloud technologies and services, especially virtualisation, will optimise and simplify the operation of high performance computing (HPC) infrastructures, he adds: “Using private Cloud technologies for resource provisioning would enhance failover and redundancy solutions, and permit machine migration for flexible load balancing and energy efficiency.
“Virtualisation of the site infrastructure would also allow the dynamic provisioning of worker nodes to address the demands of different user communities, and the execution of virtualised HPC clusters with elastic capacity in terms of the number of nodes and their capacity,” he says.
“In addition, using hybrid Cloud technologies would support the ability of ‘elastic’ sites to expand available computing resources in the local Cloud to meet peak demands using remote Cloud providers.”
Looking ahead to the future, Prof Llorente predicts that tomorrow’s data centres will look like “private Clouds supporting a flexible and agile execution of virtualised services, and combining local with public Cloud-based infrastructure to enable highly scalable hosting environments”.
Public Cloud providers will offer pay-per-use resources on demand; be supported by a network of geographically distributed data centres which are interconnected to meet fluctuating demands while Grid infrastructures will evolve into Grids of Clouds, so supporting the sharing of raw infrastructure between partners and not only resources for computing tasks, he says.
Europe is well positioned, he believes, to play a leading part in this new era of internet-enabled service provision: “Europe should play a major role in the creation of the components for next generation private, public and hybrid Cloud Computing platforms.”
Ignacio M. Llorente, Ph.D in Computer Science (UCM) and Executive MBA (IE Business School), is a Full Professor in Computer Architecture and Technology, and the Head of the Distributed Systems Architecture Research Group at Complutense University of Madrid. He is co-leading OpenNebula, the widely-used open-source technology for cloud computing, and participates in the main European initiatives in Cloud Computing. For further information, please visit; www.dsa-research.org
Published: Monday, 23rd August 2010 by Adelle Kehoe
No comments for this article, be the first to comment