Award-Winning Berkeley Lab Paper Looks at Cloud for Scientific Computing

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While Cloud computing continues to prove itself in the enterprise, the question remains as to how well it will it will work for scientific computing. According to a team from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the answer is that the cloud will work, but only if it is optimized for scientific applications.

The team’s paper, “Performance Analysis of High Performance Computing Applications on the Amazon Web Services Cloud,” was honored with the Best Paper Award at the IEEE’s International Conference on Cloud Computing Technology and Science (CloudCom 2010) held Nov. 30-Dec.1 in Bloomington, Indiana. Based on a series of benchmarks designed to represent a typical midrange scientific workload—applications that use less than 1,000 cores—on Amazon’s EC2 system, the researchers found that the EC2’s interconnect severely limits performance and causes significant variability. Overall, the cloud ran six times slower than a typical mid-range Linux cluster, and 20 times slower than a modern high performance computing system.

“We saw that the communication pattern of the application can impact performance, applications like PARATEC with significant global communication perform relatively worse than those with less global communication,” says Keith Jackson, a computer scientist in the Berkeley Lab’s Computational Research Division (CRD) and lead author of the paper.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research and the National Science Foundation funded the work; and CITRIS at the University of California, Berkeley donated Amazon EC2 time. Full Story