UNC, RENCI Part of NSF Grant for Cloud Testbed

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University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and its Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) are part of a research team that has secured a $10 million grant to extend the cloud computing testbed project called Chameleon.

The four-year grant, funded by the National Science Foundation, will enable the multi-institutional initiative to “broaden in scope.”

Among the new features: reproducibility, internet of things (IoT), networking experimentation, and graphics processing unit (GPU) computation to its core mission.

This project is led by the University of Chicago (UChicago) in collaboration with RENCI, Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC), and Northwestern University.

“Chameleon is a scientific instrument for computer science systems research,” said Kate Keahey, senior computer scientist at Argonne National Laboratory and the Consortium for Advanced Science and Engineering (CASE) of the University of Chicago, and principal investigator of the Chameleon project, in a statement. “Astronomers have telescopes, biologists have microscopes, and computer scientists have Chameleon.”

Since it launched in 2015, Chameleon has provided “thousands of computer scientists” with a platform to conceptualize, assemble, and test new cloud computing approaches.

To date, it has attracted more than 4,000 users from over 100 institutions, working on more than 500 different research and education projects, the researchers said.

Scientists have used the testbed to study power management, operating systems, virtualization, high performance computing, distributed computing, networking, security, machine learning, and more.

Educators, meanwhile, have used Chameleon for cloud computing courses, allowing college and high school students to build their own cloud and learn the inner workings of the technology.

The team said the upcoming phase of Chameleon will further develop work already begun such as its CHameleon Infrastructure (CHI) that provides enhanced capabilities with the open source OpenStack project.

It will also broaden connections to other mission-specific testbeds, which will allow experimenters to implement core contributions of testbeds beyond Chameleon into their work.

RENCI said its contributions in the third phase will enable experimentation “with advanced programmable networking devices and accelerators.”

The RENCI team will also develop new options for software-defined networking that will allow compatibility with FABRIC, a currently-developing “everywhere programmable” nationwide instrument with large amounts of compute and storage, interconnected by high speed, dedicated optical links.

“The planned additions to Chameleon will allow academic researchers to experiment with advanced programmable networks in a large-scale cloud environment,” said Paul Ruth, assistant director of network research and infrastructure at RENCI and co-PI on the Chameleon project.

“We are excited to extend Chameleon’s cloud experiments into RENCI’s FABRIC testbed, which will facilitate larger, more diverse networking experiments.”

The team said it will also add expanded tools for reproducible research, and they will add new hardware and storage resources at the project’s two primary sites, UChicago and TACC, as well as at a supplemental Northwestern University site.