Mars as a Service: Cloud Computing for the Red Planet Exploration Era

By Dr. Jose Luis Vazquez-Poletti

February 3, 2011

What do clouds and a distant red planet with a thin atmosphere have in common? Dr. Jose Luis Vazquez-Poletti from Universidad Complutense de Madrid explains how cloud computing is being deployed in innovative space missions that take aim at Mars.  He reports on the outcome of a meeting of the Mars MetNet Mission, which was held at the Finnish Meteorological Institute headquarters in Helsinki and describes in detail some of the cutting-edge research that is making use of cloud-based resources to handle the massive data expected.

The MetNet project aims to go where no other Mars missions have gone before, at least in terms of the way it will gather and then process data. This mission to Mars will be based on the power of a new type of dandelion seed-shaped, semi-hard landing vehicle called the MetNet Lander.

The leaders of the mission hope to deploy several of these oddly-shaped landers (as shown to the left) on Martian soil. While these lofty goals will take shape over a number of years, the first step in the mission to launch a MetNet Mars precursor mission with the first few landers being deployed in the coming year.

The main idea behind these vehicles is that by using a state-of-the-art inflatable entry and descent systems (instead of rigid heat shields and parachutes like those from the earlier semi-hard landing devices) the ratio of the payload mass to the overall mass is optimized. This means that more mass and volume resources are spared for the science payload.

The scientific payload of the Mars MetNet Mission encompasses separate instrument packages for the Martian surface operation phase. At the Martian surface, the lander will take panoramic pictures and will also perform observations of pressure, temperature, humidity, magnetism, as well as atmospheric optical depth.

The network of MetNet landers will provide valuable scientific data, decisive for studying the Martian atmosphere and its phenomena. Countries involved are Finland (Finnish Meteorological Institute), Russia  (Lavochkin Space Association and Russian Space Institute) and Spain (Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aerospacial).

The collaboration developed in Mars MetNet by our group, the Distributed Systems Architecture Research Group led by Prof. Ignacio M. Llorente from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid has much to do with cloud computing… in fact, the collaborative effort is dedicated to using cloud computing for boosting all possible applications pertaining to the Mars mission, as will be explained in greater detail in a moment.

Project Details

We began this collaboration with the Mars MetNet Mission more than a year ago, when they were dealing with the tracing of Phobos, the biggest Martian moon which orbits at about 9,400 Km (5,800 miles) distance from the planet’s center, completing its cycle nearly 3 times a day (a Martian day lasts 24:39 hours).

The prediction of each Phobos’ eclipse is important for the onboard instruments, which obviously depend on the landing coordinates. The challenge arises when the approximated landing area is not known until two hours before the touchdown. For this reason, an application for tracing Phobos was developed by the Meiga-MetNet Team, in order to provide a Phobos cyclogram, which is the trajectory of the Martian moon in Astronomy terms, using coordinates, dates and time intervals as an input. This way, the MetNet lander would achieve its exact location on the Martian surface by comparing the position of Phobos and the cyclogram, that is to be sent to the probe before the landing procedure.

Martian Clouds

We performed an initial parallelization of the application so that the complete set of coordinates pertaining to the approximated landing area can be processed with a desired grain. This process of profiling brought us to the conclusion that the needed hardware could be too expensive for executing this HPC application only twice a year. We had no way of even knowing if there would be other uses for this costly hardware either.

For this reason we turned to Amazon EC2, the de facto standard public cloud, attracted by its high speed deployment and its “pay-as-you-go” basis. Because all the possible setups that Amazon EC2 was offering by means of instance types and number, we crafted and validated an execution model for the application considering time, cost and a metric involving both [1].  This way, the optimal infrastructure could be obtained given a problem size.

Considering one of the possible setups, its baremetal equivalent could be a cluster consisting in 37 nodes of the latest HP Proliant DL170 G6 Server (for example). Taking its web price of $4,909 per node, we would get our machines for $181,633 without considering any other expenses like shipping or insurances. Great, but… what about electricity? Administrator’s salary? Startup time? Even more, are we going to use this infrastructure at full power in a 24×7 fashion? Probably not.

On the other hand and according to our model, Amazon EC2 provides the needed infrastructure for $7.50.

During the meeting, I performed a comprehensive presentation explaining what Cloud Computing is and its elements to the rest of the Mars MetNet Scientific Team. The best way to make a base scientist understand Cloud Computing is to provide a good assortment of working examples and success stories. Of course, I recommended “HPC in the Cloud” as one of the main sources of news about our favorite technology.

Among these examples was the NASA case. They begun with the Nebula initiative in 2009, providing an alternative to the costly construction of additional data centers whenever NASA scientist or engineers require additional processing. This is accomplished in a fancy way and, in my point of view, following a real life “on demand” definition, as truck containers are delivered to the demanding research centers. These shipping containers can hold up to 15,000 CPU cores or 15 petabytes of storage while proving 50% more energy efficient than traditional data centers.

However, NASA decided last December 2010 to make another step on its Cloud path: they started to use the Amazon public cloud for its ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer), to be commissioned to future Mars exploring Missions. Machine instances from Amazon EC2 are used for processing satellite high-definition images in order to take navigation decisions.

But one year before NASA, the Mars MetNet Mission was already using Amazon EC2 as I explained at the beginning of this article. The results obtained for the locations of the different Martian probes were presented during the meeting and the detection of eclipses was confirmed by the experimental (and historic) data retrieved. This confirmed that the Phobos tracing model will help the Mars MetNet Mission and that Cloud Computing will be an indispensable tool, due to the huge amount of computational power needed in a very short term of time.

After my presentation, a new application was proposed. This time it has to do with the process of the meteorological data from landers pertaining to previous Mars Missions. This work has much to do with what could be addressed as “Archaeological Computing”, because much of the raw data is about 30  years old! Despite its age, the meteorological information obtained from the landers will be very useful for the Mars MetNet Mission.

The amount of data is huge and parallelization may solve some of the problems, considering several processes which respond to certain parameters. These parameters are provided by a Meteorological Model, developed within the Finnish Meteorological Institute. However, computing resource availability is another thing to take into account regarding the numerous application executions needed, so this is where a public cloud infrastructure helps reaching the goal.

But the advantages are more, because the final framework is intended to be used with the data obtained by the Mars MetNet probe, and it will be increased while more probes from the meteorological network become part of the Martian landscape.

To conclude, space missions are bringing many HPC challenges and adopting cloud computing is a decisive move for meeting them. Additionally, all research done on cloud computing for fulfilling the space mission’s demands will revert in other areas, as other achievements outside computing already did–like lyophilized food or Velcro straps.

If you are curious about the landing procedure of these dandelion-seed-shaped landers, I really encourage you to visit the Mars MetNet Mission website and watch the animation.

About the Author

Dr. Jose Luis Vazquez-Poletti is Assistant Professor in Computer Architecture at Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain), and a Cloud Computing Researcher. He is (and has been) directly involved in EU funded projects, such as EGEE (Grid Computing) and 4CaaSt (PaaS Cloud), as well as many Spanish national initiatives. His interests lie mainly in how the Cloud benefits real life applications, specially those pertaining to the High Performance Computing domain.

Dr. Vazquez-Poletti is also the author of a popular article that appeared in HPC in the Cloud describing a range of upcoming cloud computing research projects pending in Europe.

Linkedin: http://es.linkedin.com/in/jlvazquezpoletti/

Website: http://dsa-research.org/jlvazquez/

[1] J. L. Vázquez-Poletti, G. Barderas, I. M. Llorente and P. Romero: A Model for Efficient Onboard Actualization of an Instrumental Cyclogram for the Mars MetNet Mission on a Public Cloud Infrastructure. PARA2010: State of the Art in Scientific and Parallel Computing, Reykjavík (Iceland), June 2010. Proceedings to appear in Lecture Notes in Computer Science (LNCS).
 

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Answered Prayers for High Frequency Traders? Latency Cut to 20 Nanoseconds

January 23, 2017

“You can buy your way out of bandwidth problems. But latency is divine.”

This sentiment, from Intel Technical Computing Group CTO Mark Seager, seems as old as the Bible, a truth universally acknowledged. Read more…

By Doug Black

CMU’s Latest “Card Shark” – Libratus – is Beating the Poker Pros (Again)

January 20, 2017

It’s starting to look like Carnegie Mellon University has a gambling problem – can’t stay away from the poker table. Read more…

By John Russell

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Enhancing Patient Care with Next-Generation Sequencing

In the ever-evolving world of life sciences, speed, accuracy, and savings are more important than ever. Today’s scientists and healthcare professionals are leveraging high-performance computing (HPC) solutions to solve the world’s greatest health problems and accelerate the diagnoses and treatment of a variety of medical conditions. Read more…

Weekly Twitter Roundup (Jan. 19, 2017)

January 19, 2017

Here at HPCwire, we aim to keep the HPC community apprised of the most relevant and interesting news items that get tweeted throughout the week. Read more…

By Thomas Ayres

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN to Partner on ARM and Exascale

January 19, 2017

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN institute announced a multi-faceted five-year collaboration to advance HPC generally and prepare for exascale computing. Among the particulars are efforts to: build out the ARM ecosystem; work on code development and code sharing on the existing and future platforms; share expertise in specific application areas (material and seismic sciences for example); improve techniques for using numerical simulation with big data; and expand HPC workforce training. It seems to be a very full agenda. Read more…

By Nishi Katsuya and John Russell

ARM Waving: Attention, Deployments, and Development

January 18, 2017

It’s been a heady two weeks for the ARM HPC advocacy camp. At this week’s Mont-Blanc Project meeting held at the Barcelona Supercomputer Center, Cray announced plans to build an ARM-based supercomputer in the U.K. while Mont-Blanc selected Cavium’s ThunderX2 ARM chip for its third phase of development. Last week, France’s CEA and Japan’s Riken announced a deep collaboration aimed largely at fostering the ARM ecosystem. This activity follows a busy 2016 when SoftBank acquired ARM, OpenHPC announced ARM support, ARM released its SVE spec, Fujistu chose ARM for the post K machine, and ARM acquired HPC tool provider Allinea in December. Read more…

By John Russell

Women Coders from Russia, Italy, and Poland Top Study

January 17, 2017

According to a study posted on HackerRank today the best women coders as judged by performance on HackerRank challenges come from Russia, Italy, and Poland. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Startup Advances Auto-Parallelization’s Promise

January 23, 2017

The shift from single core to multicore hardware has made finding parallelism in codes more important than ever, but that hasn’t made the task of parallel programming any easier. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Answered Prayers for High Frequency Traders? Latency Cut to 20 Nanoseconds

January 23, 2017

“You can buy your way out of bandwidth problems. But latency is divine.”

This sentiment, from Intel Technical Computing Group CTO Mark Seager, seems as old as the Bible, a truth universally acknowledged. Read more…

By Doug Black

IDG to Be Bought by Chinese Investors; IDC to Spin Out HPC Group

January 19, 2017

US-based publishing and investment firm International Data Group, Inc. (IDG) will be acquired by a pair of Chinese investors, China Oceanwide Holdings Group Co., Ltd. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN to Partner on ARM and Exascale

January 19, 2017

France’s CEA and Japan’s RIKEN institute announced a multi-faceted five-year collaboration to advance HPC generally and prepare for exascale computing. Among the particulars are efforts to: build out the ARM ecosystem; work on code development and code sharing on the existing and future platforms; share expertise in specific application areas (material and seismic sciences for example); improve techniques for using numerical simulation with big data; and expand HPC workforce training. It seems to be a very full agenda. Read more…

By Nishi Katsuya and John Russell

ARM Waving: Attention, Deployments, and Development

January 18, 2017

It’s been a heady two weeks for the ARM HPC advocacy camp. At this week’s Mont-Blanc Project meeting held at the Barcelona Supercomputer Center, Cray announced plans to build an ARM-based supercomputer in the U.K. while Mont-Blanc selected Cavium’s ThunderX2 ARM chip for its third phase of development. Last week, France’s CEA and Japan’s Riken announced a deep collaboration aimed largely at fostering the ARM ecosystem. This activity follows a busy 2016 when SoftBank acquired ARM, OpenHPC announced ARM support, ARM released its SVE spec, Fujistu chose ARM for the post K machine, and ARM acquired HPC tool provider Allinea in December. Read more…

By John Russell

Spurred by Global Ambitions, Inspur in Joint HPC Deal with DDN

January 17, 2017

Inspur, the fast-growth cloud computing and server vendor from China that has several systems on the current Top500 list, and DDN, a leader in high-end storage, have announced a joint sales and marketing agreement to produce solutions based on DDN storage platforms integrated with servers, networking, software and services from Inspur. Read more…

By Doug Black

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

UberCloud Cites Progress in HPC Cloud Computing

January 10, 2017

200 HPC cloud experiments, 80 case studies, and a ton of hands-on experience gained, that’s the harvest of four years of UberCloud HPC Experiments. Read more…

By Wolfgang Gentzsch and Burak Yenier

AWS Beats Azure to K80 General Availability

September 30, 2016

Amazon Web Services has seeded its cloud with Nvidia Tesla K80 GPUs to meet the growing demand for accelerated computing across an increasingly-diverse range of workloads. The P2 instance family is a welcome addition for compute- and data-focused users who were growing frustrated with the performance limitations of Amazon's G2 instances, which are backed by three-year-old Nvidia GRID K520 graphics cards. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

For IBM/OpenPOWER: Success in 2017 = (Volume) Sales

January 11, 2017

To a large degree IBM and the OpenPOWER Foundation have done what they said they would – assembling a substantial and growing ecosystem and bringing Power-based products to market, all in about three years. Read more…

By John Russell

US, China Vie for Supercomputing Supremacy

November 14, 2016

The 48th edition of the TOP500 list is fresh off the presses and while there is no new number one system, as previously teased by China, there are a number of notable entrants from the US and around the world and significant trends to report on. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Vectors: How the Old Became New Again in Supercomputing

September 26, 2016

Vector instructions, once a powerful performance innovation of supercomputing in the 1970s and 1980s became an obsolete technology in the 1990s. But like the mythical phoenix bird, vector instructions have arisen from the ashes. Here is the history of a technology that went from new to old then back to new. Read more…

By Lynd Stringer

Container App ‘Singularity’ Eases Scientific Computing

October 20, 2016

HPC container platform Singularity is just six months out from its 1.0 release but already is making inroads across the HPC research landscape. It's in use at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), where Singularity founder Gregory Kurtzer has worked in the High Performance Computing Services (HPCS) group for 16 years. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell EMC Engineers Strategy to Democratize HPC

September 29, 2016

The freshly minted Dell EMC division of Dell Technologies is on a mission to take HPC mainstream with a strategy that hinges on engineered solutions, beginning with a focus on three industry verticals: manufacturing, research and life sciences. "Unlike traditional HPC where everybody bought parts, assembled parts and ran the workloads and did iterative engineering, we want folks to focus on time to innovation and let us worry about the infrastructure," said Jim Ganthier, senior vice president, validated solutions organization at Dell EMC Converged Platforms Solution Division. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Enlisting Deep Learning in the War on Cancer

December 7, 2016

Sometime in Q2 2017 the first ‘results’ of the Joint Design of Advanced Computing Solutions for Cancer (JDACS4C) will become publicly available according to Rick Stevens. He leads one of three JDACS4C pilot projects pressing deep learning (DL) into service in the War on Cancer. Read more…

By John Russell

D-Wave SC16 Update: What’s Bo Ewald Saying These Days

November 18, 2016

Tucked in a back section of the SC16 exhibit hall, quantum computing pioneer D-Wave has been talking up its new 2000-qubit processor announced in September. Forget for a moment the criticism sometimes aimed at D-Wave. This small Canadian company has sold several machines including, for example, ones to Lockheed and NASA, and has worked with Google on mapping machine learning problems to quantum computing. In July Los Alamos National Laboratory took possession of a 1000-quibit D-Wave 2X system that LANL ordered a year ago around the time of SC15. Read more…

By John Russell

Leading Solution Providers

Lighting up Aurora: Behind the Scenes at the Creation of the DOE’s Upcoming 200 Petaflops Supercomputer

December 1, 2016

In April 2015, U.S. Department of Energy Undersecretary Franklin Orr announced that Intel would be the prime contractor for Aurora: Read more…

By Jan Rowell

CPU Benchmarking: Haswell Versus POWER8

June 2, 2015

With OpenPOWER activity ramping up and IBM’s prominent role in the upcoming DOE machines Summit and Sierra, it’s a good time to look at how the IBM POWER CPU stacks up against the x86 Xeon Haswell CPU from Intel. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Sees Bright Future for AI Supercomputing

November 23, 2016

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia made a strong showing at SC16 in Salt Lake City last week. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Beyond von Neumann, Neuromorphic Computing Steadily Advances

March 21, 2016

Neuromorphic computing – brain inspired computing – has long been a tantalizing goal. The human brain does with around 20 watts what supercomputers do with megawatts. And power consumption isn’t the only difference. Fundamentally, brains ‘think differently’ than the von Neumann architecture-based computers. While neuromorphic computing progress has been intriguing, it has still not proven very practical. Read more…

By John Russell

BioTeam’s Berman Charts 2017 HPC Trends in Life Sciences

January 4, 2017

Twenty years ago high performance computing was nearly absent from life sciences. Today it’s used throughout life sciences and biomedical research. Genomics and the data deluge from modern lab instruments are the main drivers, but so is the longer-term desire to perform predictive simulation in support of Precision Medicine (PM). There’s even a specialized life sciences supercomputer, ‘Anton’ from D.E. Shaw Research, and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is standing up its second Anton 2 and actively soliciting project proposals. There’s a lot going on. Read more…

By John Russell

The Exascale Computing Project Awards $39.8M to 22 Projects

September 7, 2016

The Department of Energy’s Exascale Computing Project (ECP) hit an important milestone today with the announcement of its first round of funding, moving the nation closer to its goal of reaching capable exascale computing by 2023. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Dell Knights Landing Machine Sets New STAC Records

November 2, 2016

The Securities Technology Analysis Center, commonly known as STAC, has released a new report characterizing the performance of the Knight Landing-based Dell PowerEdge C6320p server on the STAC-A2 benchmarking suite, widely used by the financial services industry to test and evaluate computing platforms. The Dell machine has set new records for both the baseline Greeks benchmark and the large Greeks benchmark. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

What Knights Landing Is Not

June 18, 2016

As we get ready to launch the newest member of the Intel Xeon Phi family, code named Knights Landing, it is natural that there be some questions and potentially some confusion. Read more…

By James Reinders, Intel

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This