Cloud Computing: It’s Not Just for Rocket Scientists

By Jose Luis Vazquez-Poletti

December 5, 2011

The ability to run HPC workloads inside a public or private cloud provides valuable insights related to both the industrial and academic worlds. If you focus on the latter and on universities in particular, you will see that we professors do not spend our entire day on research exclusively, as teaching is among our duties. This article explains how cloud computing can also be accessed by students in order to complement their education by developing Master Thesis projects related to this technology. What follows is a showcasing of the splendid work done by my students recently.

Every academic year, computer science students file in to their professors’ offices to inquire about proposed Master Thesis projects. When students come to me, I respond with another question: “What would you like to work on that may benefit from cloud computing?”

If motivating Master Thesis students by having their work be an extension of their natural interests is a must, involving them in a bleeding-edge technology like cloud computing is the icing on the cake.

As I allude to in the title of this article, one of the features of this technology is its high accessibility. In this way, it opens up a world of research possibilities and engenders a fast learning process, allowing the students to develop in a reasonable time projects like the ones that are outlined below:

RSA@Cloud: Efficient Cryptanalysis on the Cloud (2010-2011)

When I asked these three students about a research field that would benefit from cloud-based cycles, they answered “cryptanalysis” as they understood that public cloud providers would provide the best infrastructure for an efficient security auditing of RSA keys (used in many fields, such as e-commerce) in terms of performance and cost.

RSA@Cloud: Alberto Megia, Antonio Molinera and Jose Antonio Rueda at one of the UCM classrooms.

They developed a system that took advantage of parallel programming and cloud computing in order to factorize very big integers, the real basis of RSA cryptosystem’s security, by executing different mathematic algorithms like trial division and quadratic sieve. The combination of Amazon EC2 and private cloud machines were chosen to achieve this goal, since both make possible to reach the efficient results mentioned above.

The RSA@Cloud system relies in three main modules:

  • The Forecaster, a simulation software whose purpose is to estimate the required processing time and cost on Amazon EC2 allowing to find a compromise between these two parameters.

  • The Engine, the RSA keys factorization and parallelization module. New factorization algorithms can be easily added as they only need a wrapper script for their integration in the system.

  • The Keyswarm, a graphic representation of the interactions between cloud machines during the process. It uses Code Swarm (http://code.google.com/p/codeswarm/) by translating RSA@Cloud events to CVS/SVN ones.


RSA@Cloud: Forecaster module.

An interesting outcome of this Master Thesis project was the preparation and presentation of a research paper at a Spanish conference by my students. This experience allowed them to get in touch with the national scientific landscape but also with the nice natural landscape of Tenerife (Canary Islands), where the conference took place. All in all, this trip was a fitting reward for a job well-done.


RSA@Cloud: Keyswarm module showing factorization of a 49 digit RSA key using 12 machines. Each parallel task is represented by a dot.

CONSTRUCTOR: Cloud PaaS for Startups (2011-2012, ongoing)

These students planned to orient their professional career to the industry once they leave the university. With this in mind, they researched how a software startup could begin its activity and continue to prosper.


CONSTRUCTOR: Isabel Espinar, Adrian Escoms and Esther Rodrigo with a “tuned” set of servers from the UCM Computer Science Museum.

They understood that a startup with a low budget could rely solely on on-demand resources provided by a public cloud infrastructure. A development phase of a given product has specific software requirements that can be restrictive, so the developers need a tool to easily deploy and (re)configure the necessary machines. Also, developers need a standard entry point to the development platform, allowing them to change the context as fast as possible. On the other hand, the startup needs to calculate the exact development cost in order to assign a competitive price to the final product.

With these previous factors taken into account, my students’ framework, named CONSTRUCTOR as a reference to “The Matrix” saga, will provide a graphical user interface with the following features:

  • Virtual machine management using Amazon EC2 API.

  • Software deployment using Chef (http://www.opscode.com/chef/).

  • Instant generation of a Eclipse (http://www.eclipse.org/) configuration file corresponding to the virtual machine and software that the developer wants to work with.

  • Differentiated accounting (virtual machine usage) for each development phase and software product.


CONSTRUCTOR’s key features.

POPULOUS: Biodiversity on the Cloud (2011-2012, ongoing)

Only one member comprises the team behind this project, as he was my student at the UCM Master in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (http://bbm1.ucm.es/masterbioinfo/) and not at the Faculty’s Computer Science studies. He is currently preparing his Master Thesis at a department in the Spanish Natural Sciences National Museum (http://www.mncn.csic.es/).


POPULOUS: Gonzalo Santana and one of the National Natural Sciences Museum exhibits, a Snow Leopard.

His project, named POPULOUS as a reference to the 1989 video game, aims to understand the effects of climatic elements on the evolution, migration and extinction of species and biodiversity. This is accomplished with complex mathematical models that generate physiologic responses from the studied species according to climatic data. Survival odds for each species are then obtained for a given area.

The resulting system will verify if biodiversity in mountains is higher than in other zones or if the climatic change forces species to migrate to other zones where their survival odds are higher.

The initial computational resources available at my student’s department consisted in a NVIDIA GPU cluster with no dedicated usage. The final application will be very computing intensive and should not discard any available resources in order to increase global performance. For this reason, my student turned his attention to public cloud infrastructures that would complement the local resources.

Focusing on a lower level, the parallel application will be executed in both CPU and GPU resources provided by local and cloud infrastructures. For this reason, my student has chosen the OpenCL API (http://www.khronos.org/opencl/).

The next generation of “cloud shapers”

Cloud computing is a reality we are using on a daily basis, but now it’s time to start considering the next generation that will fill our ranks.

Master Thesis projects are a great opportunity assisted by the many applications of cloud computing and boosted by the student’s imagination. If cloud’s high accessibility and open source tools are added to the equation then we get the best methodology to help them implement their awesome ideas.

As I say to my students year after year: “It’s not only education but ideas that will help you survive outside this classroom.”

About the Author

Dr. Jose Luis Vazquez-PolettiDr. Jose Luis Vazquez-Poletti is Assistant Professor in Computer Architecture at Complutense University of Madrid (UCM, Spain), and a Cloud Computing Researcher at the Distributed Systems Architecture Research Group. 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.

From 2005 to 2009, Professor Vazquez-Poletti’s research focused in application porting onto Grid Computing infrastructures, activity that let him be “where the real action was.” These applications pertained to a wide range of areas, from Fusion Physics to Bioinformatics. During this period he achieved the abilities needed for profiling applications and making them benefit of distributed computing infrastructures. Additionally, he shared these abilities in many training events organized within the EGEE Project and similar initiatives.

Since 2010 his research interests lie in different aspects of cloud computing, but always having real life applications in mind, specially those pertaining to the High Performance Computing domain.

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

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

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!

IBM, NVIDIA, Stone Ridge Claim Gas & Oil Simulation Record

April 25, 2017

IBM, NVIDIA, and Stone Ridge Technology today reported setting the performance record for a “billion cell” oil and gas reservoir simulation. Read more…

By John Russell

ASC17 Makes Splash at Wuxi Supercomputing Center

April 24, 2017

A record-breaking twenty student teams plus scores of company representatives, media professionals, staff and student volunteers transformed a formerly empty hall inside the Wuxi Supercomputing Center into a bustling hub of HPC activity, kicking off day one of 2017 Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC17). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Musk’s Latest Startup Eyes Brain-Computer Links

April 21, 2017

Elon Musk, the auto and space entrepreneur and severe critic of artificial intelligence, is forming a new venture that reportedly will seek to develop an interface between the human brain and computers. Read more…

By George Leopold

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Remote Visualization Optimizing Life Sciences Operations and Care Delivery

As patients continually demand a better quality of care and increasingly complex workloads challenge healthcare organizations to innovate, investing in the right technologies is key to ensuring growth and success. Read more…

NERSC Cori Shows the World How Many-Cores for the Masses Works

April 21, 2017

As its mission, the high performance computing center for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, NERSC (the National Energy Research Supercomputer Center), supports a broad spectrum of forefront scientific research across diverse areas that includes climate, material science, chemistry, fusion energy, high-energy physics and many others. Read more…

By Rob Farber

Nvidia P100 Shows 1.3-2.3x Speedup Over K80 GPU on Financial Apps

April 20, 2017

When it comes to the true performance of the latest silicon, every end user knows that the best processor is the one that works best for their application. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Adds Global Smarts to StorNext File System

April 20, 2017

Companies that use Quantum’s StorNext platform to store massive amounts of data this week got a glimpse of new storage capabilities that should make it easier to access their data horde from anywhere in the world. Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Scaling an HPC Career in Nepal Can Be a Steep Climb

April 20, 2017

Umesh Upadhyaya works as an IT Associate at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal, which supports the country’s one and only HPC facility. He is directly involved in an initiative that focuses on climate change and atmosphere modeling Read more…

By Nages Sieslack

ASC17 Makes Splash at Wuxi Supercomputing Center

April 24, 2017

A record-breaking twenty student teams plus scores of company representatives, media professionals, staff and student volunteers transformed a formerly empty hall inside the Wuxi Supercomputing Center into a bustling hub of HPC activity, kicking off day one of 2017 Asia Student Supercomputer Challenge (ASC17). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

NERSC Cori Shows the World How Many-Cores for the Masses Works

April 21, 2017

As its mission, the high performance computing center for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, NERSC (the National Energy Research Supercomputer Center), supports a broad spectrum of forefront scientific research across diverse areas that includes climate, material science, chemistry, fusion energy, high-energy physics and many others. Read more…

By Rob Farber

Hyperion (IDC) Paints a Bullish Picture of HPC Future

April 20, 2017

Hyperion Research – formerly IDC’s HPC group – yesterday painted a fascinating and complicated portrait of the HPC community’s health and prospects at the HPC User Forum held in Albuquerque, NM. HPC sales are up and growing ($22 billion, all HPC segments, 2016). Read more…

By John Russell

Knights Landing Processor with Omni-Path Makes Cloud Debut

April 18, 2017

HPC cloud specialist Rescale is partnering with Intel and HPC resource provider R Systems to offer first-ever cloud access to Xeon Phi "Knights Landing" processors. The infrastructure is based on the 68-core Intel Knights Landing processor with integrated Omni-Path fabric (the 7250F Xeon Phi). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN openlab Explores New CPU/FPGA Processing Solutions

April 14, 2017

Through a CERN openlab project known as the ‘High-Throughput Computing Collaboration,’ researchers are investigating the use of various Intel technologies in data filtering and data acquisition systems. Read more…

By Linda Barney

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of “quantum supremacy,” researchers are stretching the limits of today’s most advanced supercomputers. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Penguin Takes a Run at the Big Cloud Providers

April 12, 2017

HPC specialist Penguin Computing recently re-ran benchmarks from a study of its larger brethren and says the results show its ‘public cloud’ – Penguin on Demand (POD) – is among the leaders in cost and performance. Read more…

By John Russell

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference phase of neural networks (NN). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the campaign. Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its assets. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

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

TSUBAME3.0 Points to Future HPE Pascal-NVLink-OPA Server

February 17, 2017

Since our initial coverage of the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer yesterday, more details have come to light on this innovative project. Of particular interest is a new board design for NVLink-equipped Pascal P100 GPUs that will create another entrant to the space currently occupied by Nvidia's DGX-1 system, IBM's "Minsky" platform and the Supermicro SuperServer (1028GQ-TXR). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

Tokyo Tech’s TSUBAME3.0 Will Be First HPE-SGI Super

February 16, 2017

In a press event Friday afternoon local time in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) announced its plans for the TSUBAME3.0 supercomputer, which will be Japan’s “fastest AI supercomputer,” Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Is Liquid Cooling Ready to Go Mainstream?

February 13, 2017

Lost in the frenzy of SC16 was a substantial rise in the number of vendors showing server oriented liquid cooling technologies. Three decades ago liquid cooling was pretty much the exclusive realm of the Cray-2 and IBM mainframe class products. That’s changing. We are now seeing an emergence of x86 class server products with exotic plumbing technology ranging from Direct-to-Chip to servers and storage completely immersed in a dielectric fluid. Read more…

By Steve Campbell

IBM Wants to be “Red Hat” of Deep Learning

January 26, 2017

IBM today announced the addition of TensorFlow and Chainer deep learning frameworks to its PowerAI suite of deep learning tools, which already includes popular offerings such as Caffe, Theano, and Torch. 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

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

HPC Technique Propels Deep Learning at Scale

February 21, 2017

Researchers from Baidu’s Silicon Valley AI Lab (SVAIL) have adapted a well-known HPC communication technique to boost the speed and scale of their neural network training and now they are sharing their implementation with the larger deep learning community. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is the successor to Caffe, the deep learning framework developed by Berkeley AI Research and community contributors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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