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:

[email protected]: 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.

[email protected]: 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 [email protected] 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 [email protected] events to CVS/SVN ones.


[email protected]: 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.


[email protected]: 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!

Pfizer HPC Engineer Aims to Automate Software Stack Testing

January 17, 2019

Seeking to reign in the tediousness of manual software testing, Pfizer HPC Engineer Shahzeb Siddiqui is developing an open source software tool called buildtest, aimed at automating software stack testing by providing the community with a central repository of tests for common HPC apps and the ability to automate execution of testing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Senegal Prepares to Take Delivery of Atos Supercomputer

January 16, 2019

In just a few months time, Senegal will be operating the second largest HPC system in sub-Saharan Africa. The Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation Mary Teuw Niane made the announcement... Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Cloud Platform Extends GPU Instance Options

January 16, 2019

If it's Nvidia GPUs you're after to power your AI/HPC/visualization workload, Google Cloud has them, now claiming "broadest GPU availability." Each of the three big public cloud vendors has by turn touted the latest and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPE Systems With Intel Omni-Path: Architected for Value and Accessible High-Performance Computing

Today’s high-performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI) users value high performing clusters. And the higher the performance that their system can deliver, the better. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Resource Management in the Age of Artificial Intelligence

New challenges demand fresh approaches

Fueled by GPUs, big data, and rapid advances in software, the AI revolution is upon us. Read more…

STAC Floats ML Benchmark for Financial Services Workloads

January 16, 2019

STAC (Securities Technology Analysis Center) recently released an ‘exploratory’ benchmark for machine learning which it hopes will evolve into a firm benchmark or suite of benchmarking tools to compare the performanc Read more…

By John Russell

Google Cloud Platform Extends GPU Instance Options

January 16, 2019

If it's Nvidia GPUs you're after to power your AI/HPC/visualization workload, Google Cloud has them, now claiming "broadest GPU availability." Each of the three Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

STAC Floats ML Benchmark for Financial Services Workloads

January 16, 2019

STAC (Securities Technology Analysis Center) recently released an ‘exploratory’ benchmark for machine learning which it hopes will evolve into a firm benchm Read more…

By John Russell

A Big Data Journey While Seeking to Catalog our Universe

January 16, 2019

It turns out, astronomers have lots of photos of the sky but seek knowledge about what the photos mean. Sound familiar? Big data problems are often characterize Read more…

By James Reinders

Intel Bets Big on 2-Track Quantum Strategy

January 15, 2019

Quantum computing has lived so long in the future it’s taken on a futuristic life of its own, with a Gartner-style hype cycle that includes triggers of innovation, inflated expectations and – though a useful quantum system is still years away – anticipatory troughs of disillusionment. Read more…

By Doug Black

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s Read more…

By John Russell

IBM’s New Global Weather Forecasting System Runs on GPUs

January 9, 2019

Anyone who has checked a forecast to decide whether or not to pack an umbrella knows that weather prediction can be a mercurial endeavor. It is a Herculean task: the constant modeling of incredibly complex systems to a high degree of accuracy at a local level within very short spans of time. Read more…

By Oliver Peckham

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

Quantum Computing Will Never Work

November 27, 2018

Amid the gush of money and enthusiastic predictions being thrown at quantum computing comes a proposed cold shower in the form of an essay by physicist Mikhail Read more…

By John Russell

Cray Unveils Shasta, Lands NERSC-9 Contract

October 30, 2018

Cray revealed today the details of its next-gen supercomputing architecture, Shasta, selected to be the next flagship system at NERSC. We've known of the code-name "Shasta" since the Argonne slice of the CORAL project was announced in 2015 and although the details of that plan have changed considerably, Cray didn't slow down its timeline for Shasta. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

AMD Sets Up for Epyc Epoch

November 16, 2018

It’s been a good two weeks, AMD’s Gary Silcott and Andy Parma told me on the last day of SC18 in Dallas at the restaurant where we met to discuss their show news and recent successes. Heck, it’s been a good year. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Case Against ‘The Case Against Quantum Computing’

January 9, 2019

It’s not easy to be a physicist. Richard Feynman (basically the Jimi Hendrix of physicists) once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourse Read more…

By Ben Criger

US Leads Supercomputing with #1, #2 Systems & Petascale Arm

November 12, 2018

The 31st Supercomputing Conference (SC) - commemorating 30 years since the first Supercomputing in 1988 - kicked off in Dallas yesterday, taking over the Kay Ba Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Contract Signed for New Finnish Supercomputer

December 13, 2018

After the official contract signing yesterday, configuration details were made public for the new BullSequana system that the Finnish IT Center for Science (CSC Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Jensen Huang Delivers Vision for the New HPC

November 14, 2018

For nearly two hours on Monday at SC18, Jensen Huang, CEO of Nvidia, presented his expansive view of the future of HPC (and computing in general) as only he can do. Animated. Backstopped by a stream of data charts, product photos, and even a beautiful image of supernovae... Read more…

By John Russell

HPE No. 1, IBM Surges, in ‘Bucking Bronco’ High Performance Server Market

September 27, 2018

Riding healthy U.S. and global economies, strong demand for AI-capable hardware and other tailwind trends, the high performance computing server market jumped 28 percent in the second quarter 2018 to $3.7 billion, up from $2.9 billion for the same period last year, according to industry analyst firm Hyperion Research. Read more…

By Doug Black

Leading Solution Providers

SC 18 Virtual Booth Video Tour

Advania @ SC18 AMD @ SC18
ASRock Rack @ SC18
DDN Storage @ SC18
HPE @ SC18
IBM @ SC18
Lenovo @ SC18 Mellanox Technologies @ SC18
NVIDIA @ SC18
One Stop Systems @ SC18
Oracle @ SC18 Panasas @ SC18
Supermicro @ SC18 SUSE @ SC18 TYAN @ SC18
Verne Global @ SC18

HPC Reflections and (Mostly Hopeful) Predictions

December 19, 2018

So much ‘spaghetti’ gets tossed on walls by the technology community (vendors and researchers) to see what sticks that it is often difficult to peer through Read more…

By John Russell

Intel Confirms 48-Core Cascade Lake-AP for 2019

November 4, 2018

As part of the run-up to SC18, taking place in Dallas next week (Nov. 11-16), Intel is doling out info on its next-gen Cascade Lake family of Xeon processors, specifically the “Advanced Processor” version (Cascade Lake-AP), architected for high-performance computing, artificial intelligence and infrastructure-as-a-service workloads. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Germany Celebrates Launch of Two Fastest Supercomputers

September 26, 2018

The new high-performance computer SuperMUC-NG at the Leibniz Supercomputing Center (LRZ) in Garching is the fastest computer in Germany and one of the fastest i Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Microsoft to Buy Mellanox?

December 20, 2018

Networking equipment powerhouse Mellanox could be an acquisition target by Microsoft, according to a published report in an Israeli financial publication. Microsoft has reportedly gone so far as to engage Goldman Sachs to handle negotiations with Mellanox. Read more…

By Doug Black

Houston to Field Massive, ‘Geophysically Configured’ Cloud Supercomputer

October 11, 2018

Based on some news stories out today, one might get the impression that the next system to crack number one on the Top500 would be an industrial oil and gas mon Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

The Deep500 – Researchers Tackle an HPC Benchmark for Deep Learning

January 7, 2019

How do you know if an HPC system, particularly a larger-scale system, is well-suited for deep learning workloads? Today, that’s not an easy question to answer Read more…

By John Russell

Summit Supercomputer is Already Making its Mark on Science

September 20, 2018

Summit, now the fastest supercomputer in the world, is quickly making its mark in science – five of the six finalists just announced for the prestigious 2018 Read more…

By John Russell

IBM Quantum Update: Q System One Launch, New Collaborators, and QC Center Plans

January 10, 2019

IBM made three significant quantum computing announcements at CES this week. One was introduction of IBM Q System One; it’s really the integration of IBM’s Read more…

By John Russell

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This