Examining Questions of Virtualization and Security in the Cloud

By Ian Armas Foster

June 13, 2013

When considering moving excess or experimental HPC applications to a cloud environment, there will always be obstacles. Were that not the case, the cost effectiveness of cloud-based HPC would rule the high performance landscape.

Jonathan Stuart Ward and Adam Barker of the University of St. Andrews produced an intriguing report on the state of cloud computing, paying a significant amount of attention to the problems facing cloud computing.

The researchers split the problems into two factions: technological and legal. The second bit has added gravity today in light of recent leaks on the data mining activities of the United States National Security Agency, although those specific circumstances will not be discussed here. However, according to the report, an incident in 2010 (Wikileaks) laid the foundation for an environment where such infringement could happen.

However, the technological concerns are more relevant to those seeking to outsource HPC applications to the cloud. Virtualization, according to the report, is a key to running high performance applications in a cloud setting. That should be neither surprising nor interesting, as cloud computing is sometimes referred to as ‘computing in a virtualized environment.’

However, it is an important distinction to consider. As the report noted, “virtualizing a computer system reduces its management overhead and allows it to be moved between physical hosts and to be quickly instantiated or terminated.”

As computations in a public cloud must be somehow sent back to the host and it is preferable that such sending happens quickly, virtualization is understandably important. The preferred infrastructure to virtualize into a cloud environment would be that of the Intel x86, used in many localized HPC instances. That affinity presents problems for cloud computing.

“The x86 architecture was not conceived as a platform for virtualization. The mechanisms which allow x86 based virtualization either require a heavily modified guest OS or utilise an additional instruction set provided by modern CPUs which handles the intercepting and redirecting traps and interrupts at the hardware level.” It is of course possible to virtualize such an architecture, but it will result in what the researchers call a performance penalty. That penalty has been significantly reduced over the last few years, but is still present and can manifest itself in I/O performance, sometimes in extreme ways.

“IO performance in certain scenarios,” the researchers note, “suffers an 88% slowdown compared to the equivalent physical machine.” One of the main principles behind computing in the cloud is the optimization of resources. Virtualized machines (or Virtual Machines, or VMs) curtail performance to ensure the servers are in usage, which is not necessarily ideal.

A further issue raised by Ward and Barker to computing in the cloud is the interoperability among major cloud service providers like Amazon, Google, Rackspace, and Microsoft. They related it to mainframe computing, which was dominated by IBM in the 1970s. “Increased interoperability is essential in order to avoid the market shakeout the mainframe industry encountered in the 1970s. This is a significant concern for the future of cloud computing.”

Scaling up is another issue presented by the researchers, but one they feel is at least somewhat adequately addressed by the development of NoSQL. “It is NoSQL which has been a driving force behind cloud computing. The unstructured and highly scalable properties of many common NoSQL databases allows for large volumes of users to make use of single database installation to store many different types of information.” It is this notion that carries the storage capacity for HPC applications in things like Azure and S3.

Of course, it is difficult to discuss the complications of computing in the cloud without addressing security and what the report refers to as trust issues. The report, which was coincidentally published last week, seems prescient considering the NSA PRISM leaks that have been brought to light over the last week or so.

The researchers here delved into how the Wikileaks incident in 2010 laid the groundwork. “Without a comprehensive legal framework in place it is impossible to conclusively argue what parties cannot access or otherwise interfere with cloud based operations. This issue is problematic for organisations such as Wikileaks which are not well received by world governments. Unfavorable organisations can be effectively barred from operating on the cloud by any organisations able to exert influence against the provider.” Determining jurisdiction in these circumstances is hazy. The Amazon datacenter in question over the Wikileaks scandal was based in Europe. However, Amazon is based in the United States, potentially subjecting it to US government pressure if necessary.

“Worse still is the possibility that governments can compel cloud providers to provide access to client’s services or data,” the researchers argued.  “This is a major problem for cloud computing and if this issue remains unanswered, [one] could potentially see cloud providers relinquishing user and company data to world governments based on a legal mandate.”

The security issue is not a new one. Companies with sensitive data take measures to ensure the security of their cloud-housed data, such as adding additional vendor-supplied security layers or participating in a sort of ‘virtual private cloud.’

In this case, it seems unlikely that the NSA would mine experimental financial data to find terrorism patterns. However, as the report noted, a potentially dangerous precedent could be set by these actions. Will this break the trust of companies looking to keep their potentially critical and sensitive data in a cloud service? It is unclear, but this report at least indicates that could happen.

From I/O bottleneck issues to scalability to security and trust issues, the complications of cloud HPC are significant. However things like NoSQL (for scale) and better virtualization tools and workload managers are being built to mitigate those issues.

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!

ASC18: Final Results Revealed & Wrapped Up

May 17, 2018

It was an exciting week at ASC18 in Nanyang, China. The student teams braved extreme heat, extremely difficult applications, and extreme competition in order to cross the cluster competition finish line. The gala awards ceremony took place on Wednesday. The auditorium was packed with student teams, various dignitaries, the media, and other interested parties. So what happened? Read more…

By Dan Olds

ASC18: Tough Applications & Tough Luck

May 17, 2018

The applications at the ASC18 Student Cluster Competition were tough. Tougher than the $3.99 steak special at your local greasy spoon restaurant. The apps are so tough that even Chuck Norris backs away from them slowly. Read more…

By Dan Olds

Spring Meetings Underscore Quantum Computing’s Rise

May 17, 2018

The month of April 2018 saw four very important and interesting meetings to discuss the state of quantum computing technologies, their potential impacts, and the technology challenges ahead. These discussions happened in Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPC and AI Convergence is Accelerating New Levels of Intelligence

Data analytics is the most valuable tool in the digital marketplace – so much so that organizations are employing high performance computing (HPC) capabilities to rapidly collect, share, and analyze endless streams of data. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Mastering the Big Data Challenge in Cognitive Healthcare

Patrick Chain, genomics researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory, posed a question in a recent blog: What if a nurse could swipe a patient’s saliva and run a quick genetic test to determine if the patient’s sore throat was caused by a cold virus or a bacterial infection? Read more…

Quantum Network Hub Opens in Japan

May 17, 2018

Following on the launch of its Q Commercial quantum network last December with 12 industrial and academic partners, the official Japanese hub at Keio University is now open to facilitate the exploration of quantum applications important to science and business. The news comes a week after IBM announced that North Carolina State University was the first U.S. university to join its Q Network. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ASC18: Final Results Revealed & Wrapped Up

May 17, 2018

It was an exciting week at ASC18 in Nanyang, China. The student teams braved extreme heat, extremely difficult applications, and extreme competition in order to cross the cluster competition finish line. The gala awards ceremony took place on Wednesday. The auditorium was packed with student teams, various dignitaries, the media, and other interested parties. So what happened? Read more…

By Dan Olds

Spring Meetings Underscore Quantum Computing’s Rise

May 17, 2018

The month of April 2018 saw four very important and interesting meetings to discuss the state of quantum computing technologies, their potential impacts, and th Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Quantum Network Hub Opens in Japan

May 17, 2018

Following on the launch of its Q Commercial quantum network last December with 12 industrial and academic partners, the official Japanese hub at Keio University is now open to facilitate the exploration of quantum applications important to science and business. The news comes a week after IBM announced that North Carolina State University was the first U.S. university to join its Q Network. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Democratizing HPC: OSC Releases Version 1.3 of OnDemand

May 16, 2018

Making HPC resources readily available and easier to use for scientists who may have less HPC expertise is an ongoing challenge. Open OnDemand is a project by t Read more…

By John Russell

PRACE 2017 Annual Report: Exascale Aspirations; Industry Collaboration; HPC Training

May 15, 2018

The Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) today released its annual report showcasing 2017 activities and providing a glimpse into thinking about Read more…

By John Russell

US Forms AI Brain Trust

May 11, 2018

Amid calls for a U.S. strategy for promoting AI development, the Trump administration is forming a senior-level panel to help coordinate government and industry research efforts. The Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence was announced Thursday (May 10) during a White House summit organized by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Read more…

By George Leopold

Emerging Advanced Scale Tech Trends Focus of Annual Tabor Conference

May 9, 2018

At Tabor Communications' annual Advanced Scale Forum (ASF) held this week in Austin, the focus was on enterprise adoption of HPC-class technologies and high performance data analytics (HPDA). It’s a confab that brings together end users (CIOs, IT planners, department heads) and vendors and encourages... Read more…

By the Editorial Team

Google I/O 2018: AI Everywhere; TPU 3.0 Delivers 100+ Petaflops but Requires Liquid Cooling

May 9, 2018

All things AI dominated discussion at yesterday’s opening of Google’s I/O 2018 developers meeting covering much of Google's near-term product roadmap. The e Read more…

By John Russell

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown 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

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

Leading Solution Providers

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Wins $57 Million DoD Supercomputing Contract

February 20, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today revealed details of its massive $57 million HPC contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The deal calls for HP Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CFO Steps down in Executive Shuffle at Supermicro

January 31, 2018

Supermicro yesterday announced senior management shuffling including prominent departures, the completion of an audit linked to its delayed Nasdaq filings, and Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Portends ‘Sea Change’ for Oil and Gas Sector

February 1, 2018

The billowing compute and data demands that spurred the oil and gas industry to be the largest commercial users of high-performance computing are now propelling Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

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