Researching the future of the cloud

Researching the Future of the Cloud

By Nadav Har’El

What will the IaaS cloud of the future look like? How can we improve the hypervisor to reduce the overhead it adds to virtual machines? How can we improve the operating system on each VM to make it faster, smaller, and more agile? How do we write applications that run more efficiently and conveniently on the modern cloud? How can we run on the cloud applications which traditionally required specialized hardware, such as supercomputers?

Project Mikelangelo

Cloudius Systems, together with eight leading industry and university partners, announced this month the Mikelangelo research project, which sets out to answer exactly these questions. Mikelangelo is funded by the European Union’s flagship research program, “Horizon 2020”.

Cloudius Systems brings to this project two significant technologies:

The first is OSv, our efficient and light-weight operating-system kernel optimized especially for VMs in the cloud. OSv can run existing Linux applications, but often with significantly improved performance and lower memory and disk footprint.

Our second contribution to the cloud of the future is Seastar, a new framework for writing complex asynchronous applications while achieving optimal performance on modern machines. Seastar could be used to write the building blocks of modern user-facing cloud applications, such as HTTP servers, object caches and NoSQL databases, with staggering performance: Our prototype implementations already showed a 4-fold increase in server throughput compared to the commonly used alternatives, and linear scalability of performance on machines with up to 32 cores.

The other companies which joined us in the Mikelangelo project are an exciting bunch, and include some ground-breaking European (and global) cloud researchers and practicioners:

 • Huawei

 • IBM

 • Intel

 • The University of Stuttgart’s supercomputing center (HLRS)

 • The University of Goettingen’s computing center (GWDG)

 • Ben-Gurion University

 • XLAB, the coordinator of the project

 • Pipistrel, a light aircraft manufacturer

Pipistrel’s intended use case, of moving HPC jobs to the cloud, is particularly interesting. Pipistrel is an innovative manufacturer of light aircraft that holds several cool world records, and won NASA’s 2011 “Green Flight Challenge” by building an all-electric airplane achieving the equivalent of 400 miles per gallon per passenger. The aircraft design process involves numerous heavy numerical simulations. If a typical run requires 100 machines for two hours, running it on the cloud means they would not need to own 100 machines, and rather just pay for the computer time they use. Moreover, on the cloud they could just as easily deploy 200 machines, and finish the job in half the time, for exactly the same price!

Last week, researchers from all these partners met to kick off the project, and also enjoyed a visit to Ljubljana which, as its name implies, is a lovely city. The project will span 3 years, but we expect to see some encouraging results from the project—and from the individual partners comprising it—very soon. The future of the cloud looks very bright!

Visit The Mikelangelo Project’s official site for updates.

Watch this space (feed), or follow @CloudiusSystems on Twitter, for more links to research in progress.