Thoughts from Cloud Workshop 2019

It’s a couple of months since the workshop and plenty of time to let the dust settle and reflect on the content. You can find most of the presentations from the workshop if you look follow the links from programme.

As I mentioned in my introduction at the meeting, I’ve noticed a transition over the past year in the adoption and application of cloud and this evident in the abstracts submitted for this meeting.  There are signs of a maturing – in the first couple of annual workshops we held, cloud usage was very much at the experimental stage with early forays into private cloud deployment and first pilots testing out public capability.   This year there were good examples of sophisticated application of cloud technology whether cloud-native applications like Chris Woods’ – use of serverless to dynamically trigger provision of clusters for batch computing – or in-depth demos of DevOps tooling from StackHPC and others.  

Late last year, the Cloud WG ran a smaller technical meeting with no formal agenda – in ‘unconference’ style.  This gave us an opportunity to do more of a deep dive with DevOps technologies.  The positive feedback we received reflected the value in networking and learning together with peers.  There was something of this continued at this year’s workshop with the afternoon demo session.  It was great to have this in-depth technical input alongside higher level presentations, whether overviews of projects or talks around challenge areas such as policy.  João Fernandes shared about the OCRE project in his presentation.  This builds on the work of the GÉANT IaaS Framework, important for the establishment of agreement with public cloud providers for access to their resources for the research community.  
On the topic of policy, the debate continued around the relative merits of public cloud versus on-premise hosting.   Cliff Addison (University of Liverpool) highlighted the tensions between quantifying benefits, budgeting at scale and maintaining portability between cloud vendors.   Owen Thomas (Red Oak Consulting) challenged assumptions with traditional HPC provision and made the case for assessment of overall value not just cost when making comparisons with public cloud.  Andrew Jones (NAG) argued against absolutes when considering the complexities in making choices for hosting for any given application.   Migration to cloud can present enormous challenges as Tony Wildish’s presentation illustrated.  He provided a walkthrough of different approaches for migration legacy code developed for on-premise to operate efficiently on cloud drawn from EMBL-EBI’s experiences.  Elsewhere in the meeting HEPCloud and UKAEA presentations show how hybrid models can be built up to select the required computing resources from on-premise and public cloud resources.  HEPCloud in particular, illustrating the benefit of public cloud to overspill from research infrastructure in order to meet peaks in demand.  

CRC Canada is an example of a complete public cloud solution architected from the ground up.   What is interesting here is the organisational and culture shifts needed to support that model.  In particular, the set up of dedicated effort for auditing and accounting when moving to a consumption based approach to billing.  Pangeo – presented by the Met Office Informatics Lab – demonstrates another cloud enabled solution but what is of interest is the formation of a collaboration bringing together open source solutions to make a platform that is cloud-ready.  At its core is a virtual research environment built largely on Jupyter and Dask together with use of Kubernetes and deployment glue to make it cloud-agnostic.  This kind of solution fits for data analytics where typically datasets have been imported into a cloud environment and manipulated into a form that is analysis-ready.  Use of BinderHub – shown with Pangeo and Sarah Gibson’s demo (Turing) – allows infrastructure to be dynamically provisioned and scientific workflows conveniently shared via Jupyter Notebooks.    

In general though, examples of long-term hosting of large volumes of research data on public cloud however are still absent.  If there’s a pattern from the sample of submissions for the workshop, it’s one of use of public cloud for compute rather than data storage: continued use of on-premise for long-term hosting of data with some bursting to public cloud for batching computing.  Cloud is utilised as a means to obtain an ephemeral computational resource: set-up an environment, stage data, perform calculation, get results and tear down again.  Even so, there appeared to be an increased awareness of the challenges of data hosting with cloud in some of the questions and discussion in the sessions.  These included issues around hybrid and public cloud and multi-cloud scenarios.  For example, if data is hosted in one cloud, how can it be accessed readily by a client with an existing presence hosted on another cloud?   There are definite signs of progress in the community but clearly there are still big challenges for cloud to be more fully utilised for research workloads.

Technical Workshop November 2018

This week we held a technical workshop with a small, but dedicated group of people. We’ve heard that our large 1 day annual workshop is great, but there are areas where people wanted to have a more in-depth discussion.

The workshop was built around “un-conference” format, where we had two pre-arranged talks but the rest of the day was open for discussion – though we were guided by the topics people suggested as part of the registration process.

The morning session kicked off with some high level discussion of possible topics followed by one of our invited talks – Stig Telfer from StackHPC gave a talk on some performance work they’ve been doing with Ceph to support CRAY and the Human Genome project. It was interesting to note the difference moving to bluestore made to Ceph performance and also how LVM and partition use of the NVMe devices had a huge impact on performance of the storage system. Continue reading →

Technical Workshop, 20 November

In addition to our main annual workshop in February next year, we’re also running a smaller pre-meeting this coming month in central London.   The goal of this event is to provide a space specifically for developers, researchers and devops to take a deep dive into technologies for cloud, share from their own experience and learning from each other.  We’ve deliberately avoided setting a fixed timetable so that we can source topics from attendees on the day.  More details and booking information for the day here:

http://bit.ly/register-cloud-wg-tech-2018

Make sure to bring your laptop 🙂

Save the date 12 Feb 2019 – next Cloud Workshop

We will be holding our 4th annual workshop early next year on the 12th February 2019.  We’re pleased to be back at our familiar venue the Francis Crick Institute in central London.   Please save the date!

In past years we’ve had a great set of speakers from public cloud companies and major research institutes to individual researchers reporting on how they are exploiting cloud computing to meet their research goals.  More details to follow soon.

RCUK Cloud Workshop 2018

The workshop is now just under a few days away.   You can see the programme for the day below.   We have a broad range of contributions from across the research community and also good representation from public cloud providers.  This year we are focussing on international collaborations for our plenary session.   Other sessions focus on mix of application use – from where cloud adoption has reached a mature state – to others where we are examining specific technical and policy related challenges to be addressed.

Programme

8th January, Francis Crick Institute London, 1 Midland Road, London, NW1 1AT

09:00 Arrivals, registration, refreshments (Gallery Area)
09:30 Introduction

(Auditorium 2)
Philip Kershaw, RCUK Cloud WG Chair

09:45 Session 1 – International Collaborations

(Auditorium 2)
Chair: Steven Newhouse

Future Science on Future OpenStack: developing next generation infrastructure at CERN and SKA – Stig Telfer, StackHPC
EOSC-hub: overview and cloud federation activities – Enol Fernández, EGI
Public Clouds, OpenStack and Federation – Ildikó Vancsa, OpenStack Foundation
Question time
10:45 Break (Gallery area)
11:15 Session 2a – Technical Challenges – Containers, portability of compute, data movement

(Auditorium 2)
Chair: Adam Huffman

Session 2b – Practical challenges

 

(Auditorium 1)
Chair: Martin Hamilton

Running a Container service with OpenStack/Magnum – Spiros Trigazis, CERN Aerospace and Cloud – Leigh Lapworth, Rolls Royce
Large scale Genomics with Nextflow and AWS Batch – Paolo Di Tommaso, Centre for Genomic Regulation; Brendan Bouffler, AWS Processing patient identifiable data in the cloud – what you need to consider technically and process wise to keep your data safe – Peter Rossi, UKCloud
Best practice in porting applications to Cloud – Dario Vianello, EMBL-EBI Jisc ExpressRoute Circuit Service, David Salmon and Gary Blake, Jisc
Demystifying Hybrid Cloud with Microsoft Azure – Mike Kiernan, Microsoft The Janet End-to-End Performance Initiative – Duncan Rand, Jisc
Question time Question time
12:30 Lunch (Gallery area)
13:30 Session 3a Innovative applications, usability and training

(Auditorium 2)
Chair: Steve Hindmarsh

Session 3b – Virtual Laboratories and Research Environments

(Auditorium 1)
Chair: Philip Kershaw

Breakout session
(Seminar room)
Visualizing Urban IoT data using Cloud Supercomputing – Nick Holliman, Newcastle University CLIMB – Thomas Connor, Cardiff University / Nick Loman, Birmingham University ResOps training – Erik van den Bergh, EMBL-EBI
Accelerate time-to-insight with a serverless big data platform – Hatem Nawar, Google Cloud CyVerse UK: a Cloud Cyberinfrastructure for life science – Alice Minotto, Earlham Institute
Azure at the Turing – Martin O’Reilly, Turing Institute EBI Cloud Portal – Jose Dianes, EMBL-EBI
HPC – There’s plenty of room at the bottom – Mike Croucher, University of Sheffield Data Labs: A Collaborative Analysis Platform for Environmental Research – Nick Cook / Josh Foster, Tessella
Question time Question time
14:45 Break (Gallery area)
15:15 Session 4a – Technical Challenges – batch compute on cloud

(Auditorium 2)
Chair: David Colling

Session 4b – Technical Challenges – Storage

(Auditorium 1)
Chair: Simon Thompson

Matching to cloud technologies to Theoretical Astrophysics and Particle Physics applications  – Jeremy Yates, UCL Semantic Storage of Climate Data on Object Store – Neil Massey, NCAS / Centre for Environmental Data Analysis, STFC
Hybrid HPC – on-premise and cloud – Wil Mayers, Alces Flight Accessing S3 from FUSE – Jacob Tomlinson, Informatics Lab
Running HPC Workloads on AWS using Alces Flight – Igor Kozin, ICR OpenStack Manila – John Garbutt, StackHPC
OpenFOAM batch compute on AWS – James Shaw, Reading University Providing Lustre access from OpenStack – Thomas Stewart / Francesco Gianoccaro, Public Health England
Implementing medical image processing platform using OpenStack and Lustre – Wojciek Turek, Cambridge University
Question time Question time
16:30
16:35 Final Plenary
(Auditorium 2)
Feedback, next steps, cloud strategy for research community, sum-up
17:00 Reception (Gallery area)
18:00 Close