Many of the ideas that drive modern cloud computing, such as server virtualization, network slicing, and robust distributed storage arose from the research community. Despite this success, today’s clouds have become environments that are unsuitable for moving this research agenda forward—they have particular, unmalleable implementations of these ideas baked in. We are building CloudLab, a facility that will enable fundamental advances in cloud architecture. CloudLab will not be a cloud; CloudLab will be large-scale, distributed scientific infrastructure on top of which many different clouds can be built. It will support thousands of researchers and run hundreds of different, experimental clouds simultaneously. The Phase I CloudLab deployment will provide approximately 15,000 cores in data centers at Clemson (with Dell equipment), Utah (HP), and Wisconsin (Cisco), with each industrial partner collaborating to explore next-generation ideas for cloud architectures.
CloudLab will be a place where researchers can try out ideas using any cloud software stack they can imagine. It will accomplish this by running at a layer below cloud infrastructure: it will provide isolated, bare-metal access to a set of resources that researchers can use to bring up their own clouds. These clouds may run instances of today’s popular stacks, modest modifications to them, or something entirely new. CloudLab will not be tied to any particular particular cloud stack, and will support experimentation on multiple in parallel. It will be highly automated and, for convenience, it will provide canned configurations of popular stacks such as OpenStack and Hadoop. Using these, building a basic cloud can be as simple as picking the stack, describing its resource pool, and waiting a few minutes for it to be instantiated. Because CloudLab will be based on Emulab and GENI software, thousands of researchers already know how to set up and run experiments in CloudLab. CloudLab experiments will interoperate from CloudLab proper into all of GENI, its international peers, and beyond.
Cloud computing’s impact outside the field of computer science has been substantial: it has enabled a new generation of applications and services with direct impacts on society at large. CloudLab is positioned to have an immediate and substantial impact on the research community by providing access to the resources it needs to shape the future of clouds. Cloud architecture research, enabled by CloudLab, will empower a new generation of applications and services which will bring direct benefit to the public in areas of national priority such as medicine, smart grids, and natural disaster early warning and response. Over four dozen research projects have already expressed enthusiasm for the new research that CloudLab will enable. CloudLab will be available, free of charge, to all researchers, creating a level playing field for people at institutions of all sizes and with all kinds of backgrounds. By making it as easy to get a cloud tomorrow as it is to get a virtual machine today, CloudLab has the potential to inspire a generation of researchers to undertake bold new initiatives.