Red Hat, Inc., the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, announced last December 18 that the National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Computer and Network Systems has awarded a grant to a research team from Boston University, Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) to help fund the development of a national cloud testbed for research and development of new cloud computing platforms.

By providing capabilities that currently are only available to researchers within a few large commercial cloud providers, the new testbed will allow diverse communities to exploit these technologies, thus ‘democratizing’ cloud-computing research and allowing increased collaboration between the research and open-source communities.”

Michael Zink, Associate Professor, Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE), University of Massachusetts Amherst

The testbed, known as the Open Cloud Testbed, will integrate capabilities previously developed for the CloudLab testbed into the Massachusetts Open Cloud (MOC), a production cloud developed collaboratively by academia, government, and industry through a partnership anchored at Boston University’s Hariri Institute for Computing. As a founding industry partner and long-time collaborator on the MOC project, Red Hat will work with Northeastern University and UMass, as well as other government and industry collaborators, to build the national testbed on Red Hat’s open hybrid cloud technologies.

Testbeds such as the one being constructed by the research team, are critical for enabling new cloud technologies and making the services they provide more efficient and accessible to a wider range of scientists focusing on research in computer systems and other sciences.

“An important part of the MOC has always been to enable cloud computing research by the academic community. This project dramatically expands our ability to support researchers both by providing much richer capabilities and by expanding from a regional to a national community of researchers.”

Orran Krieger, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Boston University; co-director, Red Hat Collaboratory; PI, Massachusetts Open Cloud

By combining open source technologies and a production cloud enhanced with programmable hardware through field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), the project aims to close a gap in computing capabilities currently available to researchers. As a result, the testbed is expected to help accelerate innovation by enabling greater scale and increased collaboration between research teams and open source communities. Red Hat researchers plan to contribute to active research in the testbed, including a wide range of projects on FPGA hardware tools, middleware, operating systems and security.

Beyond this, the project also aims to identify, attract, educate and retain the next generation of researchers in this field and accelerate technology transfer from academic research to practical use via collaboration with industry partners such as Red Hat.

Since its launch in 2014, Red Hat has served as a core partner of the MOC, which brings together talent and technologies from various academic, government, non-profit, and industry organizations to collaboratively create an open, production-grade public cloud suitable for cutting-edge research and development. The MOC’s open cloud stack is based on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat OpenStack Platform and Red Hat OpenShift.

“This grant and the work being done by the MOC show how open source solutions can positively impact real-world challenges outside of enterprise data centers. Red Hat is no stranger to pioneering new ways in which open source software can be used for innovative research, and we are pleased to help drive this initiative in bringing open cloud technologies to a wider range of disciplines, from social sciences to physics, while also continuing our commitment to the next generation of open source practitioners.”

Chris Wright, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Red Hat

Beyond creating the national testbed, the grant will also extend Red Hat’s collaboration with Boston University researchers to develop self-service capabilities for the MOC’s cloud resources. For example, via contributions to the OpenStack bare metal provisioning program (Ironic), the collaboration aims to produce production quality Elastic Secure Infrastructure (ESI) software, a key piece to enabling more flexible and secure resource sharing between different datacenter clusters. And by sharing new developments that enable moving resources between bare metal machines and Red Hat OpenStack or Kubernetes clusters in open source communities such as Ironic or Ansible, Red Hat and the MOC’s researchers are helping to advance technology well beyond the Open Cloud Testbed.

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