CLEMSON — Clemson University is part of a team that is receiving $10 million from the National Science Foundation to help build what experts call a “cloud computing system,” bringing the total funding to $20 million since 2014.

The project, CloudLab, includes Clemson’s Kuang-Ching “K.C.” Wang as a co-principal investigator. Wang, a professor in the Holcombe Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is collaborating with researchers from the University of Utah and the University of Wisconsin.

Kuang-Ching Wang is part of a team that has received a total of $20 million from the National Science Foundation for the CloudLab project.

Kuang-Ching Wang is part of a team that has received a total of $20 million from the National Science Foundation for the CloudLab project.
Image Credit: Paul Alongi

The ultimate goal is to advance what often goes by a single buzzword: the cloud.

The term suggests that computer data is floating in the sky, but that’s not how it works. Massive amounts of data, whether it’s a tweet or a YouTube video, is processed, stored and managed on computer and network hardware lodged in massive warehouses.

Advancing the technology will be crucial to ensuring the cloud is reliable, adaptable and high performing enough to support even more critical technology, such as the electrical grid and transportation system.

The makers of CloudLab do not directly conduct research on the cloud itself. Through CloudLab, they have provided a “testbed” for other researchers to “create clouds” on it to conduct rigorous and repeatable scientific experiments, Wang said.

“This puts Clemson in a strategic place in the nation’s cyberinfrastructure evolution,” he said. “We see this as more than putting the exotic hardware together. Our focus is on helping the community discover its best ideas and new possibilities, which might not have been obvious before CloudLab was built.

“The system provides researchers with a number of control and monitoring functions so that they control the system how they want, do their experiments and get all the data they want out of it.”

That usually cannot be done with private cloud providers because the huge amounts of data would lock up the network or it would cost researchers a lot of money to get the amount of bandwidth that would be needed.

The project gives universities a larger hand in developing the cloud, which has been done mostly by industry to this point. CloudLab and a similar project, Chameleon, are aimed at complementing industry’s efforts, allowing researchers to do experiments that would not be possible on commercial systems. Chameleon is also funded by the National Science Foundation.

Researchers who use CloudLab have been able to conduct experiments in many areas, which include security and reliability. The system is engineered to be easily tied to Clemson’s Palmetto Cluster supercomputer.

Daniel Noneaker, chair of the Holcombe Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, congratulated the team on the grant.

“The amount of the grant attests to the importance of the work, and the continuation of funding is a testament to the team’s success,” he said. “Dr. Wang’s involvement in CloudLab is playing a key role in positioning Clemson as a national leader in developing the state-of-the-art cyberinfrastructure.”

Russell Kaurloto, vice president for information technology and chief information officer at Clemson, said: “Clemson’s Computing and Information Technology division is pleased to help make CloudLab a reality, especially in the fast-paced evolution of cloud and cloud computing research. Clemson has a unique opportunity to participate and support the advancement of cloud research as advanced cloud technologies permeate across higher education and business enterprise.  This underscores Clemson University’s continued involvement to support advanced computing research and education.”

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under award No. 1743363. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.