The National Science Foundation (NSF) Division of Computer and Network Systems has announced it will fund the development of a new cloud testbed, which will be designed for the research and development of new cloud computing platforms. To do so, the foundation is awarding a grant to three universities: Boston University, Northeastern University, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

“Cloud computing plays an important role in supporting most software we use in our daily lives. This project will construct and support a testbed for research and experimentation into new cloud platforms – the underlying software which provides cloud services to applications. Testbeds such as this are critical for enabling research into new cloud technologies – research that requires experiments which potentially change the operation of the cloud itself. The new testbed will combine proven software technologies with a real production cloud enhanced with programmable hardware – Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA) – capabilities not present in other facilities available to researchers today,” the project’s abstract states

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The testbed, known as the Open Cloud Testbed, will leverage previously developed features from the CloudLab testbed with the Mass Open Cloud (MOC). The MOC is a production cloud developed by government, academia, and industry. 

“An important part of the MOC has always been to enable cloud computing research by the academic community,” said Orran Krieger, professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Boston University; co-director of the Red Hat Collaboratory; and PI at Mass Open Cloud. “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.”

According to Red Hat, while testbeds like this one are essential for enabling new cloud technologies, they are also important for ensuring that the services that they provide are efficient and accessible to a wide range of scientists.

The researchers will combine open-source technologies with a production cloud in order to close the gap in computing capabilities, which are currently only available to researchers. Red Hat hopes the testbed will accelerate innovation, and they will actively contribute research to the project. 

“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,” Chris Wright, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Red Hat. “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.”