Photo: Flickr/The Tardigrade
To hear the technology industry talk about it, cloud computing is like the IT equivalent of the Messianic Age … a cure for all things ailing IT.But an exhaustive study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research has found cloud computing isn’t all that.
The two-year study was so enormously complex that it actually got its own name, Magellan, complete with its own private test-bed cloud. (Magellan refers to Fernão de Magalhães, who was the first person to lead an expedition across the Pacific.)
The goal of the Magellan project was to determine how cloud computing can be used to serve scientists in the DOE Office of Science. Scientific experiments tend to require large amounts of computing resources, ergo they tend to require large and expensive computers. If these things can put on the cloud, then any old application can be.
While the study focused on super-needy scientific applications that require really expensive data centres, many of its conclusions could apply to any complex app that a business might want to run on a cloud.
The Magellan team didn’t mess around. Researchers at the Argonne and Lawrence Berkeley built all sorts of cloud computers in house and ran actual scientific programs on them. The test bed was built at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility and the National Energy Research Scientific c Computing centre, reports Forbes.
They built these so-called “private clouds” using giant IBM servers with gads of storage and networking capacity and ran popular open source cloud applications like Hadoop. They also put their applications on Amazon’s public servers and compared cost, performance, security issues.
The study concluded that, except for certain types of applications, cloud computing was pretty much a pain to use — and not always less expensive.
“We encountered performance, reliability, and scalability challenges,” the report said of the various open source cloud technologies it tested. It also found that “public clouds can be more expensive than in-house large systems.” Plus, it said clouds weren’t exactly set-and-go. They “require significant programming and system administration support.”
The silver lining is that the Magellan project did discover that clouds were a relatively good choice for certain kinds of applications that didn’t need have a lot of input/output.
Interestingly, now that the Magellan test cloud has been built, it could actually qualify as most-powerful private clouds, notes InformationWeek.