HECURA I/O Projects

  1. Petascale I/O for High End Computing
  2. Techniques for Streaming File Systems and Databases
  3. Applicability of Object-Based Storage Devices in Parallel File Systems
  4. SAM^2 Toolkit: Scalable and Adaptive Metadata Management for High-End Computing
  5. Improving Scalability in Parallel File Systems for High End Computing
  6. The Server-Push I/O Architecture for High End Computing
  7. Scalable I/O Middleware and File System Optimizations for High-Performance Computing
  8. Application-adaptive I/O Stack for Data-intensive Scientific Computing
  9. Active Storage Networks for High End Computing
  10. Active Data Systems
  11. Quality of Service Guarantee for Scalable Parallel Storage Systems
  12. Concurrent I/O Management for Cluster-based Parallel Storage
  13. Performance Models and Systems Optimization for Disk-Bound Applications
  14. Exploiting Asymmetry in Performance and Security Requirements for I/O in High-end Computing
  15. Integrated Infrastructure for Secure and Efficient Long-Term Data Management
  16. Formal Failure Analysis for Storage Systems
  17. Toward Automated Problem Analysis of Large Scale Storage Systems
  18. File System Tracing, Replaying, Profiling, and Analysis on HEC Systems
  19. End-to-End Performance Management for Large Distributed Storage
  20. Performance Insulation and Predictability for Shared Cluster Storage
  21. Microdata Storage Systems for High-End Computing
  22. Memory caching and Prefetching
  23. Deconstructing Clusters for High End Biometrics

Petascale I/O for High End Computing


Data-intensive HPC applications are becoming increasingly important, adding substantial challenges to the already daunting input/output requirements of MPP codes. A well-known example is the interpretation of data from seismic exploration. In
these applications, I/O problems occur both from the large data volumes produced by seismic sensing and from the fact that this data must be manipulated to fit simulation requirements for translating the time series data from multiple sensor locations into a format ready for 3-D subsurface reconstruction.  Similarly, in online collaboration systems, visualizations require conversion and/or filtering to meet client needs.

Problem Statement and Solution Approach
The difficulties faced by scientists and engineers in attaining high performance I/O for data-intensive MPP applications are exacerbated by the low level of abstraction presented by current I/O systems. This research will create higher level I/O abstractions for developers. Specifically, the SSDS framework we propose models I/O as I/O Graphs that `connect' application components with input or output mechanisms like file systems based on metadata constructed offline by autonomous metabots. SSDS enhances the I/O functionality available to end users in several ways. I/O Graphs can be programmed to realize application-specific I/O functionality, such as data filtering and conversion, data remeshing, and similar tasks. Their management is automated, including the mapping of their logical graph nodes to underlying physical MPP and distributed machine resources. I/O performance in SSDS will be improved by integrating the computational I/O actions of I/O Graphs with the backend file systems that store high volume data and with the I/O actions already taken by applications, and by moving metadata management offline into metabots.

The purpose of the new functionality inherent in SSDS is to help developers
carry out complex I/O tasks. Technical topics to be addressed to realize this goal include the development of automated methods for deploying graph nodes to the physical sites that perform I/O functions, of dynamic management methods that maintain desired
levels of QoS for those I/O functions that require it (e.g., when accessing remote sensors). A key aspect of this work is the automation of I/O Graph creation and deployment. XML-based interfaces will make it easy for developers to provide information about the
structure of I/O data, and to specify useful data manipulations.  Efficient representations of metadata will enable both in-band and out-of-band data manipulation, to create I/O Graphs that best match current I/O needs and available machine resources.  New offline techniques will derive metadata that can be used to enrich I/O graphs and more generally,
meta-information about the large data volumes produced and consumed by MPP applications. Finally, this work will improve flexibility for I/O in future MPP machines, where virtualization techniques coupled with new chip (i.e., multicore) and interconnect technologies will make it easier to construct multi-use MPP platforms capable of efficiently performing both computational and I/O tasks.

The implementation of the SSDS system and its I/O Graph model will impact a substantial HPC user community, due to its planned integration with the Lightweight File System (LWFS) currently under development at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL).
This file system and its SSDS extensions will be deployed on large-scale machines at Sandia to demonstrate scalability and application utility.  SSDS will be integrated with the file formats and file systems used by other groups at Sandia and at Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) (with whom we are also collaborating). In fact, Georgia Tech and UNM have a long history of collaboration with SNL and ORNL. Finally, our team has been working with the vendors of future processor technology:  with IBM as part of the PERCS project, and with Intel, to better understand the implications for the high performance domain of future processor virtualization techniques


Techniques for Streaming File Systems and Databases

The performance of many high-end computing applications is limited by the capacity of memory systems to deliver data. As processor speeds increase, I/O performance continues to lag. Thus, I/O is likely to remain a critical bottleneck for high-end computing.

The researchers propose to address core problems on how to organize data on disk to optimize I/O, thus re-examining decades-old questions in the face of new applications, new technology, and new techniques. Specifically, the researchers propose to build prototypes of their streaming B-tree and variants for a file system or database. Streaming B-trees index and scan data at rates one-to-two orders of magnitude faster than traditional B-trees; they use cache-oblivious techniques to achieve platform independence. Several
issues remain to be addressed, specifically, how to deal with different-sized keys, how to support transactions, how to scale to multiple disks and processes, and how to provide O/S support for cache-obliviousness and memory-mapped massive data.

The proposed work represents a promising new direction for manipulating massive data and overcoming classic I/O bottlenecks.  In HEC file systems and databases, this technology will permit rapid streaming of data onto and off of disks for high-throughput processing of data.  This work will result in the transfer of recently developed algorithmic techniques to other areas of computer science, engineering, and scientific computing and is intended to transform how scientists and engineers manipulate massive data sets.


Applicability of Object-Based Storage Devices in Parallel File Systems

While continued improvements in processing speeds and disk densities improve computing over time, the most fundamental advances come from changing the ways in which components interact.  Delegating responsibility for some operations from the host processor to intelligent peripherals can improve application performance.  Traditional storage technology is based on simple fixed-size accesses with little assistance from disk drives, but an emerging standard for object-based storage devices (OSDs) is being adopted.  These devices will offer improvements in performance, scalability and management, and are expected to be available as commodity items soon.

When assembled as a parallel file system, for use in high-performance computing, object-based storage devices offer the potential to improve scalability and throughput by permitting clients to securely and directly access storage.  However, while the feature set offered by OSD is richer than that of traditional block-based devices, it does not provide all the functionality needed by a parallel file system.

We will examine multiple aspects of the mismatch between the needs of a parallel file system, in particular PVFS2, and the capabilities of OSD.  Topic areas include mapping data to objects, metadata, transport, caching and reliability.  Trade-offs arise from the mapping of files to objects, and how to stripe files across multiple objects and disks, in order to obtain good performance.  A distributed file system needs to track metadata that describes and connects data.  OSDs offer automatic management of some critical metadata components that can be used by the file system.  There are transport issues related to flow control and multicast operations that must be solved.  Implementing client caching schemes and maintaining data consistency also requires proper application of OSD capabilities.

Our work will examine the feasibility of OSDs for use in parallel file systems, discovering techniques to accommodate this high performance usage model.  We will also suggest extensions to the current OSD standard as needed.


SAM^2 Toolkit: Scalable and Adaptive Metadata Management for High-End Computing


The increasing demand for Exa-byte-scale storage capacity by high end computing applications requires a higher level of scalability and dependability than that provided by current file and storage systems. The proposal deals with file systems research for metadata management of scalable cluster-based parallel and distributed file storage systems in the HEC environment. It aims to develop a scalable and adaptive metadata management (SAM2) toolkit to extend features of and fully leverage the peak performance promised by state-of-the-art cluster-based parallel and distributed file storage systems used by the high performance computing community.

The project involves the following components: 1. Develop multi-variable forecasting models to analyze and predict file metadata access patterns. 2. Develop scalable and adaptive file name mapping schemes using the duplicative Bloom filter array technique to enforce load balance and increase scalability 3. Develop decentralized, locality-aware metadata grouping schemes to facilitate the bulk metadata operations such as prefetching. 4. Develop an adaptive cache coherence protocol using a distributed shared object model for client-side and server-side metadata caching. 5. Prototype the SAM2 components into the state-of-the-art parallel virtual file system PVFS2 and a distributed storage data caching system, set up an experimental framework for a DOE CMS Tier 2 site at University of Nebraska-Lincoln and conduct benchmark, evaluation and validation studies.


Improving Scalability in Parallel File Systems for High End Computing

As high end computing systems (HECs) grow to several tens of thousands of nodes, file I/O is
becoming a critical performance issue. Current parallel file systems such as PVFS2 and others, can reasonably stripe data across a hundred nodes and achieve good performance for bulk transfers involving large aligned accesses. Serious performance limits exist, however, for small unaligned accesses, metadata operations, and accesses impacted by the consistency semantics (any time one process writes data that is read by another). 

The proposed research would address a few of these most critical issues through a straightforward
application of engineering and research. The approach would build heavily on what is already known about similar problems in other distributed systems, especially distributed shared memory systems. These existing techniques would be studied in the new context of a parallel file system, adjusted, adapted, and where prudent, rejected for a novel approach. The fundamental approach is to build quantitative evidence in support of each technique using analytical and simulation techniques, and to finally develop prototypes for PVFS2. It is expected that the same techniques could be applied to any other parallel file system as well. A major focus would be on scalability as the key unit of evaluation. It is unclear if we would have the opportunity to test on a very large HEC, but we intend to simulate such machines and use machines we do have access to for validation of those simulations.

The issues we would study are scalable metadata operations, small, unaligned data accesses,
reliability through redundancy, and management of I/O resources. Techniques we expect to
employ include active caching and buffering, server-to-server and client-to-client communication, and autonomics. We intend to employ middleware whenever possible in order to enhance portability and control complexity. A major theme of the proposal is that file systems that provide everything all of the time are at a disadvantage in terms of scalable performance because features, like strict consistency and parity-based redundancy, are hard to implement with good scalability. A file system that can configure itself to match the needs of the application can get the best performance possible. Thus, PVFS2 was developed to allow a large degree of configurability, and the proposed research intends to enhance that file system so that it will scale to very large sizes.


The Server-Push I/O Architecture for High End Computing

Unlike traditional I/O designs where data is stored and retrieved by request, a new I/O architecture for High End Computing (HEC) is proposed based on a novel "Server-Push" model where a data access server proactively pushes data from a file server to the compute node's memory. The objective of this research is two fold: 1) increasing fundamental understanding of data access delay, 2) producing an effective I/O architecture that minimizes I/O latency. The PIs plan to increase the fundamental understanding through the study of data access pattern identification, prefetching algorithms, data replacement strategy, and extensive experimental testing. The PIs will
verify the performance improvement with their file server design for various critical I/O intensive applications by using a combination of simulation and actual implementation in the PVFS2 file system.


Scalable I/O Middleware and File System Optimizations for High-Performance Computing


This project entails research and development to address several parallel I/O problems in the HECURA initiative. In particular, the main goals of this project are to design and implement novel I/O middleware techniques and optimizations, parallel file system techniques that scale to ultra-scale systems, design and development of techniques that efficiently enable newer APIs and flexible I/O benchmarks that mimic real and dynamic I/O behavior of science and engineering applications. The fundamental premise is that, to achieve extreme scalability, incremental changes or adaptation of traditional techniques for scaling data accesses and I/O will not succeed because they are based on pessimistic and conservative assumptions of parallelism and interactions.  We will develop  techniques to optimize data accesses that utilize the understanding of high-level access patterns ("intent"), and use that information through middleware and file systems to enable optimizations. Specifically, the objectives are to (1) design and develop middleware I/O optimizations and cache system that are able to capture small, unaligned, irregular I/O accesses from large number of processors and uses access pattern information to optimize for I/O; (2) incorporate these optimizations in MPICH2's MPI-IO implementation to make them available to a large number of users; (3) design and evaluate enhanced APIs for file system scalability, and (4) develop flexible, execution oriented and  scalable I/O benchmarks that mimic the I/O behavior of real science, engineering and bioinformatics applications.



Application-adaptive I/O Stack for Data-intensive Scientific Computing

Advances in computational sciences have been greatly accelerated by the rapid growth of high-end computing (HEC) facilities. However, the continuous speedup of end-to-end scientific discovery cycles relies on the ability to store, share, and analyze the terabytes
and petabytes of data generated by today's supercomputers. With the growing performance gap between I/O systems and processor/memory units, data storage and accesses are inevitably becoming more bottleneck-prone.

In this proposal, we address the I/O stack performance problem with adaptive optimizations at multiple layers of the HEC I/O stack (from high-level scientific data libraries to secondary storage devices and archiving systems), and propose effective communication schemes to integrate such optimizations across layers. In particular, our
proposed PATIO  (Parallel AdapTive I/O) framework explores multi-layer caching/prefetching that coordinates storage resources ranging from processors to tape archiving systems.  This novel approach will bridge existing disjoint optimization efforts at each individual layer and responds to the critical call of improving the overall I/O system performance with increasingly deep HEC I/O stacks.


Active Storage Networks for High End Computing

Recent developments in object-based storage systems and other parallel I/O systems with separate data and control paths have demonstrated an ability to scale aggregate throughput very well for large data transfers.  However, there are I/O patterns that do not 
exhibit strictly parallel characteristics.  For example, HPC applications typically use reduction operations that funnel multiple data streams from many storage nodes to a single compute node.  In addition, many applications, particularly non-scientific applications, use small data transfers that can not take advantage of existing parallel I/O
systems.  In this project, we suggest a new approach called active storage networks (ASN) - namely putting intelligence in the network along with smart storage devices to enhance storage network performance.  These active storage networks can potentially improve not only storage capabilities but also computational performance for certain classes of operations.  The main goals of this project will include investigation of ASN topologies and architectures, creation of ASN switch from reconfigurable components, studying HEC applications for ASNs, protocols to support programmable active storage network functions, and storage system optimizations for ASNs.


Active Data Systems

This project plans to address several issues related to broadening the practicality of active storage.  More specifically, this project plans to study and investigate:
(1) The impact of mixed workloads (both active and normal requests) at the active devices. (2) The impact of multiple active applications at the active devices. (3) The resource scheduling and QOS policies for a diverse set of workloads. (4) The impact of intelligent allocation in active storage systems.
In order to address these issues, the project plans to develop (a) an "active data" model to allow flexible processing of data, either at devices or at the requester. (b) QOS algorithms and security mechanisms for mixed workloads. (c) Algorithms and prototypes for exploiting the nature of data to develop content-based active storage.


Quality of Service Guarantee for Scalable Parallel Storage Systems


The Platypus project will develop a parallel I/O system that supports guaranteed storage QoS for concurrently running parallel applications while maximizing the parallel storage system's utilization efficiency.  In addition, it will implement a timing-accurate parallel trace play-back tool to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the proposed parallel
I/O system


Concurrent I/O Management for Cluster-based Parallel Storage

High-end parallel applications that store and analyze large scientific datasets demand scalable I/O capacity.  One recent trend is to support high-performance parallel I/O using
clusters of commodity servers, storage devices, and communication networks.  When many processes in a parallel program initiate I/O operations simultaneously, the resulted
concurrent I/O workloads present challenges to the storage system.  At each individual storage server, concurrent I/O may induce frequent disk seek/rotation and thus degrade the I/O efficiency.  Across the whole storage cluster, concurrent I/O may incur synchronization delay across multiple server-level actions that belong to one parallel I/O operation.

This project investigates system-level techniques to efficiently support concurrent I/O workloads on cluster-based parallel storages.  Our research will study the effectiveness of I/O prefetching and scheduling techniques at the server operating system level.  We will also investigate storage cluster level techniques (particularly co-scheduling techniques) to support better synchronization of parallel I/O operations.  In parallel to developing new techniques, we plan to develop an understanding on the performance behavior of complex parallel I/O systems and explore automatic ways to help identify causes of performance anomalies in these systems.


Performance Models and Systems Optimization for Disk-Bound Applications

Despite many recent breakthroughs in the understanding and optimization of data-intensive applications and disk-array-based systems, significant challenges remain in
system modeling, algorithm design, and performance optimization. Existing analytical models do not incorporate application characteristics, internal disk behavior, and I/O interconnection network contention; these shortcomings cause two key problems.
First, optimization opportunities are lost since designers are compelled to design for the worst case rather than for specific application characteristics that may be significantly more benign. We propose an application characterization-driven approach wherein the behavior of the application (e.g., entropy, locality) shapes the optimization decisions.
Second, inaccurate models may lead to wasted design effort because of differences between model-predicted performance and actual disk-array performance. We propose a unified and flexible disk-array access model that improves accuracy by accounting for (a) the contention on the interconnection network between disks and memory and (b) internal disk behavior. We propose to develop and distribute an integrated execution-driven simulation environment that incorporates all the individual components described above. We envision that the insights from our models and simulator will lead to a range of optimizations such as network-contention-aware data placement and migration policies, improved caching and pre-fetching policies and techniques to ameliorate power and thermal problems in large disk arrays.


Exploiting Asymmetry in Performance and Security Requirements for I/O in High-end Computing

Application sciences are more collaborative, with sharing of data sets becoming prevalent not just between users/applications of a single organization, but across organizations
as well placing even higher performance requirements on the storage system.  Given the sensitive nature of many of these applications, in addition to the performance demands, there is an impending need to secure such data from adversarial attacks. The consequences of security breaches can have far reaching consequences, over and beyond the costs of detecting and investigating such breaches. At the same time, one cannot fully confine the data physically since these need to be shared by collaborative applications
from different administrative domains. Regulations are also mandating the maintenance of audit records and provenance of data.

The motivation for our DataVault project is driven by the need to secure storage systems which cater to the demands of high-end applications, while meeting their stringent performance requirements. Rather than have a one-solution-fits-all approach, we propose to investigate the rich design space - threats, storage architecture, enforcement mechanism, performance – to offer insightful choices that can be useful when deploying/customizing storage systems. DataVault will also include a usable objective-driven policy interface to configure the system for a given set of security and performance needs, while offering a convenient visualization dashboard for security


Integrated Infrastructure for Secure and Efficient Long-Term Data Management

To achieve the level of security and privacy for enterprise data that is increasingly required by laws or industry standards, data should be encrypted both at rest and in transit.  Yet, numerous recent privacy breaches through loss or theft of archival tapes or notebook computers show that today most data, even of extremely sensitive nature, is not encrypted.  The main reason is that we do not have a flexible system for key management.  Loss of the encryption key (through lapses of memory, death of staff members, or destruction of stored copies) would mean that the owner of the data would effectively lose it completely, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

This project will develop a high-performance long-term data management system that will ensure the necessary levels of security throughout the lifecycle of a data set.  The goal is a hierarchical cluster-based archival storage solution that will provide: (i) transparent backup, restore, and data access operations that will allow individual
application programs and business entities to securely and efficiently archive data for decades; (ii) high-performance data access in a cluster computing environment; and (iii) innovative techniques for efficiently insuring long-term data security and accessibility,
including long-term key management.  The solution will be suitable for heterogeneous computing environments, including the extremely high-throughput ones of the high-performance computing (HPC) community.


Formal Failure Analysis for Storage Systems

Building scalable storage systems requires robust tolerance of the many faults that can arise from modern devices and software systems. Unfortunately, many important storage systems handle failure in a laissez-faire manner. In this proposal, we describe the Wisconsin Program Analysis of Storage Systems project (PASS), wherein we seek to develop the techniques needed to build the high-end, scalable, robust storage systems  
of tomorrow. Our focus in PASS is to bring a more formal approach to the problem, utilizing programming language tools to build, analyze, test, and monitor these storage systems. By applying these techniques, we will raise the level of trust in the failure-handling capabilities of high-end storage systems by an order of magnitude.                                              
The PASS project will change the landscape of storage systems in three fundamental ways.  First, by developing more formal failure analysis techniques, we will be able to uncover a much broader range of storage system failure-handling problems. Second, within PASS we will develop more robust and scalable testing infrastructure; such a framework will be of general use to the development of any future storage system. Finally, through run-time instrumentation of a large Condor cluster, we plan to gather information as to what types of faults occur in practice as well as how they manifest themselves as failures. Such data will be invaluable to future designs and implementations of robust, scalable storage systems.                           


Toward Automated Problem Analysis of Large Scale Storage Systems

This research explores methodologies and algorithms for automating analysis of failures and performance degradations in large-scale storage systems.  Problem analysis includes such crucial tasks as identifying which component(s) misbehaved, likely root causes, and supporting evidence for any conclusions.  Automating problem analysis is crucial to achieving cost-effective storage at the scales needed for tomorrow's high-end
computing systems, whose scale will make problems common rather than anomalous.  Moreover, the distributed software complexity of such systems make by-hand analysis increasingly untenable.

Combining statistical tools with appropriate instrumentation, the investigators hope to significantly reduce the difficulty of analyzing performance and reliability problems in deployed storage systems.  Such tools, integrated with automated reaction logic, also provide an essential building block for the longer-term goal of self-healing.  The research
involves understanding which statistical tools work and how well in this context for the problems of problem detection/prediction, identifying which components need attention, finding root causes, and diagnosing performance problems.  It will also involve quantifying the impact of instrumentation detail on the effectiveness of those tools so as to guide justification for associated instrumentation costs.  Explorations will be done primarily in the context of the Ursa Minor/Major cluster-based storage systems via fault injection and analysis of case studies observed in its deployment.



File System Tracing, Replaying, Profiling, and Analysis on HEC Systems

File systems are difficult to analyze, as they are affected by OS internals, hardware used, device drivers, disk firmware, networking, and applications.  Traditional profiling systems have focused on CPU usage, not on I/O latencies.  Worse, existing tools for profiling, analysis, and visualization are too simplistic, cannot cope with massive and complex data streams, and do not scale to large clusters.  We have expertise in single-host file system tracing, replaying, profiling, and benchmarking---as well as having developed over 20 file systems; large data analysis and visualization; and designing and implementing petabyte-size storage clusters.

In this project we are developing tools and techniques that will work on large clusters and scale well.  We are conducting large scale tracing and replaying, collecting vital information useful to analyze the cluster's performance given a specific application.  We use automated and user-driven feedback to raise or lower the level of tracing on individual cluster nodes to (1) ``zoom in'' on hot-spots and (2) trade off information accuracy vs. overheads.  We use advanced data analysis techniques to identify performance bottlenecks, and we will visualize them for cluster users for ease of analysis.  The end goal is to help identify I/O bottlenecks in running distributed applications, so as to improve their performance significantly---resulting in more effective use of these expensive clustering resources by scientists worldwide.


End-to-End Performance Management for Large Distributed Storage

End-to-end Performance Management for Large Distributed Storage Scott Brandt, Darrell Long, and Carlos Maltzahn, UC Santa Cruz Richard Golding and Theodore Wong, IBM Almaden Research Center.

Storage systems for large and distributed clusters of compute servers are themselves large and distributed. Their complexity and scale make it hard to manage these systems and, in particular, to ensure that applications using them get good, predictable performance. At the same time, shared access to the system from multiple applications, users, and internal system activities leads to a need for predictable performance.

This project investigates mechanisms for improving storage system performance in large distributed storage systems through mechanisms that integrate the performance aspects of the path that I/O operations take through the system, from the application interface on the compute server, through the network, to the storage servers. We focus on five parts of the I/O path in a distributed storage system: I/O scheduling at the storage server, storage server cache management, client-to-server network flow control, client-to-server connection management, and client cache management.



Performance Insulation and Predictability for Shared Cluster Storage

This research explores design and implementation strategies for insulating the performance of high-end computing applications sharing a cluster storage system.  In particular, such sharing should not cause unexpected inefficiency. While each application may see lower performance, due to only getting a fraction of the total attention of the I/O system, none should see less work accomplished than the fraction it receives.  Ideally, no I/O resources should be wasted due to interference between applications, and the I/O performance achieved by a set of applications should be predictable fractions of their non-sharing performance.  Unfortunately, neither is true of most storage systems, complicating administration and penalizing those that share storage infrastructures.

Accomplishing the desired insulation and predictability requires cache management, disk layout, disk scheduling, and storage-node selection policies that explicitly avoid interference.  This research combines and builds on techniques from database systems (e.g., access pattern shaping and query-specific cache management) and storage/file systems (e.g., disk scheduling and storage-node selection).  Two specific techniques are: (1) Using prefetching and write-back that is aware of the applications associated with data and requests, efficiency-reducing interleaving can be avoided; (2) Partitioning the cache space based on per-workload benefits, determined by recognizing each workload's access pattern, one application's data cannot get an unbounded footprint in the storage server cache.


Microdata Storage Systems for High-End Computing

This research project is aimed at understanding and developing microdata storage systems, a technology which is needed for many application ares, including genome processing and radar knowledge formation.  Microdata storage systems are designed to perform well for small files (microfiles), as well as for large files (macrofiles). Today's filesystems are optimized for reading and writing data in large blocks, but they perform poorly when dealing with large volumes of microdata.

The research focuses on three promising technologies:

The investigators employ benchmarks, such as the DARPA HPC SSCA#3 benchmark (an I/O-only version of which they developed), to evaluate the impact of microdata storage systems on high-end computing.  The investigators are also developing course materials on microdata storage systems which will be made freely available under the MIT OpenCourseware initiative http://ocw.mit.edu.


Memory caching and prefetching   

This research project will focus on a buffer caching topic: to develop and test a general clock-based system framework for caching management in a large scope of storage hierarchy for core, distributed and Internet systems. The PI will design and implement a clock-based and unified memory buffer management framework with following unique merits: (1) it does not require any global synchronization, and it is system independent; (2) it will be easily used by any types of buffer management at any level of the storage hierarchy, such as buffer caches for I/O data, data buffer for large scientific data bases, memory buffers for large data streams, and others; and (3) it will be designed to flexibly adopt and test different types of novel ideas of exploiting data access localities.


Deconstructing Clusters for high end biometrics     

Today's user of scientific computing facilities has easy access to thousands of processors. However, this bounty of processing power has led to a data crisis. A conventional computing system often dispatches hundreds or thousands of jobs that simultaneously access a centralized server, which inevitably becomes a bottleneck.  To support large data
intensive applications, clusters must expose control of their internal storage and computing resources to an external scheduler that can make more informed placement decisions.  This technique is called deconstructing clusters.

This project attacks a particular data-intensive problem in high-end biometric research: the pair-wise comparison of hundreds of thousands of face images. The technique of deconstructing clusters will be used to parallelize the workload across large computing clusters. If successful, this project will reduce the time to develop and analyze a new biometric matching algorithm from years to days, thus improving the productivity of
biometric researchers. The broader impact upon society will be an improvement in the accuracy and efficiency of biometric identification for commercial and national security. The software will be published in open source form in order to benefit other scientific computations with a similar pair-wise computation model.


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