Research never stops, and supercomputing is keeping up. For the fourth year in a row,Jetstreamreached a 99 percent uptime, making high powered computing resources available 24/7 to for hundreds of users from diverse research backgrounds.
George Turner, Chief Systems Architect for Research Technologies, says most research computing systems need to take occasional downtime (e.g., at IU that’s on a monthly basis).
What’s unique about Jetstream is that it’s a cloud infrastructure. So our hardware is essentially the same as you would see in any compute cluster, but instead of running batch jobs we’re hosting virtual infrastructure.
This means Jetstream utilizes software defined on “virtual” entities such as networks, routers, storage, and servers. These virtual entities can be moved around the cluster in real time allowing Jetstream’s engineers and operators to perform maintenance and updates on the underlying infrastructure while users’ activities continue. This virtualized infrastructure, combined with a high degree of redundancy in the underlying hardware and services architecture, allows Jetstream to maintain an uptime availability to users of greater than 99%.
The flexibility of virtual machines is essential to Jetstream’s uptime: “If we’re having problems and need to do maintenance on something, we just move the affected Virtual Machines to somewhere else,” Turner said. Additional cloud servers at TACC and the University of Arizona ensure that if a problem arises at IU, users will have ongoing access to resources. “We have redundancy within the system as well as external to each of the systems,” said Turner. “Jetstream is the first of its kind; it is a very reliable model, and we have attracted interest from other cloud providers,” he continued.
With a long history of supporting free and open access to research computing at IU, Jetstream connects research gateways to the National Science Foundation’s XSEDE high powered computing resources. “Jetstream is for the people who need something a little bigger than their laptop, but not necessarily these large supercomputing resources,” said Turner. Unlike many of XSEDE’s users, “Jetstream users are not necessarily programmers, they are domain specialists in fields such as astronomy, biology, the humanities, and they’re not interested in learning how to code those large distributed systems” he said.
Jetstream serves as a bridge for software developers and the researchers they aim to support. “With Jetstream, the NSF wanted to do something unique,” said Turner. Instead of having researchers apply with specific project proposals, applications like JupyterHub for earth scientists, orBrainlife.io, for neuroscience, are loaded into Jetstream’s library of VMs and made available to researchers via a web browser. For software developers who are supported by the NSF or other federal agencies, “Jetstream is a way for them to reach other researchers within their domain,” said Turner.