Nimbus: Cloud Computing for Science

Nimbus: Cloud Computing for Science

Nimbus is an open source toolkit to convert a computer cluster into an Infrastructure-as-a-Service cloud to provide compute cycles for scientific communities. It allows a client to lease remote resources by deploying virtual machines (VMs) on those resources and configuring them to represent an environment desired by the user.

Nimbus is comprised of two products:

  • Nimbus Infrastructure is an open source EC2/S3-compatible Infrastructure-as-a-Service implementation specifically targeting features of interest to the scientific community such as support for proxy credentials, batch schedulers, best-effort allocations and others.
  • Nimbus Platform is an integrated set of tools, operating in a multi-cloud environment, that deliver the power and versatility of infrastructure clouds to scientific users. Nimbus Platform allows you to reliably deploy, scale, and manage cloud resources.

The Nimbus cloud client allows the user to provision customized compute nodes, called a workspace, and maintain full control over it using a leasing model based on the Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service.

The Nimbus cloud-computing infrastructure allows scientists working on data-intensive research to create and use such virtual machines with a cloud provider.

Nimbus also allows users to create multiple virtual machines to complete specific computational jobs that can be deployed throughout the cloud and still work in tandem with each other. This flexibility allows a user to configure a virtual machine and then connect it to resources on a cloud, regardless of who is providing the cloud.

Having this kind of flexibility and on-demand computing power is vital to projects that are extremely data-intensive, such as research efforts in experimental and theoretical physics. Nimbus has already been deployed successfully to support the STAR nuclear physics experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy-Ion Collider. When researchers there needed to turn the massive amounts of data they had generated into viable simulations for an international conference, they used Nimbus to create virtual machines that were run through commercial cloud computing providers.

Nimbus-supported Science Clouds have two objectives:

  • To make it easy for scientific and educational projects to experiment with cloud computing, and
  • To learn how to make cloud computing a useful tool for the scientific community.