Jitter-Tolerant Time-stepped Applications in the Cloud

Research   |   Funding


Scientists are currently evaluating the cloud as a new platform. Many important scientific applications, however, perform poorly in the cloud. These applications proceed in highly parallel discrete time-steps or "ticks", using logical synchronization barriers at tick boundaries. We observe that network jitter in the cloud can severely increase the time required for communication in these applications, significantly increasing overall running time.

The figure above on the right shows TCP round-trip times for 16 KB messages in several environments. These environments include the Cornell Weblab, which is a modest dedicated cluster of machines interconnected by Gigabit Ethernet, and Amazon EC2 cloud instances in the 32-bit "Small", 64-bit "Large" and 64-bit "Cluster Compute" categories. Note that the scales of the y-axis differ significantly. Communication in theWeblab is well-behaved, with latencies tightly distributed around the mean. The 32-bit EC2 instances have poor performance, with high average latency and high variance. The 64-bit EC2 instance categories show acceptable average latency, but suffer frequent latency "spikes" more than an order of magnitude above the mean. Even the cluster compute instances, advertised for HPC applications, show this effect.

Time-stepped applications programmed in the bulk synchronous model suffer dramatically from this latency jitter. In this work, we are investigating a general parallel framework to process time-stepped applications in the cloud. Our framework exposes a high-level, data-centric programming model which represents application state as tables and dependencies between states as queries over these tables. We design a jitter-tolerant runtime that uses these data dependencies to absorb latency spikes by (1) carefully scheduling computation and (2) replicating data and computation. Our data-driven approach is transparent to the scientist and requires little additional code. Our experiments show that our methods improve performance up to a factor of three for several typical scientific applications.

To allow other researchers to use our framework and repeat our experiments, we are releasing an Amazon EC2 Linux AMI, which you will find here.


This research has been supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant IIS-0725260, by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and by a grant from Microsoft. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the sponsors.