Section: Research Program

Research axis 1: Convergence of Extreme-Scale Computing and Big Data Infrastructures

The tools and cultures of High Performance Computing and Big Data Analytics have evolved in divergent ways. This is to the detriment of both. However, big computations still generate and are needed to analyze Big Data. As scientific research increasingly depends on both high-speed computing and data analytics, the potential interoperability and scaling convergence of these two eco-systems is crucial to the future. Our objective for the next years is premised on the idea that we must begin to systematically map out and account for the ways in which the major issues associated with Big Data intersect with, impinge upon, and potentially change the plans that are now being laid for achieving Exascale computing.

High-performance storage for concurrent Big Data applications

We argue that storage is a plausible pathway to convergence. In this context, we plan to focus on the needs of concurrent Big Data applications that require high-performance storage, as well as transaction support. Although blobs (binary large objects) are an increasingly popular storage model for such applications, state-of-the-art blob storage systems offer no transaction semantics. This demands users to coordinate data access carefully in order to avoid race conditions, inconsistent writes, overwrites and other problems that cause erratic behavior.

We argue there is a gap between existing storage solutions and application requirements, which limits the design of transaction-oriented applications. In this context, one idea on which we plan to focus our efforts is exploring how blob storage systems could provide built-in, multi-blob transactions, while retaining sequential consistency and high throughput under heavy access concurrency.

The early principles of this research direction have already raised interest from our partners at ANL (Rob Ross) and UPM (María Pérez) for potential collaborations. In this direction, the acceptance of our paper on the Týr transactional blob storage system as a Best Student Paper Award Finalist at the SC16 conference [25] is a very encouraging step.

Big Data analytics on Exascale HPC machines

Big Data analytics is another interesting direction that we plan to explore, building on top of these converged storage architectures. Specifically, we will examine the ways in which Exascale infrastructures can be leveraged not only by HPC-centric, but also by scientific, cloud-centric applications. Many of the current state-of-the-art Big Data processing approaches, including Hadoop and Spark  [46] are optimized to run on commodity machines. This impacts the mechanisms used to deal with failures and the limited network bandwidth.

A blind adoption of these systems on extreme-scale platforms would result in high overheads. It would therefore prevent users from fully benefiting from the high performance infrastructure. The objective that we set here is to explore design and implementation options for new data analytics systems that can exploit the features of extreme-scale HPC machines: multi-core nodes, multiple memory and storage technologies including a large memory, NVRAM, SSDs, etc.


This axis is addressed in close collaboration with María Pérez (UPM), Rob Ross (ANL), Toni Cortes (BSC), Bogdan Nicolae (formerly at IBM Research, now at Huawei Research).

Relevant groups with similar interests are the following ones.

  • The group of Jack Dongarra, Innovative Computing Laboratory at University of Tennessee/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, working on joint tools Exascale Computing and Big Data.

  • The group of Satoshi Matsuoka, Tokyo Institute of Technology, working on system software for Clouds and HPC.

  • The group of Franck Cappello at Argonne National Laboratory/NCSA working on on-demand data analytics and storage for extreme-scale simulations and experiments.