Higgins, Joshua (2019) Towards Modern, Accessible and Dynamic HPC Using Container-based Virtual Clusters. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

In this thesis, a novel Virtual Container Cluster (VCC) framework is presented. Despite the growing popularity of container virtualisation in order to increase the flexi-bility of the software stack, run time environment virtualisation still poses significant portability challenges; by depending on the underlying cluster execution paradigm,a niche class of HPC only containers has emerged. This trend is detrimental to reusability, reproducibility, and encouraging new communities to HPC.

Traditional virtualisation techniques have a rich history within HPC, and have been demonstrated to offer much more than software flexibility. A Virtual Machine by nature requires an OS and full stack environment akin to a physical machine, and this allows it to be instantiated regardless of the underlying machine and what services it provides. This capability is essential in order to implement job forwarding and spanning - where the burden of an entire job can be transferred or shared between hetero-geneous cluster systems - with a high level of confidence that the environments will be compatible. In turn, this brings improvements to global resource performance, reducing the job turnaround time and increasing cluster utilization.

The VCC is an innovative solution that combines the full stack and container virtualisation approaches. Therefore, it offers both the flexibility of containers with the improved portability, performance and scalability of the full stack approach. In order to maintain the same accessibility and lower barrier of entry as the run time environment approach, the design incorporates an autonomous configuration and contextualisation mechanism, along with a Software Defined Networking technology, to ensure the full stack container does not place an additional burden on the user. The usefulness and performance is validated through benchmarking and two case studies: virtual clusters in the classroom and inter-institutional spanning.

Higgins THESIS.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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