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Reliability of computational experiments on virtualised hardware

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We present a large-scale investigation of the variability of run times on physical and virtualised hardware. The aim of our investigation is to establish whether cloud infrastructures are suitable for running computational experiments in which the results rely on reported run times. Our application is the use of the Minion constraint solver as an example of an Artificial Intelligence experiment. We include two major providers of public cloud infrastructure, Amazon and Rackspace, as well as a private Eucalyptus cloud. Although there are many studies in the literature that investigate the performance of cloud environments, the problem of whether this performance is consistent and run time measurements are reliable has been largely ignored. Our comprehensive experiments and detailed analysis of the results show that there is no intrinsic disadvantage of virtualised hardware over physical hardware and that in general cloud environments are suitable for running computational experiments. Our meticulous investigation reveals several interesting patterns in the variability of run times that researchers using a cloud for this purpose should be aware of. We close by giving recommendations as to which type of virtual machine with which cloud provider should be used to achieve reproducible results.
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Keywords: cloud; computational experiments; virtualisation

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Computer Science, University of St Andrews, North Haugh, St Andrews, KY16 9SX, UK

Publication date: January 2, 2014

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