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3.1 Cloud  Lab For Artifact Evaluation
3.1.1 For Authors
3.1.2 For AEC Chairs
3.1.3 For AEC Members
2023-05-21 (a72f5c8)

3 CloudLab and Repeatable Research

One of CloudLab’s key goals is to enable repeatable researchwe aim to make it easier for researchers to get the same software and hardware environment so that they can repeat or build upon each others’ work.

CloudLab is designed as a scientific instrument. It gives full visibility into every aspect of the facility, and it’s designed to minimize the impact that simultaneous slices have on each other. This means that researchers using CloudLab can fully understand why their systems behave the way they do, and can have confidence that the results that they gather are not artifacts of competition for shared hardware resources. CloudLab profiles can also be published, giving other researchers the exact same environment—hardware and software—on which to repeat experiments and compare results.

CloudLab gives exclusive access to compute resources to one experiment at a time. (That experiment may involve re-exporting those resources to other users, for example, by running cloud services.) Storage resources attached to them (eg. local disk) are also used by a single experiment at a time, and it is possible to run experiments that have exclusive access to switches.

3.1 CloudLab For Artifact Evaluation

CloudLab is an ideal environment for artifact evaluation: it provides a way for authors to define an environment in which they know their experiments will work, and a way for AEC members to get access to large collections of computing hardware without having to own that hardware themselves or pay for a commercial cloud environment.

In this section, we offer advice to authors of artifacts, AEC chairs, and the members of AECs.

3.1.1 For Authors

The best way to give evaluators a predictable environment is to provide a link to a profile that is suitable for running your artifact. This could be one of our standard profiles, or one that you make yourself. Either way, you can be sure of the environment they will get so that you do not have to worry about hardware differences, software versions, etc. This profile may be simple, giving them access to a single machine with a default OS, or may have multiple machines and/or use features such as disk images and startup scripts to manage dependencies and configuration so that the evaluators have minimal work to do.

On the page for each profile, there is a "share" button: this will provide you with the link you can give to evaluators. Because profiles are versioned, you can provide them with a link to either a specific version of the profile or to the profile in general (which will always point to the latest version). If you are using a profile that you made yourself, we recommend that you set the profile to be publicly available, though it is also possible to share private profiles (these use a link with a random identifier; anyone with the link can use the profile).

Evaluators will need to have a CloudLab account to use your profile. We do not recommend having them join your project (as this removes their anonymity) or giving them access to a running experiment (as this can be unnecessarily complex, and requires your experiment to remain instantiated for a potentially long period of time). Instead, we recommend that evaluators use accounts obtained as described below in the "AEC Chairs" and "AEC Members" sections. You may point them to this manual to explain the process if they are not familiar with it.

We recommend using a profile that specifies a specific hardware type so that you can ensure that evaluators are running on machines with the same type of performance, the same amount of memory, etc. We also recommend that you use a profile that specifies an explicit disk image(s) to use, even if that image is one of CloudLab’s default images. This way, even if CloudLab’s default changes, you can be assured that evaluators will continue to get the same one you used and will not run into any unexpected software version problems.

Because many artifacts are shared as git repositories, repo-based profiles can be a good way to package the profile with the rest of the artifact. In essence, any public git repo can be made into a profile by adding a profile.py script (which defines the profile using Describing a profile with python and geni-lib) to it. If you chose to do this, you will still provide the evaluators with a link to a profile to use: it will just be the case that the definition of this profile is contained within the same repository as the rest of your artifact. For an example of this, see the artifact repository for the OrderSage project.

3.1.2 For AEC Chairs

CloudLab can be a useful resource for AECs as a place with significant resources to run artifacts. It can be useful whether or not artifacts are submitted as CloudLab profiles (as described above): AEC members can get machines with a variety of hardware and popular OSes, and they have root access, so installing dependencies, etc. is straightforward. Many members of certain research communities will already have experience using CloudLab.

We recommend that AEC chairs start a project for the AEC; the CloudLab staff will review your project application, so make sure it is clear about which venue it is an AEC for. Once the project is approved, you will receive links that you can share with AEC members to join the project. Project leads approve members of their projects, so CloudLab staff will not be involved further in the process.

CloudLab can sometimes be quite busy, and resources (especially hardware with particularly valuable properties) can fill up. We recommend that you warn your AEC members to plan ahead and leave themselves plenty of time to make sure they can get the resources they need. The reservation system can be used to help get access to scarce resources.

3.1.3 For AEC Members

CloudLab can be a useful resource for AEC members whether or not artifacts are submitted as CloudLab profiles (as described above): AEC members can get machines with a variety of hardware and popular OSes, and they have root access, so installing dependencies, etc. is straightforward.

We recommend that AEC members join a project created specifically for the AEC. If your AEC chairs have not provided you with information about a CloudLab project for the AEC, we recommend that you point them to the section above for instructions to create one.

If you already have an account on CloudLab, it is possible to be a member of multiple projects with the same account; simply log in to your existing account before applying to join the new project.

Since AECs frequently work on tight deadlines, and CloudLab has limited resources, we recommend planning ahead to make sure that you have enough time to obtain the resources you need and do the evaluation. If you are having trouble with the resources you need being unavailable, have a look at CloudLab’s reservation system.