University of Illinois’ Trusted ILLIAC Will Transform Large-Scale Computing
The original ILLIAC computer, built by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1952, was the first computer in the world created and owned entirely by an educational institution. It weighed five tons and contained 2,800 vacuum tubes.
On Wednesday, May 10, the University will officially launch the Trusted ILLIAC Cluster at a special event hosted by Chancellor Richard Herman at the University Club of Chicago. The launch announcement will take place during 9:30 a.m. news conference, followed by an executive roundtable discussion by national leaders in high-technology industries on the challenges and opportunities in next-generation large-scale computing infrastructures at 10:30 a.m.
“For many years, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has played a leading role in the development of large-scale, high-performance computing systems, and Trusted ILLIAC represents the latest generation of such machines,” Herman explained. “The launch of this Information Trust Institute initiative reflects our continuing commitment to transforming knowledge and applying it to societal problems, in concert with the state and federal government and the private sector.”
When completed, Trusted ILLIAC will incorporate a 500-processor programmable hardware/software cluster designed and built by researchers at the Information Trust Institute (ITI) and Coordinated Science Laboratory (CSL) at Illinois. It promises to make large-scale computing truly trustworthy, providing an application-specific level of reliability and security in a transparent manner while delivering high performance.
Back in the days of ILLIAC IV, which was the largest and fastest computer in the world in 1965, the challenge of large-scale computing was performance: creating computers that are faster and ever more powerful. But in today’s world, building large, fast systems is no longer the biggest challenge.
“Today, the greatest challenge is building large, fast systems that are secure and reliable—in a word, ‘trustworthy’,” explained ITI Director William H. Sanders, who is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Illinois. Established in 2004, ITI brings together over 60 faculty and senior researchers and more than 200 graduate students to advance the state-of-the-art in building systems that are quantifiably trustworthy, making them resilient to both accidental failures and malicious attacks.
According to CSL Director and ITI Chief Scientist Ravi Iyer, the need for greater security and reliability in computing has intensified as the industry begins to shift to what some have called “utility computing,” “on-demand computing,” or “adaptive enterprise computing.”
“In this new generation, computing is seen as a utility,” Iyer explained. “Just as you get electricity when you plug in, companies and institutions will be able to ‘plug in’ to a massive computer system that gives them greater performance.”
“Utility computing” means that different companies share the same powerful cluster of processors to get their work done, increasing the need for higher levels of reliability and security. According to Iyer, utility computing will be a cheaper, more efficient way to meet the massive computing-power needs of banking, research, design, and many other commercial applications.
But can a computer be trusted to perform its required functions correctly, in spite of failures or malicious attacks that might occur? That’s where Trusted ILLIAC comes in.
“We know how to build small-scale systems and make them rock-solid,” Iyer added. “But when you scale it to large levels, it’s very difficult to make systems perfect. When you finish computing, you can leave lots of trails behind. So how do you prevent the next person from coming in, looking at your trails and gathering information about you? The Trusted ILLIAC model aims to make this happen with a combination of hardware and software innovations.”
The Information Trust Institute began work on the Trusted ILLIAC cluster in its Trusted ILLIAC Laboratory in the fall of 2005, with the goal of setting up a small cluster of roughly 32 processors by the end of the first year. By the end of the second year, researchers aim to establish a prototype large-scale system: a 500-processor cluster.
“At the end of the third year, we’ll have a full-fledged system that allows us to begin innovating,” Iyer said. “Industry and other research collaborators will also be able to use the system as a testbed to develop a whole new set of ideas.” Corporate supporters of Trusted ILLIAC include Hewlett-Packard, Advanced Micro Devices, and Xilinx. Trusted ILLIAC development is also supported by a new National Science Foundation Critical Research Infrastructure (CRI) grant led by Wen-mei Hwu, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and ITI’s Theme Leader for Embedded and Enterprise Computing.
In addition to being reliable and secure, Hwu remarked, the Trusted ILLIAC system will automatically adapt to the computing environment of specific applications.
“It’s like a chameleon,” he said. “Trusted ILLIAC will be able to determine how it must configure itself to provide the best performance for an application—the best level of trust. It morphs itself to support that application.” Part of the key to this adaptation is sophisticated middleware, which enables the many nodes of the Trusted ILLIAC to communicate with one another in a reliable and secure way, explained ITI Theme Leader in Multimedia and Distributed Systems and computer science professor Klara Nahrstedt.
According to Iyer, the intellectual merit lies in investigating new set of application-aware methods to provide customized levels of trust (specified by the application) and enforced via an integrated approach involving re-programmable hardware, enhanced compiler methods to extract security and reliability properties and supported by a configurable OS and middleware.
“We plan to transform a large Linux based cluster, using augmented hardware (demonstrated via FPGA implementations), smart compilers capable of extracting and programming into hardware, application-specific reliability and security guarantees and supported by an Operating System and Middleware configured to support the application execution,” Iyer said.
The Trusted ILLIAC research will even result in methods to validate levels of reliability and security, providing the first real way to benchmark the trustworthiness of large-scale computing systems.
“The previous approach was to build a one-size-fits-all system,” Sanders remarked. “But that approach results in systems that are insufficient, inefficient, and impossible to validate. The Trusted ILLIAC Laboratory represents a fundamental change in the way computing is accomplished.”
About the Coordinated Science Laboratory
Since its inception in 1951, CSL has evolved into a world-class multidisciplinary research facility with over 450 researchers. Today, CSL is a world leader in IT infrastructure development. Working at the confluence of computing control and communications, researchers are making IT all-pervasive, high-performance, reliable, secure, and able to support a wide range of applications. A wide range of applications, including disaster response, e-commerce, home entertainment, embedded systems, aerospace computing, and medical imaging, drive CSL research. At CSL, design, implementation, interaction, and evaluation take place at every level from circuits to systems and networks, and from algorithms to complex, new-generation architectures, design tools, and software. www.csl.uiuc.edu.
About the Information Trust Institute (ITI)
The Information Trust Institute is a multi-disciplinary research unit housed in the College of Engineering at Illinois. It is a national leader combining research and education with industrial outreach in trustworthy and secure information systems. ITI brings together approximately 60 faculty, many senior and graduate student researchers, and industry partners to conduct foundational and applied research to enable the creation of critical applications and cyber infrastructures. In doing so, ITI is creating computer systems, software, and networks that society can depend on to be trustworthy, that is, secure, dependable (reliable and available), correct, safe, private, and survivable. Instead of concentrating on narrow and focused technical solutions, ITI aims to create a new paradigm for designing trustworthy systems from the ground up and validating systems that are intended to be trustworthy. www.iti.uiuc.edu