NC State's VCL is Now an Apache Top Level Project
On June 20, 2012, the Apache Software Foundation board voted to graduate the NC State Apache Virtual Computing Lab (VCL) from the Apache Incubator to an Apache TLP (Top Level Project). This is a significant milestone in the life of VCL. VCL production use on the NC State campus started in the fall of 2004. It is arguably the first Academic Cloud Computing environment in production use in the country, and in the world (the inset figure shows the original 2003 conceptual drawing of this cloud environment). VCL started as a joint venture of the College of Engineering and the Office of Information Technology, using IBM Shared University Research grant provided equipment, to efficiently use hardware investments and to provide remote access to a wide range of advanced compute requirements by both NC State students, faculty and researchers.
NC State started providing access to all UNC System campuses (via Shibboleth, cca 250,000 students) in 2007. In November 2008, NC State donated the VCL source code to the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) as part of on-going efforts to expand the VCL community and to foster open source development. NC State continues to be heavily involved in the development of VCL through the open source community at ASF.
In 2007 and 2009, the ComputerWorld Honors Program recognized NC State as a Laureate in the Education Category for its VCL-based Cloud Computing Services. The Program recognizes people, organizations and institutions from around the world whose visionary application of information technology promotes positive social and economic progress.
VCL can be many things, but first and foremost it is an open-source system for dynamic on-demand provisioning and brokering of cloud-based resources (virtual or real), applications and services, including remote access to specialized dedicated computing environments such as high-performance computing resources. This computing environment can range from something as simple as a virtual machine running productivity software to a high-end machine room blade running high end software (i.e. CAD, GIS, statistical package, or an Enterprise level application) to a cluster of interconnected physical (bare metal) HPC compute nodes. The provisioned resources are typically housed in a data center and may be physical blade servers, traditional rack mounted servers, or virtual machines. But, VCL can also broker access to stand alone machines such as lab computers on a university campus, or resources in other clouds - e.g., EC2 or IBM clouds.
VCL is now used on many campuses all over the world. With the ongoing support from the Computer Science Department, College of Engineering, and the Office of Information Technology, research grants, and various academic and corporate partners, NC State VCL Cloud currently provides a service that successfully supports a wide range of users with diverse computing needs across the UNC System and NC Community Colleges.
For more information on the VCL, please click here.
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