Technology.am (Sept. 27, 2009) — Computer scientists at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, Calif., have for the first time successfully demonstrated the ability to run more than a million Linux kernels as virtual machines. A “kernel” is the central component of most computer operating systems.
The achievement will allow cyber security researchers to more effectively observe behavior found in malicious botnets, or networks of infected machines that can operate on the scale of a million nodes.
Botnets, said Sandia’s Ron Minnich, are often difficult to analyze since they are geographically spread all over the world.
Sandia scientists used virtual machine (VM) technology and the power of its Thunderbird supercomputing cluster for the demonstration.
Running a high volume of VMs on one supercomputer — at a similar scale as a botnet — would allow cyber researchers to watch how botnets work and explore ways to stop them in their tracks. “We can get control at a level we never had before,” said Minnich.
Previously, Minnich said, researchers had only been able to run up to 20,000 kernels concurrently. The more kernels that can be run at once, he said, the more effective cyber security professionals can be in combating the global botnet problem.
To arrive at the one million Linux kernel figure, Sandia’s researchers ran one kernel in each of 250 VMs and coupled those with the 4,480 physical machines on Thunderbird.
The successful Sandia demonstration, he asserts, means that development of operating systems, configuration and management tools, and even software for scientific computation can begin now before the hardware technology to build such machines is mature.