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  1. All computing infrastructure suffers from performance variability, be it bare-metal or virtualized. This phenomenon originates from many sources: some transient, such as noisy neighbors, and others more permanent but sudden, such as changes or wear in hardware, changes in the underlying hypervisor stack, or even undocumented interactions between the policies of the computing resource provider and the active workloads. Thus, performance measurements obtained on clouds, HPC facilities, and, more generally, datacenter environments are almost guaranteed to exhibit performance regimes that evolve over time, which leads to undesirable nonstationarities in application performance. In this paper, we present our analysis of performance of the bare-metal hardware available on the CloudLab testbed where we focus on quantifying the evolving performance regimes using changepoint detection. We describe our findings, backed by a dataset with nearly 6.9M benchmark results collected from over 1600 machines over a period of 2 years and 9 months. These findings yield a comprehensive characterization of real-world performance variability patterns in one computing facility, a methodology for studying such patterns on other infrastructures, and contribute to a better understanding of performance variability in general. 
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  2. Empirical performance measurements of computer systems almost always exhibit variability and anomalies. Run-to-run and server-to-server variations are common for CPU, memory, disk, and network performance characteristics. In our previous work, we focused on taming performance variability for memory, disk, and network and established an interactive analysis service at: to help users of the CloudLab testbed better plan and conduct their experiments. In this paper, we describe our analysis of CPU variability based on over 1.3M performance measurements from nearly 1,800 servers and present our initial findings. The focus of this work is on capturing hardware variability, which can make repeatable experiments more difficult and can impact conclusions; it it this important for systems researchers to understand. (We note that, though we do not study it in this work, in the cloud, multi-tenancy and resource sharing an exacerbate the problem.) Variability also inevitably impacts performance and operation of middleware and high-level applications, contributing to the straggler problems in many domains, including HPC, Big Data, and Machine Learning, and on many types of cyberinfrastructures. We analyze the data from the CloudLab servers allocated in an exclusive fashion, with no virtualization. While our analysis focuses on the testbed that aims to promote reproducible research, we believe our approach and the findings can be of value to people who manage, analyze, and utilize shared computing resources in supercomputers, clouds, and datacenters. 
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  3. Given the highly empirical nature of research in cloud computing, networked systems, and related fields, testbeds play an important role in the research ecosystem. In this paper, we cover one such facility, CloudLab, which supports systems research by providing raw access to programmable hardware, enabling research at large scales, and creating as hared platform for repeatable research.We present our experiences designing CloudLab and operating it for four years, serving nearly 4,000 users who have run over 79,000 experiments on 2,250 servers, switches, and other pieces of datacenter equipment. From this experience,we draw lessons organized around two themes. The first set comes from analysis of data regarding the use of CloudLab:how users interact with it, what they use it for, and the implications for facility design and operation. Our second set of lessons comes from looking at the ways that algorithms used“under the hood,” such as resource allocation, have important—and sometimes unexpected—effects on user experience and behavior. These lessons can be of value to the designers and operators of IaaS facilities in general, systems testbeds in particular, and users who have a stake in understanding how these systems are built. 
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  4. The performance of compute hardware varies: software run repeatedly on the same server (or a different server with supposedly identical parts) can produce performance results that differ with each execution. This variation has important effects on the reproducibility of systems research and ability to quantitatively compare the performance of different systems. It also has implications for commercial computing, where agreements are often made conditioned on meeting specific performance targets. Over a period of 10 months, we conducted a large-scale study capturing nearly 900,000 data points from 835 servers. We examine this data from two perspectives: that of a service provider wishing to offer a consistent environment, and that of a systems researcher who must understand how variability impacts experimental results. From this examination, we draw a number of lessons about the types and magnitudes of performance variability and the effects on confidence in experiment results. We also create a statistical model that can be used to understand how representative an individual server is of the general population. The full dataset and our analysis tools are publicly available, and we have built a system to interactively explore the data and make recommendations for experiment parameters based on statistical analysis of historical data. 
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  5. Performance variability has been acknowledged as a problem for over a decade by cloud practitioners and performance engineers. Yet, our survey of top systems conferences reveals that the research community regularly disregards variability when running experiments in the cloud. Focusing on networks, we assess the impact of variability on cloud-based big-data workloads by gathering traces from mainstream commercial clouds and private research clouds. Our data collection consists of millions of datapoints gathered while transferring over 9 petabytes of data. We characterize the network variability present in our data and show that, even though commercial cloud providers implement mechanisms for quality-of-service enforcement, variability still occurs, and is even exacerbated by such mechanisms and service provider policies. We show how big-data workloads suffer from significant slowdowns and lack predictability and replicability, even when state-of-the-art experimentation techniques are used. We provide guidelines for practitioners to reduce the volatility of big data performance, making experiments more repeatable. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2030