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Tycoon software interface

Research opportunities

Even the most efficient, automated and virtualized data center is only as good as the system that allocates its work. Our research has shown that markets can be employed to radically improve such allocation systems.

Enterprise IT customers typically need more processing power at at certain times -- e.g., busy shopping seasons or at the end of a quarter -- than during slower periods.

Such peaks burden IT service suppliers, which must own the equipment needed to meet maximum demand, only to see costly resources sit idle during off-peak times. Meanwhile, customers worry about securing access to the processing power they need during peak demand periods and having to pay much higher fees for it.

How then, can IT service providers manage demand for computational power -- both to defer demand when it is highest and encourage customers to use the resource when demand is low?

Research focus

HP Labs is applying market mechanisms to the problem of managing demand for computational resources, as well as to such problems as reservation markets, accurately measuring service quality and even advertising allocation.

Current work

Much of our effort has centered on Tycoon, a market-based allocation tool where customers pay for IT resources in a kind of resource spot market -- a sort of eBay for computing power. This system is designed to be far more efficient than the more common time-sharing model and allows users to change allocations in seconds.

Tycoon’s users bid for the resources they think they will need, thus setting market price for processor cycles, memory, disk storage and bandwidth.

Tycoon aims to help HP deliver on its vision of an adaptive IT infrastructure -- a highly automated, always-on computing resource in which available IT resources can be pooled and automatically distributed to high-demand areas as needed.

Researchers are now working to refine Tycoon. For example, we are addressing the problem of obtaining truthful reservations for computational resources, which would allow suppliers to better estimate demand. Similarly, researchers have created a pricing structure designed to elicit truthful service quality reporting by IT service suppliers.

HP Labs is also applying economic ideas beyond the provision of IT resources. For example, recent research into the economics of attention explores how to increase the impact of particular pieces of information (such as an advertisement) in situations where information is plentiful but attention is scarce.

Our research led to an automatic configuration mechanism that displays those items most likely to be interesting to the user.

Technical contributions

Tycoon is open source and available as a prototype using Linux and Xen. It has been tried within HP and Grid and is in the process of being tested within PlanetLab (the planetary-scale open services platform) and CERN (the world’s largest particle physics laboratory).

Basic research & emerging markets

» Nanotechnology
» Quantum information processing
  » Information theory  
  » Market mechanisms  
  » Emerging international markets  

Related research

»  Tycoon download and Wiki
»  Tycoon papers and presentations
»  Information Dynamics Lab

Learn more

»  Feature story: Market-based systems help manage demand
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