[Beowulf] confidential data on public HPC cluster

Jonathan Dursi ljdursi at scinet.utoronto.ca
Mon Mar 1 08:29:49 PST 2010


We're a fairly typical academic HPC centre, and we're starting to have 
users talk to us about using our new clusters for projects that have 
various requirements for keeping data confidential.    We expect these 
to be the first of many requests, so we want to think now about how we 
can and can't help such users.   We have people here quite familiar in 
general cluster security issues, but as is usually the case in academia, 
we're normally concerned about hardening the cluster from the outside, 
and less about protecting the users from each other.   We've started 
doing some research, but presumably people on this list have run into 
these issues in the past and can give us some guidance.

Obviously, the degree to which we and our clusters can be of use to 
these users depend on the details and stringency of their legal, 
contractual, or other requirements.   If even having small fractions of 
the data unencrypted in memory on a node that someone else could login 
to (even if only as root) is not allowed, then I imagine it's going to 
be hard for them to use any machine they don't physically control.   But 
presumably many other users will have less strict conditions on what is 
and isn't allowed.

Are there good discussions of this somewhere?  What resources do you 
point users to when they have such requirements, and what sorts of 
things can we put in place on our end to make life easier for such users 
without imposing new requirements on the rest of our user base?

	- Jonathan

Jonathan Dursi     <ljdursi at scinet.utoronto.ca>

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