A practical approach to virtualization in HEP
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In the attempt to solve the problem of processing data coming from LHC experiments at CERN at a rate of 15 PB per year, for almost a decade the High Enery Physics (HEP) community has focused its efforts on the development of the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid. This generated large interest and expectations promising to revolutionize computing. Meanwhile, having initially taken part in the Grid standardization process, industry has moved in a different direction and started promoting the Cloud Computing paradigm which aims to solve problems on a similar scale and in equally seamless way as it was expected in the idealized Grid approach. A key enabling technology behind Cloud computing is server virtualization. In early 2008, an R and D project was established in the PH-SFT group at CERN to investigate how virtualization technology could be used to improve and simplify the daily interaction of physicists with experiment software frameworks and the Grid infrastructure. In this article we sh...all first briefly compare Grid and Cloud computing paradigms and then summarize the results of the R and D activity pointing out where and how virtualization technology could be effectively used in our field in order to maximize practical benefits whilst avoiding potential pitfalls.