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Cloud computing has seen tremendous growth, particularly for commercial web applications. The on-demand, pay-as-you-go model creates a flexible and cost-effective means to access compute resources. For these reasons, the scientific computing community has shown increasing interest in exploring cloud computing. However, the underlying implementation and performance of clouds are very different from those at traditional supercomputing centers. It is therefore critical to evaluate the performance of HPC applications in today's cloud environments to understand the tradeoffs inherent in migrating to the cloud. This work represents the most comprehensive evaluation to date comparing conventional HPC platforms to Amazon EC2, using real applications representative of the workload at a typical supercomputing center. Overall results indicate that EC2 is six times slower than a typical mid-range Linux cluster, and twenty times slower than a modern HPC system. The interconnect on the EC2 cloud platform severely limits performance and causes significant variability.