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This is the second post in the series on how scientists could use Cloud Computing to their advantage. In this post, I will list out some examples where scientists had taken advantage of the scale and flexibility offered by the Clouds in their research.
ALICE HEP Experiment at CERN: A group of scientists working at CERN on A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE) tapped into the Open Source Toolkit that turns computing clusters into Clouds, called Nimbus, to integrate Amazon EC2 into their existing infrastructure. Usually, Cloud providers only offer options to run groups of unconnected virtual machines. Recently, Amazon has released support for Elastic MapReduce but it is not possible to integrate “outside clouds” in a straightforward manner. Nimbus plays a crucial role in ensuring an integration by brokering a secure way to provide context specific information to virtual servers/instances running in other clouds or traditional data center environment. With this, the scientists could take advantage of the Clouds to complete their work in record time.
STAR Experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory: Few weeks back I was listening to a webinar about the state of the cloud and one of the panelists was Kate Keahey from the Department of Energy, who is also the creator/lead of the Nimbus Project. She described a situation where the scientists working on the STAR nuclear physics experiment needed the results of a new simulation before they present their findings at Quark Matter Physics Conference. However, all the computing resources available to them were either put to use for other computational tasks or were not useful for this particular simulation. To meet the needs of the scientists, the Argonne National Laboratory Nimbus team turned to Amazon EC2 for help. With Amazon EC2 and the gateway built by the Nimbus team, the scientists could easily move the data from small Nimbus clouds and Amazon EC2. When the STAR resources couldn’t handle their needs, they tapped into the EC2 cluster for their calculations. This simulation used more than 300 instances. They started with the default low end instances and moved to high-CPU EC2 instances when they had to speed up their calculations. This is a typical example of scientists can tap into the scale, low cost and flexibility offered by Cloud Computing.
Proteomics on Amazon EC2: Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin Biotechnology and Bioengineering Center in Milwaukee have developed a free toolkit called ViPDAC (virtual proteomics data analysis cluster), which along with NIH released Open Source toolkit called Open Mass Spectrometry Algorithm (OMSSA), can be used easily to tap into Amazon EC2 cloud and do high performance proteomics analysis. This will help scientists identify various proteins in the normal states and study how it gets modified in disease states. Plus, the availability of the virtually unlimited scale of Amazon’s cloud opens up new vistas for the Proteomics scientists. Their website offers step by step instructions and also Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) containing these software preconfigured to work out of box.
UW’s Cloud Moves: University of Washington recently announced their plans for tapping Cloud Computing in their scientific research. UW (pronounced U Dub), as it is affectionately called by the folks in Seattle, has won three research grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Two of the grants will fund projects examining ocean climate simulations and analyzing astronomical images. They will provide researchers tools to tap Cloud Computing to access/analyze massive scientific datasets. The third grant offers the university money to include Cloud Computing into their curriculum and also offer training to teach these concepts.
These are some of the examples of how scientific community is tapping into Cloud Computing to pursue their research. There is tremendous potential on the Clouds to help scientists with their research endeavors. Cloud Computing is not just useful in terms of cost and time savings for the scientists, it also gives them a scale which could open up vistas previously unavailable to them.