Information Technology Reference
Generating the needed results for the Quark Matter conference at the last minute proved
the viability of using cloud resources for scientific purposes, according to Kate Keahey. She
'One day a provider could be running STAR images, and the next day it could be climate
calculations in entirely different images, with little or no effort…With Nimbus, a virtual
cluster can be online in minutes." (Ibid.)
The Nimbus cloud is available to all members of the scientific community who want to
run their applications in the cloud. To gain access to Nimbus, scientists are required to
provide a justification, i.e., a few sentences explaining their science project.
NASA, the US space agency, is also moving towards cloud computing in a big way. It
has recently contracted Parabon Computation, a grid computing software company, to deliver
a platform that lets NASA scientists and engineers develop and run modeling and simulation
applications as a service via a standard Web browser. For example, complex climate models
can be constructed that can predict what would happen to global temperatures over the next
hundred years if humans double carbon dioxide emissions. According to Michael Seablom,
head of the software integration and visualization office at NASA's Goddard Space Flight
Center in Maryland:
'Trying to get the models running is difficult and it costs us a lot of money here because
we have to help groups build the system on their local machine…..The problem with that is if
you're a graduate student, you could spend months just trying to get the model running and
verify that it's working correctly.' (Brodkin, 2010).
Although the system will initially run climate models, it can be used for many types of
scientific research. NASA is also developing its own cloud platform named 'Nebula'. Nebula
is a self-service platform built from open source software. It is intended to provide high
capacity computing, storage, and network connectivity for NASA's research. Chris Kemp,
Chief Information Officer of NASA Ames Research Center, commented:
'Nebula has been designed to automatically increase the computing power and storage
available to science- and data-oriented web applications as demand rises.' (Miller, 2009).
Interestingly, Nebula's data center is housed in an out-door 40-feet mobile shipping
container built by Verari Systems and equipped with Cisco tools. This new approach of
building data centers is intended to be a fast and more energy-efficient way of meeting cloud
providers' computing and storage requirements (Ibid.).
Nebula is using the open source 'Eucalyptus' software which was developed at the
University of California at Santa Barbara. The current interface to Eucalyptus is compatible
with Amazon's EC2 interface, thus making it possible for AWS-compatible tools to work
with Nebula; a case of promoting inter-cloud operability.
A number of HPC solution providers have begun to take their businesses to the cloud in
order to take advantage of the growing demand for cloud-based solutions from the scientific
community. Companies such as SGI (with its Cyclone platform) and Penguin Computing