Skip to main content
Premium Trial:

Request an Annual Quote

Get Going on the Cloud

The cloud offers researchers computing capabilities they might not otherwise have and could be a good option for data analysis that falls in that space between what can be done on a desktop and what would need its own supercomputer, Nature News writes.

Getting started can be a bit of a challenge, it adds. Users need to have a grounding in basic computer science — such as knowing how to work with a command line and understanding operating systems and file structures, Nature News says.

But then there are number of cloud options for scientists, ranging from Atmosphere — which was developed as part of an iPlant initiative between three academic institutes and funded by the National Science Foundation — to commercial options like Amazon's Elastic Cloud Compute or Google's Cloud Platform. And some institutions have their own computing cloud set up.

Brown University's Casey Dunn says he trains students on commercial platforms. That way, "[w]hen they go on to a postdoc somewhere else or start their own lab, they'll still be able to log into Amazon," he tells Nature News.

When using the cloud, data security is, of course, a concern. Somalee Datta, the director of bioinformatics at Stanford University's Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine and who uses Google's cloud platform, says these platforms are generally just as secure as any other computer network.

Even with challenges and security concerns, more researchers are taking to the cloud, Nature News notes.

"Nearly all consumer computer products now have a cloud component, be it mobile apps, content-streaming services like Netflix, or desktop tools like Dropbox," Dunn says. "Research computing is not on the vanguard of some crazy and risky unknown frontier — we are just undergoing the same transitions that are already well under way in industry and the consumer marketplace."