Friday, February 24, 2012

Why should I have to become a system administrator to use my application in the cloud?

During these two days of interesting discussions of CloudScape IV in Brussels, it was clear that there is a common understanding that users have a major role in defining the ways in which clouds should be exposed. Along with the technical issues of system administration, such as security, hybrid deployments, migration of load, interoperability of resource providers, standardisation of interfaces and even "standardisation of the standards", users still have to learn a lot of concepts that, although simple for system administrators, constitute a major barrier to many users.

It is clear that clouds do not solve any scientific problem effectively, but it is crystal clear that it can be a crucial task for a large community of researchers that do not have access to large capacity infrastructures, and produce brilliant and relevant research by using their desktops. Many applications, conveniently adapted, become a very cost-efficient tool. In VENUS-C, we recently run an experiment using BLAST that costed less than 600€ for processing in one week the equivalent of 1.2 years on a single PC. Less than 0.001 cents of  Euro per sequence, much less than the cost of obtaining the sequence. By hiding the technology to users (by seamlessly integrating the cloud on their daily tools, why not, billing them), we could bridge this gap.

But in order to adapt tools, we need platform-agnostic programming models that could ease the adaptation of the applications. We need to learn from the top-level requirements and develop frameworks to ease the adaptation, deployment and debugging process. This will increase portability and reduce end-user reluctance. I liked the comment of Vangelis Floros: Do not force our users to have to become system administrators to use the cloud.

No comments: