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Enlighten Your Research: Virtual Machines in the Research Cloud

CSC - IT Center for Science with collaborators receive an internation award for creating a cloud service for biomedicine.

The International "Enlighten Your Research" (EYR) Award has been given to an idea developed by an ELIXIR working group: the sharing of virtual machines over the research and education networks. The concept makes it much easier for scientists in many different countries to find meaning in massive volumes of biomedical data in a secure manner.

Software programs that biomedical researchers use to analyse big datasets (such as human genomes) are very complex and constantly evolving, so it can be difficult to keep up to date. Because scientists in many disciplines are deeply interested in analysing this type of data, there is an increasing demand for simple software solutions that address both updates and the management of big datasets.

Cloud computing is an obvious place to look for storage solutions, and web-based 'virtual machines' have come to replace locally installed software packages. Drawing on these technological developments, ELIXIR members have created a federated cloud service for biomedicine, in which different cloud services such as the Helix Nebula (used by CERN, EMBL, ESA and EGI) offer virtual machines that can be used to study many different data types.

The concept (Cross Site VM Operation), which is being piloted by ELIXIR members in Finland, the Netherlands and the UK, was awarded the EYR Award at the Supercomputing 2013 event in Denver. Contributors include the University Medical Center Groeningen, CSC-IT Centre for Science, the University of Cambridge, the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), ELIXIR, and Surfnet-SARA.

“The ELIXIR node at CSC- IT Center For Science, planned for Finland and funded by the Academy of Finland and Ministry of Education and Culture, is specialised in cloud computing for biomedicine. The usage level of the pilot service has been growing exponentially for two years and feedback has been excellent. Through international co-operation, we will strive to ensure more capacity and know-how for Finland so that data analysis will not become a bottleneck for research,” says the leader of the ELIXIR node, Tommi Nyrönen, at CSC.

The Enlighten Your Research Global Award is shared by five research networks: ESnet (US), Funet (Finland), Internet2 (US), Janet (UK) and SURFnet (the Netherlands).

CSC- IT Center for Science has participated in the Cloud Software Program. In the program CSC and Aalto University have developed Hadoop-BAM and SeqPig software libraries. The libraries make it possible to easily process next generation sequencing data inside the Hadoop framework. The capability of analyzing enormous amounts of genomic data makes completely new types of data analysis possible. With Hadoop and map-reduce computing model, it is possible to distribute the data processing task to a large number of computation servers.

The goal of ELIXIR is to orchestrate the collection, quality control and archiving of large amounts of biological data produced by life science experiments.