Ian Foster, an Argonne Distinguished Fellow and the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor of Computer Science at the University of Chicago, hosted a panel titled “Outsourcing Science: Will the Cloud Transform Research?” The panel brought together pioneers in the field of software-as-a-service (SaaS)—a delivery model in which software and data are located in the cloud. SaaS has been widely adopted by industry, outsourcing major tasks to cloud providers. The question addressed by the panel was, Will a similar transformation occur in science, and if so, when and how?
Folker Meyer, an Argonne computational biologist, spoke on the panel about experiences with RAST and MG-RAST, two automated servers for producing high-quality genome annotations. For example, some bioinformatics applications—especially parallel or I/O-intensive codes—may be better suited to local clusters than to clouds. Moreover, in scaling a metagenomics application to the cloud, researchers will need to remove various assumptions about tightly coupled environments. Meyer discussed how these lessons learned have been integrated into the design and implementation of KBase, a DOE systems biology knowledgebase.
The panel also included two other speakers—one from industry, who described experiences with a popular SaaS system in the sciences, and one from academia, who emphasized the need for a science services mechanism for facilitating formal transactions among scientists.