This July, Research IT will be sending three staff members to New Orleans for the first national Practice & Experience in Advanced Research Computing (PEARC) conference. Jason Christopher will give a talk on “Analytics Environments on Demand: Providing Interactive and Scalable Research Computing with Windows.” Aaron Culich will present on “Portable Learning Environments for Hands-on Computational Instruction: Using Container- and Cloud-based Technology to Teach Data Science.” Patrick Schmitz will facilitate a Birds of a Feather (BoF) session on “Challenges and Opportunities of VM Image Curation and Discovery.”
Emerging from the successful five-year XSEDE conference series, PEARC is supported by many national computing organizations spanning from XSEDE to the Open Science Grid. PEARC focuses primarily on the people who use advanced research computing and the various challenges they encounter. As a result, many of the participants, including Aaron, are also XSEDE Campus Champions, who assist researchers at over 200 universities in using high performance computing to advance their work.
Aligning to this year’s conference theme, “Sustainability, Success, and Impact,” Jason and Aaron’s talks will cover two ways the Berkeley Research Computing (BRC) program has moved towards providing more innovative solutions and services for a variety of users. In Jason’s talk, he will introduce a sustainable service model for using Analytics Environments on Demand (AEoD), which are virtualized research environments accessible to researchers through a web browser, across the Berkeley campus. “BRC is trying to serve a really wide breadth, from astrophysics to zoology,” Jason said, “Part of that success is serving the community using a Windows desktop [through AEoD].” By introducing AEoD, Research IT provides an infrastructure and a community through which IT specialists can support researchers who are more accustomed to using the Windows operating system.
Aaron’s talk describes how cloud computing and containerized environments can be used to streamline workshop instruction by mitigating the need to install software onto personal laptops, which slows down instruction and frustrates students. By using Jupyter notebooks and Docker containers running on the Jetstream cloud computing resource offered by XSEDE, instructors can jumpstart their workshops and standardize each student’s experience. Aaron emphasized that the motto, “People first,” motivated the solution of putting student-specific hardware onto a shared cloud. “We chose this middle path that allows them [instructors] to do it [workshops] without some deep technical knowledge. We want to engage the instructors and data scientists in the work that we’re doing.”
Finally, Patrick’s BoF session will invite discussion on the current issue of VM image curation. With VM images being “used more and more widely, across a range of research computation services,” the BoF session will field and further ideas on how to curate and discover quality VM images that researchers can use to accelerate their work.
Interested in learning more? Attend the August 10th meeting of the Research IT Reading Group from 12-1 in 200C Earl Warren Hall (2195 Hearst Ave) to hear a PEARC’17 report back from these participants.