Compute Services - Now we're talking!

A while back IBM started an On Demand business that seems ideally tuned to companies that need a cluster (even a large one) periodically for surge capacity. It's aimed at businesses, and those kind of things involve a fair amount of initial investment of time and energy to get the paperwork set up, etc. To make this, and the cost, worth doing you need to have a fair amount of computing surge (and plenty of companies have this!).

More recently, Sun took this idea of a grid-based compute service further, launching what they called a "Utility Computing" service called Sun Grid. Nice. An individual can sign up and get an account, and in short order start uploading and running (Solaris, x64) applications from their portal. No lengthy setup. Currently Sun charges $1 per CPU hour.

Amazon's rolling out an even more flexible grid computing service. No lengthy setup process, and forget the portal- use web services. Yesterday Amazon announced a beta version of Elastic Compute Cloud, or EC2. Once available beyond beta, one will be able to just sign up and start computing via a SOAP API. It’s coupled with the S3 service, where you store your system images (which include your entire application software environment for your virtual machines) and data. Since it’s a virtual machine, you get root access and it's up to you what software you want to run. The virtual machines are the equivalent of a 1.75 GHz Xeon with 1.75 GB of memory, 160 GB of local disk, and network bandwidth of 250 Mbit/s. Amazon’s pricing - $0.10 per CPU hour.

As I mentioned on Monday (talking about Sharing Data) it seems to me that these commercial grid resources and services are worth examining in terms of support for scientific computing. I’m hoping the TeraGrid Science Gateway partners will jump on these and check them out!

Non-Sequitur of the Week: The World's Oldest Botanical Garden.
Earlier this summer we were in Italy on vacation and one of our stops was Padua, near Venice. Besids being the site of one of the worlds' oldest universities (University of Padova, founded in 1222), it's a nice base of operations to explore the area around and including Venice. Strolling around the city we chanced upon the Orto Botanico di Padova (Padua Botanical Gardens), which was magnificent. What we didn't know at the time was that it is the world's oldest, having been established in 1545! If you don't happen to be in Italy there are of course other fine botanical gardens we'd recommend, including the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland, and of course the Chicago Botanic Garden! (if you have recommendations please post them in comments)

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