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Jetstream first cloud resource of its kind


By Kathrine Schulze



Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the PTI grant for Jetstream was the largest ever to be received by IU.

The National Science Foundation has awarded IU's Pervasive Technology Institute a $6.6 million grant to build a research cloud source.

The grant has been awarded to PTI at IU to create Jetstream. Jetstream is a user-friendly cloud environment that will give researchers, as well as students, access to computing and data analysis resources nationwide, according to an IU press release.

“This latest major grant to PTI, which will establish the National Science Foundation’s first cloud environment for science and engineering research, reflects the outstanding record of accomplishments by researchers in the Institute and elsewhere at IU, as well as their record of highly successful collaboration with other leading research centers nationally,” President Michael A. McRobbie said in the release.

PTI is devoted to both the development and delivery of innovative information technology in order to advance research, education, industry and society, according to the release. Craig Stewart, associate dean of IU Research Technologies is the principle investigator of ?Jetstream.

In addition to the PTI team working on the project, several other organizations and experts will be implementing Jetstream, including University of Chicago, University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Advanced Computing Center and University of Arizona, among others.

Professors Beth Plale, Katy Börner and Volker Brendel, all from the School of Informatics and Computing, will also work on the Jetstream project for IU.

The project is estimated to receive a grand total of about $11 million from the NSF over the next five years. Users will be able to access Jetstream via their tablets, laptops or desktop computers.

“They can work from hand-held devices or even old PCs and have bundles of the most useful software tools for their research available via Jetstream,” Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Brad Wheeler said in the release. “As research becomes more sophisticated with big data and computation, tools like Jetstream make it easy for faculty and students to make the best of the tools they need from just about anywhere.”

Jetstream will be an interactive system where users will use a “virtual machines” menu designed to support research in several disciplines, such as biology and atmospheric science. Earth science, economics, network science, observational astronomy and social sciences research will also be available, according to the release.

“Jetstream is like an ‘easy button’ giving researchers simple access to supercomputing tools and data sets,” Wheeler said in the release.

Jetstream will allow its users to create virtual machines that feel like their lab workstation but are using thousands of times the computing power, according to the PTI website.

If, for example, a biologist wants to do a specific type of gene sequence analysis, he will be able to look at a menu of icons and pick a virtual machine that does the analysis for him with the software he wants. Jetstream will then make the commercial machine, and he can do the analysis interactively in just a few minutes, Stewart said.

“We expect Jetstream to be of particular interest to researchers analyzing ‘born digital’ data with research needs that are more suited to cloud computing than the traditional supercomputers that have been the mainstay of NSF-funded cyberinfastructure in the past,” Stewart said on the PTI website.

The interface will look a lot like one.iu.edu .

“What we’re really trying to do is take the concept of a lot of the big commercial cloud providers and deliver something that is much more customized to a set of things that scientists want to do,” he said.

The idea came about when IU faculty began discussing what resources are not currently funded by the NSF.

“If you want 5,000 processors next week to do some massive simulation, that’s something that the existing NSF-funded supercomputers are really good at,” Stewart said. “If you want processor cores now to do something beyond what you can do on a desktop and something you want to do interactively, that’s not something the NSF supercomputers right now do very well.”

Ninety percent of the funds from Jetstream will be allocated through the NSF, but 10 percent of funds will be allocated by IU.

Jetstream will provide access to high-caliber computing and software resources to those communities of researchers who previously lacked such resources.

“We’re going to use the IU allocations to support early experimental research by faculty members throughout the U.S.,” Stewart said. “But we’re also going to use it to support some particularly important projects at Indiana University.”

The funds will go to improving diversity in informatics as well as funding collaborations between IU and the private sector in Indiana.

Jetstream is expected to be available for use in January 2016. Those who would like time on Jetstream will submit a proposal.

“In the atmosphere, a jet stream is the border between two different masses of air,” Stewart said in the release. “The new Jetstream cloud system will operate at the border between the existing NSF-funded cyberinfrastructure and thousands of new users.”

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