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An Oracle blog about the Education and Research

  • August 1, 2018

Cloud: Essential for the Expanding Research Universe

David Ebert
Director – Public Sector, Education, Healthcare - Industry Solutions (EMEA)

Humankind has always sought answers. Today, research—our pursuit of answers—is as crucial as ever. Helping us discover, innovate and solve problems, with diminishing resources. Research advances medicine, agriculture, communications, manufacturing and more; transforming the world economically, environmentally, and socially.

Responding to the need for more and faster innovation

However, academic research faces many pressures, such as the:

  • increased competition for funding
  • need to demonstrate the means to effectuate the research they propose
  • explosion of data; putting more pressure on computing demands
  • need to process computations faster and conduct analysis at scale
  • drive for faster discovery and innovation, to solve ever more complex problems

All of these pressures, and more, contribute to a substantial amount of grant-funded project time spent building or provisioning infrastructure and applications; rather than quickly focusing on the research. After winning a grant, an institution must be able to hit the ground running and expand their IT elastically.

Modern research runs in the cloud

Cloud technologies, such as Cloud Infrastructure and Cloud Platform can facilitate this by providing high-performant processing, storage, and analysis. They also afford flexibility and minimal resource requirements to move quickly and cost-effectively, without the risk of idle capacity or obsolescence.

Major research projects experience large fluctuations in how much data they generate and how long it needs to be stored. On-premises-only solutions are no longer adequate to meet the demands of today’s academic research. They have limited capacity, which can’t suddenly be increased in response to demand. Whereas cloud provides nearly unlimited scale and bursting capabilities, allowing researchers to start quickly and collaborate globally, without limitations. Innovative cloud solutions can be provisioned in less than an hour; depending on the type, quantity, and complexity of service(s).

As Gary Gabriel, PhD - Oracle Senior Director, Academic Sciences and Research - observes, “We speak with a broad range of academic disciplines and there is robust knowledge-sharing. Knowledge-sharing around the ease, cost, and use of transformational tools such as cloud Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, Internet-of-Things, Blockchain, and autonomous capabilities are evolving the research experience and changing the delivery of new discoveries. This is impacting many disciplines but particularly: engineering, physical, social, and life sciences.”

Cloud offers better security

What about data security in the cloud? Higher education holds the number two spot in number of cyber-attacks by industry, right behind healthcare. Research data is, after all, extremely valuable.  

It’s difficult for education and research data centers to keep up with the technology and skills to protect this sensitive data. However, cloud offers sophisticated, state-of-the-art data centers, with tight physical security, the latest secure backup and archiving technology and the most skilled data security staff available. As well as compliance with regulatory and auditing requirements.

High-performance computing (HPC) in the cloud

Certain research disciplines - like aeronautics - call for researchers to test the performance of materials and configurations using high-performance computing. It’s prohibitively expensive and impractical to conduct these tests for real. HPC systems and infrastructure have to ensure minimal latency, and highly reliable, consistent and accurate simulations. For that reason, it is often thought that HPC systems must reside on-premises. However modern HPC systems in the cloud are matching and even exceeding on-premises systems. Continuous investment in Oracle Cloud has made it one of the best platforms for high-performance computing workloads. Researchers can test their simulations and confirm discoveries faster.

HPC allows Penn State researchers to explore a world of innovation

For Penn State University, cloud infrastructure supports HPC for research - spanning weather patterns on Mars to Twitter streams in Tunisia. As data-driven research has expanded, Penn State Institute for CyberScience turned to cloud-based infrastructure to handle big fluctuations in computing demand and increasing capacity needs. Having on-site computational capacity sitting idle is far from a cost-effective use of resources. With cloud infrastructure, researchers have computational power always at the ready and can work across departments and institutes to conduct interdisciplinary research with ease.

 

A crazy idea…certainly not!

There is a great quote in a recent Forbes article: “When the cloud architect we’d been working with at Oracle first approached me and said ‘You should try this in cloud,’ I thought it was a crazy idea. For that to be running in cloud, the network speeds have to be really fast,” Glowacki says. “But the fact that we can play catch with C60 molecules, among other things, shows that it works.”

Expanding the universe of exploration

Ultimately, we allow researchers to focus on theories, models and results; rather than computing resources. With cloud infrastructure and platform technologies that can manage enormous quantities of data, the research universe is truly expanding. This enables discovery and innovation that can change the course of human history, ensuring we survive and thrive.

This blog covers just a few research customer and innovation examples, but take a look at the brand new Oracle in Research Institutions website, to find a lot more.

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