April 13, 2011
This week during the GlobusWORLD event at Argonne National Laboratory we caught up with Brigitte Raumann from the Initiative in Biomedical Informatics at the nearby University of Chicago.
Raumann was one of the few speakers slated for the event who is not a trained technologist, although she noted that she, like many of her colleagues, was forced to become an IT expert in order to work with mounting genomics data. Such massive demands on both storage and compute have required biologists to wear both hats (scientist and technologist) but Raumann claims biologists need to be able to circle back to their core mission--research. She claims that there are tools on the horizon that can change the paradigm and that clouds play a role in this breaking of barriers.
While a good part of our conversation was centered around management and movement of large data sets, we did spend some time discussing some of the specific challenges biologists have been facing with growing amounts of information to contend with.
Raumann provides an overview of some of the more persistent arguments biologists and genomics researchers present, including the issue paradox of unprecedented data—the rapid swell of information is a windfall for research yet the infrastructure has created a bottleneck. For instance, with their new sequencing capabilities they will be be able to have more data at their disposal but without the core storage and compute piece of the puzzle in place, a good amount of this can end up going to waste due to a lack of storage space.
Aside from the "big data" angle to Brigitte's statements, one of the other important matters to take away from this interview is that like other industries and research areas, domain specialists increasingly need to be removed from the immense complexity of the infrastructure. While tools are being developed to handle pieces of these problems, there are wholesale infrastructure changes that are needed at every level--from data movement to storage and compute power.
Biologists want to focus on science, not spend their hours becoming IT experts. With a range of tools this is becoming possible. While the matter that brought us in contact, the Globus Toolkit and Globus Online, were at the heart of interactions this week due to the focus of the event, many stories revolved around this same idea of reducing IT complexity using the SaaS approach.
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