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Cloud Computing - An Update

It's been over three years since IT began a program to aggressively evaluate cloud services and ensure that every new service we consider includes an evaluation of available cloud offerings. We believe that cloud services have the potential to offer better, more frequently updated features and additional security while potentially reducing our overall costs and environmental footprint. That doesn't mean that every service is best delivered from the cloud, but we want to make sure we're evaluating these services appropriately and making them part of our service mix where they fit in best.

Our largest cloud service rollout to date has been Google Apps. Google Docs and Sites was rolled out over 18 months ago, Calendar migration was completed in the fall and, as of November, the migration of mail from our IMAP system is essentially complete. We're looking forward to additional Google Apps core services development in the coming year, including the transition to GA+ which will provide Berkeley Lab users with the ability to use their LBL credentials across a range of work-related Google Apps including Google Code, Reader, and Picassa.

One cool feature of Google Apps is the Marketplace, which allows IT to add additional capabilities to the Google Apps Suite through third party providers in just a few clicks. Smartsheet and Manymoon, two great applications with different takes on project management in the cloud, have been great additions to our collaborative services suite that offer point solutions to particular collaboration problems.

On the business systems side, we've completed the rollout of two Software as a Servie Applications (SaaS), Point and Ship (for managing shipping) and Daptiv (for Ops project management). Taleo, a SaaS Talent Management Application, is being deployed now and will be our first major business system in the cloud.

On the evaluation front, we're looking at SaaS applications in the service desk management and HR space as part of larger evaluations of our strategic direction in these areas.

All of these systems do or will leverage IT's Identity Management Infrastructure (SAML/Shib) which allows our users to continue to use one password and one account even in the cloud.

In the new year, we'll also be launching the SaaS service Carbonite for user-managed desktop backups, which will radically reduce the cost of desktop/laptop backups to the Laboratory.

Finally, we continue to work with Amazon's various offerings to make these services available to the Lab Community. Amazon S3 continues to be evaluated for backups of large datasets. Amazon EC2 servers are available to anyone at the Lab, with LBL-specific templates and a VPN connection to LBLnet. After beta testing, we are preparing to test the first scientific application on Amazon HPC instances over the next few weeks. We want to enable the Laboratory community to make easy use of these and other cloud platforms in the future, so we're working to negotiate agreements and put in place systems which allow us to provide "on demand" services to the community without the need to go through complex procurements for each new use of these services.

Our colleagues at NERSC have been testing Amazon's new HPC instances, and we're looking forward to making both regular EC2 and EC2 HPC instances available to the Lab with the expertise to configure and manage them in the coming months.

Overall, we believe our cloud strategy has been working well. We're on a path that will allow more and more of our resources to be devoted to the services that enable the scientific mission of the Laboratory and improve our operational efficiency.

Is your Division or Group making use of cloud services? Tell us about it by sending email to collaborate at lbl.gov.

Over the past four years, Berkeley Lab's IT and EETD Divisions have been working on a number of cooperative projects around greening our data centers. At an event on Tuesday with industry partner synapsense, EETD researchers and IT's data center managers discussed the innovations made possible by realtime monitoring. More information is available in the article below:

DOE lab teams with wireless company to curb data center's power needs (11/10/2010)
BERKELEY, Calif. – The Bay Area's foremost energy research facility has increased its data load capacity by 50 percent over the past three years with virtually no additional investment in cooling infrastructure, according to officials at the Energy Department.

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Fall marks the anniversary of last year's successful mobility competition and an opportunity to take stock of where the Laboratory is with its mobile strategy. At this time last year, our calendar and collaboration systems were supported by a small minority of mobile devices, and then only with kludgy third party workarounds.  Email, since it was based on the open standard IMAP, was supported by many devices, but "push" was unavailable.  Today, with our transition to Google Apps, we are pleased to provide the Laboratory with full support for email and calendar services across almost all modern smartphone platforms.  Further, both the Google Apps collaboration apps as well as our enterprise wiki Commons support viewing today, and will be supporting editing in the near future.   If you're an iPad user, you've also benefited from Google Apps tablet web-interface, which provides a nearly fully functional Gmail web client in a form-factor designed for tablets.  This is a small example of the continuous innovation in mobile we're expecting as part of our partnership with Google. 

At the same time, the evolution of the devices and the capabilities of their browsers continue to make new things possible without major changes to our underlying systems.  For example, last year, filling our your timecard on LETS with Mobile Safari on the iPhone wasn't possible -  Today, it's reasonably straightforward.  Our application hasn't changed, but the browser's capabilities have.

In the next year, we're looking forward to further evolutions of our mobile strategy.  The mobile portal m.lbl.gov will be updated and we're expecting the launch of a local iPhone app store designed to distribute custom LBL applications.  We'll also be working with the operations divisions to understand how mobile (including the ideas submitted in the contest) fits into the overall strategy for enterprise applications. For example, we're currently working with EHS to pilot a mobile-phone based safety walkaround application.  We're also piloting a safety refresher course that's mobile and location-enabled, allowing for a new, more interactive (and hopefully effective) training experience.

In my next update, I'll cover the advances we've seen on the science side in the past year.  In the meantime, be sure to visit labtech.lbl.gov for information about mobile devices and capabilities, and places to submit your ideas for mobility at LBL.  -Adam

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