Feeds

Amazon parks human genome on cloud

Taps Exploits world of boffins

Intelligent flash storage arrays

In 1993, meat space bookseller Barnes & Noble started offering Starbucks coffee to augment customers' shopping experience. Not to be outdone, the Internet's largest bookseller has finally answered.

Amazon announced yesterday that it will allow free, easy access to hard-to-find datasets like the human genome - and a few other compilations that aren't nearly as exciting. With its new Public Data Sets initiative, Amazon hopes to commoditize access to this kind of data, while positioning its EC2 system as the preferred computing platform for researchers.

For users, this service is likely to speed up the science without digging too far into the meager stack of grant money. Amazon is currently hosting data sets from biology, chemistry, and economics, having hunted down files in the public domain. To expand the service, they are soliciting people to provide more data, provided that it's not proprietary.

They boast free access to the data. "Free" is about as relative a term as “pregnant,” but Amazon is still taking some liberty with it. While technically you don't have to pay for the data sets, the only way you can access them is by spinning up an EC2 virtual machine instance and mounting the data as an Elastic Block Store drive. Amazon charges for EC2 instances by the hour, and Elastic Block Store drives by the I/O request. Conveniently for Amazon, these data sets are equally as processable as they are large.

There are already several online directories of public domain data sets, so what's the value-add? When you run an EC2 virtual instance to access the data, you can choose a machine image that contains specialized processing tools. If parallel processing is an concern, you can spin up as many instances as you need to process the data and spin them down when you're done, only paying for the resources you use.

This is still a bit dubious, because Amazon isn't really doing any work here. The data sets and processing tools come from third parties. Bezos just uses them to sell Amazon Web Services. As far as exploiting the academic spirit of sharing and mutual betterment for profit, the Public Data Sets program is a winner.

While working with the data in Amazon's environment may be a bit faster and more convenient, the target market for this type of service is the notoriously tight-assed academic researcher. While a tenured professor may see a minor productivity increase by using Amazon Web Services, she can see an order of magnitude productivity increase by enslaving a graduate student to do the same work. Said graduate student, already living below the poverty line, is unlikely to spend money on Amazon. There is a time-honored tradition among these servile few of spending late nights in the computer lab slicing up US Census data because it's difficult to get SAS or SPSS licenses for their laptops.

Be that as it may, Amazon isn't making a big bet on this one. If the analytics tools provided on EC2 take good enough advantage of the parallelism offered by virtualization, perhaps graduate students everywhere will decide to drop a little money. Less time spent analyzing data means more time spent partying, remembering that you're still under thirty and without serious responsibility. ®

Ted Dziuba is a co-founder at Milo.com You can read his regular Reg column, Fail and You, every other Monday.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Simon's says quantum computing will work
Boffins blast algorithm with half a dozen qubits
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Getting ahead of the compliance curve
Learn about new services that make it easy to discover and manage certificates across the enterprise and how to get ahead of the compliance curve.