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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Dr. Marcos Athanasoulis, Harvard Medical School (Part 7)

Posted on Friday, Sep 10th 2010

By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini

SM: Would it be fair to conclude that it means the work applications that are being run on the cloud at Harvard Medical School (HMS) on the data sitting on the cloud storage are actually being accessed over the browser?

MA: No, not for all workloads and applications. You can access some stuff over the browser, but there are some types of jobs that cannot be accessed in this way.

SM: Do you still have to maintain a different configuration of rich client-side applications and platforms as part of HMS’s IT operations?

MA: Well, not for the cloud. People are still using their Macs or PCs at their desks, but they are interfacing with the cloud, and the cloud happens to be running Linux.

SM: The question I am asking is, if you are a researcher at HMS and are using applications, say some SaaS applications or MatLab, do you have to access the data in the cloud through a MatLab installation on a Mac and some do that through a PC?

MA: The most common thing they would do is write a MatLab batch script and submit that to the cloud for computation. Once a job is submitted, we get it dispatched on however many CPUs they were able to break it up into. Now, MatLab does have the ability to allow you to use the fat client on the desktop and tie it directly in to the cluster, and it distributes the job from there for you. But yes, those modalities all need to be all supported. There are some commercial products such as MatLab and SAS in terms of thick desktop clients and also the thin client form factor and the cluster backend – that is all. That is where it ends. There are a bunch of applications that have Web front ends and are delivered via a web portal and access data over the cloud in the background for their processing capabilities.

SM: Ok. Is there anything that I should have asked you with respect to cloud adoption at HMS? Is there anything I missed about your cloud?

MA: I think you are pretty thorough there. I don’t think there is anything else on that topic. Well, there is this one thing that I would like to add. At the end of the month I am changing my role at Harvard. I will be a senior IT adviser on staff and on the payroll, but I am going to be doing that as a part-time activity. I am joining a small company as the CTO. The name of the company is Healthy Communities Institute.

SM: What is the charter of the Healthy Communities Institute ?

MA: The Healthy Communities Institute comes from a vision and work that I have done with a colleague many years ago around having indices and indicators of quality of life and health in communities around the country. It has become very interesting little company right now because they make Web-based software that allows hospitals to do community needs assessments. This is now a required as part of the federal healthcare reform, and many states are enacting requirements for nonprofit hospitals to do these assessments. It is that sort of a product that sits in a nice niche right now.

[Note to readers: You can find more details about the mission and charter of Healthy Communities Institute here.]

SM: That is very interesting. Good luck, and thank you for spending your time shedding light on cloud processes in the medical research and health care vertical.

MA: It was nice talking to you, and thank you.

This segment is part 7 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Dr. Marcos Athanasoulis, Harvard Medical School
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