THE CASE OF EXTREME SCIENTISTS
THE CASE OF EXTREME SCIENTISTS
Scientists doing research often need serious computing capability to run simulations
and crunch data. Often that meant working for a large company who could provide the
significant investment in information systems infrastructure. But cloud computing
changed all that. Consider the case of biologist Dr. Eric Schadt, a researcher who
claims that approaches to studying the complexity of living systems have failed.
Studying one gene at a time doesn’t explain what causes diseases, making it
impossible to find the cures sought by the scientific and pharmacology communities.
Dr. Schadt’s vision is to manage this area of research, and the large amount of data
generated, which appears to be too much for any one individual or company to manage,
by creating a human social network. Dr. Schadt believes this organization reflects
the complexity of the living systems he studies, and therefore it’s necessary to
Dr. Schadt cofounded a nonprofit organization dedicated to biological research using
an open-source sharing of data, called Sage Bionetworks. He deeply believes that
sharing is the key to finding cures, and creating drugs, that will combat diseases.
And his company has millions of dollars worth of data from some of the major
pharmaceutical companies to use to begin their research. But by day, he’s the Chief
Scientific Officer of a start up, Pacific Biosciences, whose technology helps
biologists look at individual molecules of DNA in real-time. His job is to work on
how to use this technology for PacBio and to collaborate with others who want to use
this technology for their research. So he travels a lot. But to do his research, he
needs access to the capacity of a supercomputer since the amount of data he needs to
use for his research is very large.
With the use of the Web, he’s able to do his work anyplace. Planes are especially
favored because he has significant uninterrupted time. According to one article
about Dr. Schadt,
“He has the same access to supercomputers that every other American with an Internet
connection and a credit card has. He waits till the plane climbs to a cruising
altitude, then when allowed to use electronic devices, he uses the plane’s WiFi to
get on Amazon.”
Dr. Schadt is able to initiate a complex analysis of his data using Amazon’s
services, which crunch the data while Dr. Schadt flies across the country. When he
lands, the analysis is done and he has the results. This world be equivalent to the
computing power of a scientist working on his company’s multimillion dollar
supercomputer, but in this case, the cost is just a few hundred dollars.
Companies like Amazon.com have become vendors of extreme computing power. Some have
compared the amount of computing power Dr. Schadt uses while flying on an airplane
to the amount of computing power available to a scientist at major pharmaceutical
companies, where they have multimillion dollar supercomputers. With services like
the computing power available in the cloud, Dr. Schadt may even have more power
available to him than the scientist.
Answer the following questions, which represent the specific critical elements that
must be addressed for this assignment:
1. How would you describe the architecture Dr. Schadt uses to do his research?
2. What are the risks Dr. Schadt faces by using Amazon for his supercomputing?
What are the benefits?
3. Advice: If you were advising a company trying to make a decision about
using cloud computing for key business applications, what would you advise and why?
4. Research: Incorporate external research to support your position.
Guidelines for Submission: The case study must follow these guidelines: double
spacing, 12-point Times New Roman font, one-inch margins, and APA citations. Page-
length requirements: two or three pages, not including cover page and references.