The ability to share data via a cloud has been enhanced by a data-transfer protocol developed by Aspera. The problem, according to Michelle Munson, Aspera president and co-founder, is that the common file transfer protocols (ftp, http, and TCP) intentionally slow data transmission, having been developed for the capabilities of the Internet many years ago.
The file-transfer protocol her company has developed the “fast and secure protocol,” dubbed fasp, eliminates the bottleneck of earlier transfer methods. It allows files to be transferred thousands of times faster than standard TCP-based transfer protocols over high bandwidth, long distance networks by providing full utilization of the available bandwidth, and precise control over the bandwidth that is utilized for each transfer. So, high priority traffic can be allocated more bandwidth than low priority traffic.
Cloud computing is relatively new and many enterprise-level applications that can run in a cloud are not licensed for that. Therefore, moving legacy applications into a cloud may be difficult or even impossible. Before migrating to a cloud, Dr. Miller worked with software vendors to ensure that the software licenses were set up to accommodate off-site instances and virtual environments.
Operating in a virtual environment in-house creates a similar licensing conundrum. Because software typically is licensed to run on a given number of servers, there is confusion among some vendors as to whether eight virtual servers running on one physical server counts as one or eight machines for the license agreement.
Users underestimate what is still required, Sheibley says, and, “You still need a robust IT organization to manage the cloud environment, including security and access.”
“There’s definitely a learning curve,” Dr. Miller agrees. “We learned early on that it’s easier to adapt to the way Amazon does things than to force its services to fit our working model. Amazon sells components, and you need to assemble them into something useful. They’re very robust, but very limited,” he cautions, advising users not to try to force them to do things for which they were not intended.
Although cloud computing is an on-demand, pay-for-use resource, accessing that resource is not instantaneous, Dr. Miller points out. In Amazon’s EC2 environment, he says there typically is a 15- to 20-minute window between the time IT makes a request to bring resources online and the time that happens.
Also, he says that the numbers of virtual instances that are needed aren’t always available. “For example, if you require 50, you may get 48 within 15 minutes, but if you can wait one hour, you may get all 50,” he says. In contrast, provisioning physical machines in one’s own data center may take three weeks.
“You don’t know where the science will take you,” Dr. Miller stresses, so “the ability to spin up resources within a few minutes rather than within a few weeks lets researchers pursue avenues of inquiry at the pace of decisions rather than the pace of computing. Clouds allow us to be a lot more nimble, to deliver a result in a timely manner.”