Using clouds and VMs for bioinformatics training (Workshop as a Service)

Bioinformatics analysis typically involves a large number of software and reference data, making the installation process a time-consuming task. This problem is aggravated in a course setting, where every participant needs to have an identical installation, sufficient hardware to run it, and, ideally, access to an identical set-up after the course.

Ready-to-run virtual machine (VM) images containing an operating system and pre-installed analysis software, as well as containers, are gaining momentum in bioinformatics. These images and containers can be run on cloud platforms, which allows easy scaling for running tens or hundreds of simultaneous jobs in a course setting.

Several ELIXIR Nodes already provide cloud resources for national use. In order to enable also other Nodes to use cloud for training, it is necessary to investigate which of these cloud providers would be willing to provide cloud resources for international use in a sustainable manner.

As cloud, VMs and containers are new topics to many bioinformatics trainers, it is important that technical help is available. ELIXIR needs to have a streamlined process for requesting cloud resources and technical help, so that a suitable cloud is found promptly for a course and there is a clear mechanism for reimbursing the technical personnel and computing resource costs for the provider.