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Paper: A Tale Of 160 Scientists, Three Applications, a Workshop and a Cloud
Volume: 475, Astronomical Data Analysis Software and Systems XXII
Page: 99
Authors: Berriman, G. B.; Brinkworth, C.; Gelino, D.; Wittman, D. K.; Deelman, E.; Juve, G.; Rynge, M.; Kinney, J.
Abstract: The NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI) hosts the annual Sagan Workshops, thematic meetings aimed at introducing researchers to the latest tools and methodologies in exoplanet research. The theme of the Summer 2012 workshop, held from July 23 to July 27 at Caltech, was to explore the use of exoplanet light curves to study planetary system architectures and atmospheres. A major part of the workshop was to use hands-on sessions to instruct attendees in the use of three open source tools for the analysis of light curves, especially from the Kepler mission. Each hands-on session involved the 160 attendees using their laptops to follow step-by-step tutorials given by experts. One of the applications, PyKE, is a suite of Python tools designed to reduce and analyze Kepler light curves; these tools can be invoked from the Unix command line or a GUI in PyRAF. The Transit Analysis Package (TAP) uses Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) techniques to fit light curves under the Interactive Data Language (IDL) environment, and Transit Timing Variations (TTV) uses IDL tools and Java-based GUIs to confirm and detect exoplanets from timing variations in light curve fitting. Rather than attempt to run these diverse applications on the inevitable wide range of environments on attendees laptops, they were run instead on the Amazon Elastic Cloud 2 (EC2). The cloud offers features ideal for this type of short term need: computing and storage services are made available on demand for as long as needed, and a processing environment can be customized and replicated as needed. The cloud environment included an NFS file server virtual machine (VM), 20 client VMs for use by attendees, and a VM to enable ftp downloads of the attendees' results. The file server was configured with a 1 TB Elastic Block Storage (EBS) volume (network-attached storage mounted as a device) containing the application software and attendees home directories. The clients were configured to mount the applications and home directories from the server via NFS. All VMs were built with CentOS version 5.8. Attendees connected their laptops to one of the client VMs using the Virtual Network Computing (VNC) protocol, which enabled them to interact with a remote desktop GUI during the hands-on sessions. We will describe the mechanisms for handling security, failovers, and licensing of commercial software. In particular, IDL licenses were managed through a server at Caltech, connected to the IDL instances running on Amazon EC2 via a Secure Shell (ssh) tunnel. The system operated flawlessly during the workshop.
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