DOE uses cloud computing for science, CIO says

Cloud can perform scientific computations at a lower cost, he says

The Energy Department gets cost savings by performing some of its scientific computations with cloud computing technologies, DOE Chief Information Officer Tom Pyke said today.

The department’s national laboratories are getting surprising efficiencies by using high-performance connectivity to use with cloud computing platforms offered by Amazon, Google and Microsoft, Pyke said at a breakfast meeting sponsored by the market research firm Input Inc.

“The scientific computations are being done in the cloud, and you would not expect that,” Pyke said. “They can be done well and less expensively in the cloud.”

Cloud computing typically refers to information technology applications, computer power, storage and other services that are available over the Internet. It allows the end user to avoid owning IT infrastructure, including software, and to use software as a service.

The department also is testing personalized applications and administrative functions through the cloud and using cloud computing to test Google applications, Pyke said. “We can do certain functions better [on Google Applications] than in-house.” Pyke also said caution is being used to ensure that cybersecurity is not compromised.

Department officials are active users of Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube, and are testing various training applications using avatars on Second Life, he said.

Other focal points of activity this year include energy efficiency, smart grid, and research programs funded by $37 billion in economic stimulus law, cybersecurity updates and revitalization, and “green IT” initiatives, Pyke said.

To save energy, the department has “virtualized” its servers and now has 25 servers performing as 318 virtual servers, Pyke said. That is producing energy savings of about 11,000 kilowatt hours per year, he said.

It also is saving 400 kilowatt hours annually on heating and air conditioning costs. The department has installed 300 temperature sensors throughout its data center in Germantown, Md., that are currently being tested to see if greater efficiencies can be achieved.

For cybersecurity, Pyke said the department has reorganized its governance structure and continues to enhance its "defense-in-depth" approach to safeguard against an estimated 10 million attempted intrusions a day. Energy Secretary Steve Chu recently said  the department needs to ensure that cybersecurity demands do not interfere with the department's primary mission.

 

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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