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About the presenter

mccahillIn 1989, Mark McCahill lead the team at the University of Minnesota that developed one of the first popular Internet e-mail clients, POPmail. In 1991, he led the original Internet Gopher development team. Working with other pioneers such as Tim Berners-Lee, Marc Andreessen, and others, he was involved in creating and codifing the emerging standard for Uniform Resource Locators (URLs). For the last eight years McCahill has been a Systems Architect at Duke University. Readers of his Wikipedia entry will learn other things, too.

What the presentation is about

Duke’s Office of Information Technology is now making containerized interactive environments for several X-Windows GUI applications (MATLAB, Mathematica, and Eclipse) available in a pilot-scale deployment. To use the applications, users visit a web-based reservation system which maps users to a personal Docker container with persistent storage. Users then interact with the application via a VNC session embedded in their web browser, so users are not required to install an RDP or VNC client – they just need a web browser.

This pilot extends our work in making RStudio containers available for large-scale course use last fall, when all 340 Introduction to Statistics students used web browsers to access personal containers for coursework. In this session we will discuss architectures for providing large scale access to personal interactive containers for both web IDE and GUI access, how this approach compares to deploying individual VMs, and how these tools fit into Duke’s new research computing model and demonstrate a proof-of-concept for on-demand research environments using Docker containers.