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InfoQ Homepage News Wolfram Wants to Deliver “Computation Everywhere” with New Private Cloud

Wolfram Wants to Deliver “Computation Everywhere” with New Private Cloud

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Wolfram, the software company behind computation-centric products like Mathematica and Wolfram|Alpha, shipped a new private cloud appliance targeting companies who want to centralize their computational efforts.

The Enterprise Private Cloud (EPC) takes Wolfram’s deep foundation of computational algorithms and products and puts them into a self-contained virtual machine that can be deployed in public clouds like AWS or within a private data center. While these technologies have been offered in the past by Wolfram on the desktop or in their public cloud, strategic director Conrad Wolfram says that the goal is to “enable computation everywhere in your organization.”

EPC is the enterprise “privatization” with enhanced capabilities—taking this public Wolfram Cloud and packaging it up for hosting on any organization’s infrastructure or a designate like Amazon’s EC2. Instead of us offering the computation cloud service, you can, all within your enterprise. That means all the computation of Mathematica 11 and rapid application development of the Wolfram Language can now be server-side and cloud-based in your organization. High-level computation (for example, applied to your private data) can be an instant, ready-to-go, secure internal service for anyone you choose, with a wide range of interface modalities you can use directly for deploying from CEOs to developers, and instant APIs to go through other applications too.

The EPC, which runs on CentOS and can operate in a single-node or multi-node configuration, includes three main Wolfram Cloud interfaces: Development Platform, Mathematica Online, and Programming Lab. Data scientists and developers use the desktop or browser-based Development Platform IDE to build applications based on the Wolfram Language, and deploy them as web applications or web services. Mathematica is a mature, standard computation program for data analysis, advanced mathematics, image computation, and more. The Programming Lab is meant to help people learn the Wolfram Language.

InfoQ reached out to Wolfram to learn more about EPC, and spoke to Jon McLoone, Director of Technical Communication and Strategy for Wolfram Research Europe. McLoone pointed out that tools like Mathematica are critical for authoring computational programs, but historically, consuming those programs was limited to people who also ran Mathematica. This kept computation from being seen as a strategic effort within enterprises, and instead, relegated it to a niche discipline. To McLoone, Wolfram Cloud and Wolfram EPC is about making it easier to enable computation across the organization, and elevating computation to a first class strategic asset for enterprises. In his blog post, Conrad Wolfram echoed this point:

Until recently, the use of high-level computation has only been accessible to a small number of specialists in most organizations. If you’re not one of them, you really had three options: use basic computation (like Excel) yourself; rely on preordained, heavily collimated uses of computation; or seek out a specialist to build something custom or give you a one-off answer.

When data analytics was a specialist function in organizations, using desktop software—ours particularly!—matched up fine. But now data analytics is a shared enterprise problem; you need to match it with a shared enterprise computation solution—starting with EPC. Only an enterprise model, not an individual desktop one, can sort out data analytics failings.

Wolfram decided on a private cloud bundle for a handful of reasons. According to McLoone, providing a “behind the firewall” option for computation makes it easier to connect to existing on-premises data sources, hook into standard permission systems, and bring the deployment benefits of public cloud into private infrastructure. To connect to enterprise databases, EPC offers a handful of relational database connections. Wolfram users can leverage some of their existing source control and software delivery tools if they are working within the Eclipse-integrated environment. According to a comparison of the Wolfram public and private cloud offerings, the private cloud uniquely lets customers manage users, use pre-warmed APIs and engine components, configure scheduled tasks, and generate sharable reports. Conrad Wolfram believes that this integrated cloud platform helps companies deliver computation better than if they had a set of best-of-breed individual components:

Let me also point out the key principle that I believe marks out our technology as uniquely suitable for this centralized computation service model: we’re a unified, all-in-one system, not a collection of different systems for different tasks. We’ve put together all computational fields and functionality into one high-level, coherent Wolfram Language. We’re enabling complete interconnectedness. In a cloud-based service, lots of different systems means lots of separate “computational servers” to do different things—stats, reporting, modeling—causing huge switching losses, and that’s once you’ve got them and kept them playing together at all for a given task or workflow. Disparate systems are a real killer for broad, computation-based productivity.

Running a single virtual instance of Wolfram EBC requires at least an 8 core CPU, 16 GB of RAM, and 150GB of storage. It’s supported on Amazon EC2, VMware, VirtualBox, and KVM.

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