The Research Desktop is a concept that provides students, researchers and scientists with computational and storage resources unmatched by laptops or workstations, while maintaining the familiar and convenient user interface of a “Desktop”. The Research Desktop serves as a performant and convenient workbench for all research activities from beginning to end.
Easier to use than SSH
Today’s students, young researchers and scientists have grown up using computers through a Desktop user interface. Many of them are not familiar with the command line or terminal. They expect interactive access to applications and a convenient way to manage files. As their research needs grow, they are often provided access to powerful centrally provided computational and storage resources. Unfortunately, it is a struggle for them to access these resources through an SSH connection and to manage files using commands like “cp”, “mkdir” and “tar”. The Research Desktop helps them to get started by providing a familiar user interface while at the same time providing computational and storage resources otherwise unavailable to them.
Easy access to a batch system
The Research Desktop can serve as a gateway to an HPC system to enable interactive HPC usage. Tools are available to hide some of the complexity of using a batch system, such as SLURM. Those tools make it easy to start an interactive job, or help with creating SLURM scripts. The Research Desktop significantly reduces the learning curve for novice users, thereby increasing the likelihood of them recognizing the advantages of centrally provided computational and storage resources and subsequently becoming devoted users over a prolonged period. For experienced users, the Research Desktop offers access to long-running persistent terminal sessions, without having to use screen or nohup.
As secure as SSH
When the Research Desktop is implemented with ThinLinc, it leverages all the work that resource providers have already put into SSH. ThinLinc runs all traffic through SSH, which makes it very easy to deploy a secure environment (VNC over SSH plus other protocols). In most cases, no additional security documentation is required by the resource provider, and users can easily connect to a secure workspace for all their computational work.
The Research Desktop is a user interface concept that exposes centrally provided computational and storage resources through the familiar metaphors of a “Desktop”. This helps new users get started by providing a familiar and convenient way to access powerful resources that would otherwise be unavailable to them.