Four ways in which Digital Humanities can benefit from cloud computing

Amazon Web Services offer a wide array of cloud infrastructure and cloud platform services to their customers, including compute, storage, data and analytics services. These services offer unprecedented scalability, elasticity and accessibility for business and academic users. We argue that researchers in the humanities — going digital—can benefit from the AWS cloud.

Storage. The AWS S3 storage service is capable of storing enormous numbers of objects. In april 2013 S3 contained 2 trillion objects and given the AWS growth numbers there could be more than 3 trillion objects in S3 by now. AWS S3 is a good and accessible place to store large collections of documents, something that researchers in the humanities often encounter.

Compute. AWS offers a large variety of EC2 compute instances, say virtual machines with different configurations of CPU, memory and disk space, to run all kinds of applications including web sites, content management systems, statistical analysis programs and collaboration software. Due to the powerful tools for automation of the infrastructure and the EC2 instances the elastic provisioning of instances to deal with differences in demand can be realized in minutes. Consider how these features could help you as a researcher to quickly spin up a compute cluster to perform those time-consuming text analytics on a very large data set of historical documents. And if you plan wisely you can benefit from the low cost of spot instances too!

Analytics. AWS offers a number of services related to analytics. The RedShift database provides data warehouse as a service, thus relieving you from dealing with yet another technology. Its integrations with data analysis and visualization tools like Tableau give you a lot of power for dealing with data. The EMR Hadoop framework provide map-reduce job execution. And other application stacks for data analysis, such as Berkeley BDAS, can be hosted on AWS EC2 instances. With these tools in hand you can focus on the analysis of the historical data.

Search. Indexing and searching through large collections of documents requires a complex setup of search services, especially when the search service must be scalable to large numbers of documents and large numbers of queries. AWS CloudSearch — based on the Apache Solr search technology— is a hosted service for indexing and searching documents, which can help humanities departments to benefit from advanced search algorithms.

Amazon Web Services offer a number of quality platform services for the digital humanities, allowing the researchers to focus on their domain instead of spending precious time on maintaining computer systems.