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The dream of an app store for research: The coming “app-stack store” and the future of how to provide tools to researchers

Friday, 01 Nov 2013

Posted: October 14, 2013 at 4:24pm on The University of Melbourne's 'Emerging Technologies for Researchers' blog.

What should we all be talking about at the eResearch 2013 Australasia conference / #eRes2013 next week? Perhaps the conversation should be about what will fundamentally change the way researchers do their research over the next year?

This post is a sneak peek of the latest feature that is about to be floated out on the NeCTAR Research Cloud (powered by OpenStack) at the start of 2014. If you are around at #eRes2013 then you should come have a chat about it in the dev lounge. This new feature will be for developers, managers, and most importantly, researchers. It will change the way in which researchers use their day-to-day computational tools.

Why? Because it is going to enable research tools to be shared in a way that has never happened, making it simple to reuse software, workflows and data. Over the next year, this feature will enable the conversation about who is going to share what tools with who and how. Most importantly though, we’ll be able to start talking about the best practice in sharing those tools, and how to best bring value to Australian researchers.

What is this feature, and why is it going to change everything?

Some will call this feature a ‘research app store’ or ‘research marketplace’ (some will even call it a research bazaar) – but don’t be fooled, this is so much more powerful than the apps you have on your iPhone. This feature is not about technology, but it’s about:

1.Lowering the barrier for a researcher to take their bespoke or generic computational tool out of their personal toolbox and magically give it to anyone else in the world;

2.Lowering the barrier for a researcher to use someone else’s bespoke or more generic discipline tool, without having to compile, configure, debug or deploy anything.

However, for our community who provide IT to researchers to succeed in this dream, we must start to develop our tools via a common framework (called Heat). Here is a video that explains the framework, why we need to work this way and how this will help us realise the dream of the the app store (or rather ‘stack stores’) that researchers will use in future.


The video is a high level “ten-thousand-metre and above” view of what we are proposing when we say that the community must start to make their research tools ‘stack-store’ compliant.

We’ll be demonstrating Heat at #eRes2013, and it will be released on the Research Cloud in early 2014, enabling anyone to build their own app store for their research communities.