AMS Indianapolis 2010 in the Cloud

October 30, 2010 at 8:25 am 3 comments

As some of you know, I serve on the web committee of the Society for American Music, and have also written a piece of software called Inventoriana, useful for the manipulation and cataloging of liturgical manuscripts (and other fun things). While I’ve been working on these, it has become clear that so-called cloud computing can offer the digital humanities, and digital musicologists  (which includes everyone reading this blog post), a lot. So here is a brief proof of concept, using some publicly available files for the upcoming American Musicological Society annual meeting as a demonstration.

If you are like me you need to consult and search the program book for a given conference about a million times before and during the conference. At the Society for American Music, this meant that one month out of the year we had a tremendous load on our web server, because everyone was downloading tons and tons of copies of the PDF. If you are on a metered web hosting provider (as many societies and individuals are), this can really start to add up, since bandwidth limitations are usually expensive if you go over them. Even if your connection is not metered, the web server, which usually handles far less traffic, can grind to a halt in the weeks (and days) leading up to the conference.

Enter the content distribution network. You can find a technical description of one such solution here. But what it basically means is that everyone in the world has a copy of the AMS program closer to them. This reduces load on the AMS servers, and, since the PDF has to travel through fewer stops in cyberspace, faster download times for AMS members. Also, if AMS’s usage is metered, it completely offloads the file-intensive operations from their own service, containing the cost.

Anyway, here are some of AMS’s publications, available via the cloud. If your computer is like mine I think you will find that they download faster than the AMS site. Perhaps more to (my own) point, you can see a simple demonstration of how cloud computing can make one common task for conference organizers easier and less expensive.

AMS 2010 Program

AMS 2010 Abstracts

AMS 2010 Advertising

AMS 2010 Restaurant Guide

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3 Comments

  • 1. Ralph Locke  |  November 3, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Fascinating! I tried it, and the Program Book downloaded quite fast (maybe faster than when I’ve done it through the AMS site, and certainly not slower).

    One disadvantage, it seems to me, is that the host loses a sense of how many people have opened the document. This is of course an important bragging point, maybe even crucial when the host is trying to secure funding: “See, we have X visitors/visits per month!”

    But, in general, I’m all for storing things up in the clouds! I’ve known people whose computer crashed, with all their saved email, drafts of articles, etc. Yes, backing up is essential. But having things up there (or out there, wherever) in some massive cloud-computer is a great advantage. That’s one of the reasons that lots of people have switched to Gmail, for example. (Of course, there’s going to be a lot of consternation if Google were to suddenly shut Gmail down, along with everybody’s saved emails!)

  • 2. Drew Massey  |  November 3, 2010 at 7:44 am

    I forgot to mention that you can monitor download statistics in the cloud, as well. (So there have been 42 requests for these documents in the last 72 hours, at a total cost of $0.04).

  • 3. Ralph Locke  |  November 5, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Thanks for the info–this makes the cloud an even better site than I realized!


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