Computer Science Department, Kasetsart University Trusts in Amazon Web Services for Research

01 Oct 2019

This article Is a special interview of Dr. Ruj Akavipat, a faculty member of the Faculty of Science, Department of Computer Science, Kasetsart University about utilizing Amazon Web Services (AWS) to support the research of the Department of Computer Science and as learning media for students, and the reasons for choosing to seek support from True Internet Data Center (True IDC).

Overview of the Department of Computer Science, Kasetsart University

The Department of Computer Science, one of the departments of the Faculty of Science at Kasetsart University, was established on August 14th, 1992 offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in computer science. The department has kept its curriculum updated with modern technology and demand in the private sector. The department is determined to produce undergraduates and graduates who are knowledgeable and experts in computer science in academia, research, and practical work experience through co-operation education (co-op). The department also conducts research studies to spread knowledge and offer academic services to society.

In terms of teaching, the department offers master’s degrees in many fields including the Internet of Things, Machine Learning, Image Processing, Graphics, Networks and Security, and Software Engineering. In 2017, the department launched a program in data science. The master’s degree program of the department has classes during government work hours which focus on research, and non-government work hours to allow students to work and study at the same time.

Problems and Obstacles of the Department

With the determination to become the leader in computer science, the department has always sponsored faculty and student research with both research grants and other resources that the faculty and students can utilize. However, the major obstacles in acquiring the resources for research has always been to evaluate technical resources required at the start of a research study such as the number of servers, the size of databases, and types of network equipment. Procurement has had to choose the largest available equipment to ensure that the research scope was covered and prevent a shortage in resources. And while the university has a central Cloud system available for free to the faculty and department, reserving Cloud space that goes unused would be taking unfair advantage of other research groups that may require that same resource.

Needs of the Department

As it is difficult to accurately determine at the start of each research project the requirement of resources to support each research project, along with the need to reduce wasteful use of resources for each experiment, the department was seeking an infrastructure solution that can allocate resources that can be quickly and independently configured to enhance the efficiency of resources, as well as to be able to accurately evaluate the use of resources. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) was the most suitable solution for these research projects.

“At the start of new research projects, it is often difficult to determine exactly how much technical resources is required. We may need to reduce them to fit the size of our work requirement. It is difficult to ask universities or the government to determine the accurate requirements. We need flexibility when it comes to resource allocation and it should be flexible and quick to configure. The price needs to be appropriate as well.” – Dr. Ruj said in reference to the problems and need of research work.

How did Amazon Web Services assist with research and student learning in the department?

The department chose AWS to support the research work of the faculty and its students because AWS is a public cloud system that offers Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), as well as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which supports flexibility for research work and reduces cost effectively. AWS provides offers 3 main benefits including:

  1. Versatility: AWS has many features and tools that meets a variety of research needs such as Hadoop clusters using EC2, S3 and EMR to support Big Data Analytics.
  2. Flexibility: Offers flexibility to reduce technical resources independently and quickly including the number of servers and size of databases without the need to contact a service provider to explain the requirements again. Most importantly, there is a community to exchange information that allows sharing experiences and knowledge easily. It is also very easy to learn to use quickly.
  3. Economical: Costs are based on actual use, which is appropriate for new projects that are just starting which often sees changes in requirements as the project develops and make periodically use certain resources. When calculating CapEx and OpEx in the first 3 years, compared to procuring new hardware to start a research project, AWS is much more cost-effective.

In addition, AWS offers AWS Educate which gives the faculty and students free access under certain conditions to allow the department to utilize AWS as a learning media via the cloud system. Students will be able to apply knowledge to their own businesses while still in school, as well as to enhance skills to prepare them to work with experts in the future.

Why was True IDC chosen to provide support?

Because True IDC has engineers who are experts on AWS who are prepared to answer any questions or resolve problems at all times. The sales team, during expense planning, not only proposed billing cycles based on actual use, it also offered to refund unused expenses to be used in the next billing cycle. Research projects and faculty members who use AWS are able to save cost and maximize budget.

“True IDC provided consultation and recommended using AWS for our research projects as well as helping with expense planning for AWS to maximize our budget.” – Dr. Ruj said.

Apart from that, True IDC joined hands with the department to organize the Cloud Talk Sanjorn to teach about cloud technology and how to utilize AWS, giving students fundamental knowledge to be creative and a channel to further their studies.

Results of using Amazon Web Services

AWS tremendously helped to allocate technical resources to support research teams in the department at an affordable price. Most importantly, researchers were able to manage everything independently allowing research projects to proceed quickly and offers agility. Researchers were also able to try out tools to support research studies. True IDC was a key partner in offering advice that helped researches to maximize the use of AWS.

Future Plans

The department places great importance on cloud technology, especially as the country steps into the Digital Age, because it is easy to manage, has low investment cost, and supports limitless expansion in the future. The department supports the use of AWS with other systems of the university to the maximize benefit for research work. Furthermore, the department is exploring how AWS could support research work of students of the Department of Computer Science, as well as to enhance knowledge and skills about cloud technology for students at all levels so that they can apply them and practice such skills to prepare for their future careers.

Lastly, the Department of Computer Science and True IDC are ready to become a part of promoting learning and development of personnel to be capable in utilizing cloud technology and other information technology to generate a workforce critical to the development towards Thailand 4.0.