Linux Desktops for Research Software

We recently ran a hands-on workshop for genomics researchers to introduce them to a set of powerful graphical applications for genomics analysis. The research staff and HDR students at the workshop were primarily from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment (HIE) and the School of Science and Health.Linux Workshop ImageResearchers who need to analyse genomic data tend to be big consumers of computing resources. HIE researchers are using a large underlying computing environment (for the nerds, 48 CPU’s and 512Gb of memory). This system is then configured to run many simultaneous Linux desktop sessions. Linux is the most common choice for high-performance computing, 97% of the Top500 supercomputers use Linux. For HIE, we run Linux systems with a graphical desktop interface which complements the Windows or Apple Mac desktop environments that many researchers are familiar with. The Linux desktops are accessed using an application called NoMachine (NX), which requires a client program to be installed on the local computer. There are clients for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux and soon iOS/Android. We are using the open-source implementation of NX from OpenNX.

OpenNX login screen

Once logged in users are presented with a familiar interface with menus, icons and file explorer. The Linux desktop minimizes the need to jump into a Linux command line, which can be daunting to new users. The main applications installed for HIE researchers are graphical windows-like programs, such as CLC Genomics Workbench and Geneious Pro.

CLC Genomics Workbench Desktop

There are many desktop applications that can be access from powerful Linux computing environments. If you are interested in making use of large computing environments check if there is a Linux version of your application, you may be surprised!