In 2015, geneticist Guy Reeves was trying to configure a free software system called Galaxy to get his bioinformatics projects off the ground. After a day or two of frustration, he asked members of his IT department for help. They installed Docker, a technology for simulating computational environments, which enabled him to use a special version of Galaxy that came packaged with everything he needed — called a container. A slight tweak to the Galaxy settings, and he was “done before lunch”.
Reeves, at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Germany, is one of many scientists adopting containers. As science becomes ever more data intensive, more software is being written to extract knowledge from those data. But few researchers have the time and computational know-how to make full use of it. Containers, packages of software code and the computational environment to run it, can close that gap. They help researchers to use a wider array of software, accelerate experiments and promote reproducibility.
Read more in Nature