Editor’s note: Today’s guest author is Dr. Rosio Alvarez, Chief Information Officer at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Dr. Alvarez serves the computational needs of scientists that carry out over $0.7B of sponsored research in quantitative biology; nanoscience; new energy systems and environmental solutions; and the use of integrated computing as a tool for discovery. She is also overseeing Berkeley Lab’s move to Google Apps.

Ernest Lawrence, the Nobel Prize winning physicist, is often credited as being the father of “team science.” He understood that some of the most important and difficult problems in science required bringing together experts from across disciplines to work on experiments that they couldn’t possibly execute individually. That legacy is the foundation of work at Berkeley Lab. Today, we’re excited to be bringing the next generation of tools to support team science to the Laboratory, including Google Apps.

Berkeley Lab is a member of the National Laboratory system supported by the U.S. Department of Energy through its Office of Science. It is managed by the University of California (UC) and is conducts unclassified research across a wide range of scientific disciplines. Berkeley Lab employs approximately 4,000 scientists, engineers, support staff and students. Eleven Berkeley Lab researchers have won the Nobel Prize. Fifty-seven Lab scientists are members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), one of the highest honors for a scientist in the United States.

Switching to Google Apps supports a number of important Berkeley Lab goals:
  • Sustainability We now utilize the Google data centers that power Google Apps, which are are among the most efficient in the world, instead of operating our own servers;
  • Efficiency Berkeley Lab is going Google reduces internal infrastructure costs and allows us to recover data center and personnel capacity;
  • Collaboration It provides new tools and platforms for improving scientific collaboration, including real-time document sharing and support for easily including collaborators from around the world as full participants in our work.
Berkeley Lab is in the midst of the first production rollout of Google Apps in the Department of Energy. We have moved over 4,000 people to the Google Mail service to date and an expected total of 5,000 accounts by the end of summer 2010. We have already rolled out Google Docs and Google Sites Lab-wide to improve collaboration capabilities for our staff. A transition to Google Calendar is planned in the coming months, as well.

If you want to learn more, we’ve even set up a public site to tell the world about this project. Or you can watch this video:

It’s been really gratifying to watch the adoption of Google Sites and Docs at the Lab. These two applications extend the reach of the Lab's existing collaboration systems by offering new features and easier inclusion of external collaborators.

Smaller research projects with a few dozen collaborators often struggle with building the infrastructure to effectively share information; Google Apps makes it easy for them to deploy the services they need with no help from IT folks.

Since we’ve integrated Google Apps with the Lab's Identity Management System, our users have a seamless experience. And all our users benefit from the extensive resources that Google has dedicated to keeping the Google Apps system -- and our data -- secure.

The Lab expects to realize financial savings as a result of the transition. The final numbers are not available yet, but the estimates range in the area of $1.5M-$2M savings over the next five years in hardware, software and labor costs. Cost avoidance, increased functionality and resiliency were all important factors in the decision to migrate. Above all, we’re empowering our researchers to share, collaborate, and build teams like never before. We think Ernest Lawrence would be pleased.

Dr. Rosio Alvarez, Chief Information Officer
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Posted by Dan Israel, Google Enterprise team