EC2 AMI for scientific computing in Python and R

April 11, 2011

(This article was first published on Zero Intelligence Agents » R, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Like many people who crunch numbers frequently, I have increasingly been integrating Amazon’s cloud computing services into my daily workflow. In particular, I have been using their elastic cloud computing (EC2) on a regular basis. The service is an excellent way to offload computationally intensive work from your laptop for literally pennies on the dollar.

One drawback that I have found, however, is there are not any obvious pre-configured images, called AMIs, designed for scientific computing in the languages I use most: Python and R. The best public AMI I could find was an Ubuntu 10 image provided by the good people at MIT’s STARDEV Project, which includes several useful libraries pre-installed and optimized versions of core scientific Python libraries. This AMI is great, but was still missing several Python packages I use on a regular basis (NetworkX, scikits.learn, sympy, etc.), and had an old version of R with only base packages installed. This would simply not do.

Thus began the odyssey of modifying the StarCluster AMI to more fully support scientific computing in Python in R. I have now uploaded and made public the resulting image, which includes several hundred Python and R packages for scientific computing, statistics, machine learning, data mining and visualization. To access the AMI you can either search for the source name:


Or, access it directly with the AMI ID:

AMI ID: ami-84bd41ed

This will only interest those that have AWS accounts for scientific computing in these languages, but I hope for those of you in that niche it is a useful convenience. For those unfamiliar with EC2 I highly recommend this tutorial, and this more detailed set of instructions for work with EC2 on the command-line. Also, Amazon is very generous with research grants for teachers and students at all levels, so if cost is a barrier you should consider applying for an educational grant.

To leave a comment for the author, please follow the link and comment on his blog: Zero Intelligence Agents » R. offers daily e-mail updates about R news and tutorials on topics such as: visualization (ggplot2, Boxplots, maps, animation), programming (RStudio, Sweave, LaTeX, SQL, Eclipse, git, hadoop, Web Scraping) statistics (regression, PCA, time series, trading) and more...

If you got this far, why not subscribe for updates from the site? Choose your flavor: e-mail, twitter, RSS, or facebook...

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.