Converting an open source project to Docker: why bother?

Stuart Watt from Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto has written a tracker app that is intended to replicate the experience of Google Docs spreadsheets for research study project managers in a private, local install. The webapp currently supports spreadsheets for multiple projects, fine grained permissions handling, multiple views on the same sheet, and of course it can export to Excel.

A project manager at OICR leading a multi-centre project approached me about his tracker a few weeks ago. Currently, she keeps several spreadsheets up to date and passes them around to keep track of hundreds of samples in various stages of sample preparation, sequencing and analysis. For many clinicians, technicians, project and people managers, Excel spreadsheets are the tool of choice to share data and information about samples and projects. They are flexible and simple for presenting and organizing information. Unfortunately they’re time consuming to keep up to date and they can corrupt data. The tracker looked like a possible time and tear saver.

My first concern was assessing the tracker and enabling the project manager to try it out. Plan A was to launch a virtual machine, open a port on it and give her my machine address. Halfway through building the VM (while my machine was crawling along) I realized I didn’t particularly want to email around the image or host the VM on my local machine forever.

So, jump to plan B: Docker

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