RAPID VMs: About Research Virtual Machines

RAPID Virtual Machines (VMs) are pre-configured, computational resources provided to Duke faculty at no-cost to jump start research projects. RAPID VMs take advantage of virtualization technology and are offered as an alternative to researcher-purchased and locally managed physical servers. These simple to set up and easy to replace VMs are physically located on the Duke University network and have access to University resources, just like your Duke laptop or computer. 

Through Research Toolkits, a web-based self-service tool, Duke faculty automatically receive an allocation of 4 CPU cores, 40GB of RAM, and 200GB of storage that can be applied to one VM, or across projects.

Benefits and features: 

  • UNIX or Windows RAPID VMs can be preloaded with research focused computational software such as Jupyter Notebook or RStudio
  • Faculty, or their designees, can create projects and add and manage RAPID VMs in near real time
  • Project owners have admin, or root, access to their VMs and can add their own software, or install software from a library of more than 100 software packages for free, or at a steep discount, from software.duke.edu
  • RAPID VMS are available on the Duke network and by VPN. If you choose to install a Web Server, they can be accessed externally
  • For larger computational needs, faculty can combine up to 3 allocations with collaborators, or purchase paid VMs cores by contacting Duke research computing


  • As provisioned, RAPID VMs are suitable for public and restricted data (see the Duke Data Classification standard). If automatic patching or malware protection is disabled, owners take full responsibility for ensuring the VM meets the Minimum Security Standard for Serversfor their data classification
  • RAPID VMs may require periodic renewal and cannot be maintained if a faculty member leaves Duke
  • While owners may restore their VM from a daily snapshot through Research Toolkits, backups are not provided. A self-service git repository is available for Duke students, faculty, and staff use at http://git.oit.duke.eduto assist with version control and backups of source code

More About the RAPID Program

The RAPID (Research Accelerating, Preconfigured, Individual, Dynamic machines) program was launched in 2015 as a way to support researchers with easily accessible and reusable computational resources that are centrally supported. The goals of the program:

  • Reduce the burden on researchers on procuring, building and supporting computational resources for projects, initial research development, collaborations, or student work
  • Shift computational technologies to greener solutions that support virtualization, sharing, and easy re-use
  • Improve availability of research computational systems by automating common system administration tasks at scale
  • Improve security by building services to meet current and evolving system security standards 

 Funding for the resources are provided through a University grant in support of general research needs.







Article number: KB0032410

Valid to: August 17, 2024