Australian Research Cloud

Overview

  • The Australian Research Cloud is available for research use to any academic researcher in Australia
  • It will consist of 8 Nodes across all states and around 30,000 processor cores
  • It currently has 6 Nodes and over 20,000 processor cores available
  • The SA Node is managed by eRSA and has almost 3,000 cores
  • The eRSA website has some additional material providing an overview of cloud computing

Contents

  1. Cloud infrastructure services
  2. Getting started with the Research Cloud
  3. Services in the cloud
  4. Other cloud resources
  5. Getting help
  6. More information


1. Cloud infrastructure services

  • The main function of the Research Cloud is to provide “infrastructure as a service”, i.e. virtual servers (called virtual machine instances) and cloud storage that can be provisioned on demand through a web dashboard or an API.
  • Cloud terminology can be confusing, so it may be helpful to refer to a glossary of cloud jargon while reading through the user guides
  • Virtual machine (VM) instances in the Research Cloud are available in standard sizes:
    • Small (1 core), Medium (2 cores), Large (4 cores), Extra-large or XL (8 cores), XXL (16 cores)
    • Each VM instance has 4 GB of memory (RAM) and 30 GB of local disk storage per core, so an XL VM instance has 8 processing cores, 32 GB RAM and 240 GB of local disk storage (called instance storage)
  • There are three different types of cloud storage available:
    • Instance storage - this is local to a VM instance and is ephemeral (any files disappear when the VM is shut down) and limited in size
    • Volume (or block) storage - this is persistent, expandable storage that can be attached to a VM like one or more virtual hard disks
    • Object storage - data files can be accessed from the VM or from anywhere via the web (i.e. http)
      More information is available in the NeCTAR cloud storage guide

2. Getting started with the Research Cloud

Access to the Research Cloud

  • Any Australian academic researcher can use the Australian Research Cloud
  • To access the cloud, someone in your research project needs to be able to log in to the NeCTAR Dashboard using their username and password from an Australian university or an institution that is part of the Australian Access Federation
  • Any researcher who logs in to the web dashboard can immediately have access to a small Project Trial allocation (2 cores for 3 months)
  • To obtain a larger allocation you need to submit an allocation request through the web dashboard
  • Allocation requests are reviewed by an allocation committee and awarded based on merit, suitability to cloud use, and available capacity of the cloud
  • Before making an allocation request it is best to discuss your requirements with eRSA (contact the eRSA service desk) or your local eResearch office or IT services
  • The NeCTAR project has more information on obtaining a cloud resource allocation

Using the Research Cloud

  • You can access the cloud by first logging in to the NeCTAR Dashboard using your university username and password or any other account accessible via the Australian Access Federation
  • Once you have logged in to the dashboard, you can create one or more VM instances (i.e. virtual servers) running specified VM images (i.e. operating system plus applications)
  • You can specify that you want to VM to start in a particular “availability zone” (e.g. in SA) or by default it can run on any of the Research Cloud nodes (usually whichever has the most free resources)
  • You will need to set up a Security Group (which are essentially firewall rules) to specify what access you want to allow to your VM (e.g. web access from anywhere and ssh login from specified computers or internet domains)
  • You (and anyone else who you allow access to) can then log in to and use the virtual machines just like standard compute servers.
  • The NeCTAR project has more information on getting started in the cloud
  • There are also some more detailed technical guides to using the cloud

3. Services in the cloud

Generic services

  • The Research Cloud also supports some higher-level services that can be started from the dashboard. These are mostly pre-production (or trial) services so it’s a good idea to talk to eRSA about their status and how to use them before trying them out. They include:
  • Many of the virtual machine images used on the Research Cloud are publicly available through the NeCTAR image catalog. You may find some of these images provide software packages that you can use out of the box rather than having to install software and create your own VM image.

Specialised eResearch services

  • The NeCTAR project funded the development of customised cloud services, software and portals for particular research disciplines or workflows. These are worth checking since they may offer services that are useful for your research activities.
  • Virtual Laboratories provide online platforms for research activities in several research discipline areas
  • eResearch tools provide online software tools for common research tasks

eRSA cloud services

  • eRSA supports a standard VM image which provides access to all the software applications that are installed on eRSA high-performance computers (e.g. Tango). Contact the eRSA service desk for information on how to use this image.
  • eRSA supports a cluster in the cloud service that can use cloud VMs as compute servers in an HPC cluster with the standard eRSA VM image.
  • Cloud VMs can be accessed using a remote desktop so they can be used just like they are a desktop machine. Currently this is only available via a Linux desktop but eRSA is aiming to support Windows remote desktop in 2015.
  • eRSA supports some web-based tools running in the cloud:

4. Other cloud resources

Other cloud infrastructure is also available to researchers. These are typically more expensive than the Australian Research Cloud but may have additional capabilities such as high-availability or very large scalability that may better meet your requirements. These include:

  • eRSA virtualisation cluster
  • Private clouds or virtualisation services provided by university or institutional IT services
  • Commercial public clouds from companies such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft and many others.

5. Getting help

  • If you need help with using the Australian Research Cloud or advice on other cloud solutions, contact the eRSA service desk or your local eResearch office or IT services
  • The NeCTAR project also offers online user guides and technical support through their NeCTAR Research Cloud support site
  • eRSA provides training courses on using the cloud which are advertised to eRSA users and on the eRSA web site, as well as through other channels

6. More information


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