What’s enabled over 17,900 users to work on 3,900 ground breaking research projects in the last 8 years? It’s the ARDC’s Nectar Research Cloud – the same infrastructure that supported over 234 Australian Research Council (ARC) and 112 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) grants in the last year, along with countless research publications. Out of those 17,900+ users, 2,330 of them were acquired within the last 12 months alone.
The Nectar Research Cloud allows Australian researchers access to computational resources at any time from any location so they can easily collaborate nationally and internationally from their desktop in a fast and efficient way. The Nectar Research Cloud also provides a robust platform for deployment of virtual laboratories, research platforms, or online services provided by NCRIS capabilities.
The hosting and operation of the Nectar Research Cloud infrastructure and services is in partnership with multiple service delivery partners, or Research Cloud Nodes (TPAC, QCIF, Intersect, NCI, Monash University, University of Melbourne, Swinburne University and University of Auckland). The Nectar Research Cloud is a federation consisting of the ARDC Core Services team that operates the central cloud services and coordinates the federated operations, and the Node operators who host the distributed computational and storage infrastructure and services.
At any given time, the Nectar Research Cloud is supporting more than 8,000 virtual machines (VMs), using more than 50,000 virtual central processing unit (CPU) cores, being run by more than 2,000 researchers, and used by thousands more.
For users, the impact is significant. The Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Lab allows researchers to model the impact of climate change on biodiversity and the spatial distribution of species. It breaks the barriers to accessibility by providing all the software, data and cloud computational resources a user will need. It now has 4100+ Climate and 300+ Environmental Data Layers that can be accessed and visualised in one location.
The Cancer Therapeutics Cooperative Research Centre (CTX CRC) is focused on the discovery and development of novel cancer drugs for children and adults. It provides a global research and development platform to facilitate access to leading analysis and advanced visualisation tools as well as access to large amounts of cancer research data – all facilitated via the Nectar Research Cloud. As a result of its success, which includes multimillion dollar deals with multinational pharmaceutical companies Merck and Pfizer, it’s transitioning into a commercial entity as the CRC concludes this year.
Access to ARDC’s Nectar Research Cloud enhances innovation in research by allowing researchers to easily explore and harness the potential of cloud computing. But its true potential is yet to be realised. In 2020, the ARDC is investing $4.1M to refresh the Research Cloud infrastructure in order to maintain the capacity required to continue supporting nationally prioritised project resource allocations. This investment will be matched in co-investment from ARDC Node partners. Additional investment next year will focus on supporting the requirements of the ARDC Platforms and National Data Assets programs, and significantly increasing the amount of high-end resources such as Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) and large memory VMs, for a variety of applications including image processing, bioinformatics, and machine learning.