New Virtual Desktop Service Launched

Our new Virtual Desktop Service gives Australian researchers an easy and fast way to access extra computing power.
ARDC Virtual Desktop Service - computer screen graphic with a virtual desktop

Research is becoming more data-intensive. That means researchers are running more software programs to analyse data and run experiments, and their own computers can quickly run out of space.

We’re excited to announce the launch of the ARDC’s new Virtual Desktop Service, which gives Australian researchers an easy and fast way to access extra computing power. There’s no need to run out and buy another computer to run another software program; researchers can simply log on to the service with their AAF log in and set up a personal computer in the cloud in minutes.

Ms Carmel Walsh, Director of eResearch Infrastructure & Service at the ARDC, said, “We’re thrilled to launch our new Virtual Desktop Service, which we created following requests from researchers for a simple way to boost their computing power.

“The Virtual Desktop Service is powered by the ARDC Nectar Research Cloud, showing the flexibility of our national research cloud, which supports thousands of Australian researchers to accelerate their research every year.”

Australian researchers are set to benefit from ease of use of the new service.

Dr Steffen Bollmann is a Research Fellow at The School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering at The University of Queensland and together with National Imaging Facility Informatics Fellow Aswin Narayanan leads the development of a research platform for analysing neuroimaging data —

“The new ARDC Virtual Desktop Service is a gamechanger for all Australian Researchers. We’re excited to have Neurodesktop be one of the first virtual desktops all ready to go, so researchers using just their AAF login can start up a powerful virtual cloud desktop in their browser with all necessary tools installed,” said Dr Bollmann and Mr Narayanan.

“It means that flexible, scalable and browser-based data analysis for reproducible neuroimaging is at researchers’ fingertips.”

Dr Ivan Hanigan, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health Impact Assessment and Senior Lecturer in Climate Change and Health at Curtin University, is using the Virtual Desktop service for his research and teaching.

“The latest desktop service offering is another great step forward with the bonus of providing specially configured desktops made by domain experts such as the Neurodesk and Geo desktops, and also enabling root access for power users to re-configure and optimise these even further.”

Dr Hanigan is finding the that Virtual Desktop Service requires less system administration and technical knowledge than using the ARDC Nectar Research Cloud, freeing up time for him and his team to do research.

“I am now using virtual desktops in my research and teaching on climate change and health, which will give me many benefits to make my research more impactful and influence evidence based policy on this topic.”

What’s available on the Virtual Desktop Service?

There are 4 virtual desktops to choose from: Ubuntu 20.04, Centos 7, Fedora Scientific, and Neurodesk (provided by the ARDC-supported research platform AEDAPT). We will be making more desktops available as we work with our users and partner organisations to determine what’s needed.

The default size of a Virtual Desktop is 4 virtual CPUs and 8GB RAM, which can be boosted to 8 virtual CPUs and 16GB RAM.

Once you have created a virtual desktop, you can leave it running for uninterrupted processing for up to 14 days, with the ability to extend for additional 14-day periods. And when the job is done, you can shelve it to save it for later, or delete the desktop to free up reserved computer processing and memory resources for other users. Otherwise it will be automatically shelved after the 14 day time period, unless you extend it.

If researchers require more compute power, the ARDC Nectar Research Cloud is available to all Australian researchers.

Learn about the Virtual Desktop Service and view the tutorial.

The ARDC is funded through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) to support national digital research infrastructure for Australian researchers.