Widespread Use of Cloud Computing Revealed by National Researcher Survey

A recent ARDC survey revealed that cloud computing is widely used across the Australian research community.
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In June 2023, the ARDC ran a survey to better understand how researchers in Australia use cloud computing services. 

Cloud computing is a transformative technology for the research sector. It has revolutionised the way research is conducted and accelerated scientific progress. Cloud computing enables on-demand access to a vast pool of computing resources, enabling researchers to store, process and analyse large volumes of data more efficiently than ever before. Researchers can scale their computing efforts rapidly using the cloud without needing to invest in expensive hardware. Cloud computing also enables collaboration and data sharing across different locations, enhancing the productivity of the research sector.

In Australia, the ARDC has operated the Nectar Research Cloud since 2012, providing Australia’s research community with fast, interactive, self-service access to large-scale computing infrastructure, software and data. There are now other providers in the market: clouds associated with the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI), Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, and commercial clouds from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and Google, among others.

Ben Chiu, Director of Services, ARDC, said, “With over 170 responses from the Australian research community, the ARDC survey has provided valuable insights on the ubiquitous use of cloud services across all fields of research. The report has already been shared with the Australian Government, and will inform the development of the ARDC Nectar Research Cloud.”

Almost two-thirds of respondents had used the ARDC Nectar Research Cloud, validating the importance of the ARDC Nectar Research Cloud in supporting research in Australia. These include access to cloud resources through eResearch platforms such as Galaxy, EcoCommons or the Characterisation Virtual Laboratory. Respondents stated that the ARDC Nectar Research Cloud was valuable for additional computational resources, its ease of use, and no cost to the user.

The survey has also enabled the ARDC to compare the Australian research sector with that of Canada.

Dr Andrew Treloar, Director of International Strategy, ARDC, said, “We’d like to thank the Digital Research Alliance of Canada, which gave us permission to base this survey on a modified version of the cloud survey they ran in early 2023.

“Using the Canadian survey finding as a baseline, the survey showed that more Australian respondents are using cloud technologies compared to Canadian respondents. Similar numbers of respondents in Canada and Australia use commercial cloud services.”

The key findings from an analysis of the survey results are:

  • The overwhelming majority of respondents (97.26%) are current or past users of cloud resources.
  • Researchers across all Field of Research (FoR) codes use cloud technologies, but Biological Sciences, Earth Sciences, Health Sciences and Information and Computer Sciences dominated in this survey.
  • Over half of respondents were using cloud technologies of all kinds to store or process controlled or sensitive data.
  • The two most significant factors driving the choice of cloud platform were ease of use and cost.
  • Over half of the respondents acknowledged using a commercial cloud provider (e.g. AWS, Azure, Google Compute Platform, Oracle Cloud), with the budget for this coming from a mix of institutional funds and research grants, as well as industry grants, personal funding and cloud research credits.
  • Almost two-thirds of respondents had used the ARDC Nectar Research Cloud. 
  • Across a wide range of institutional, national and some international cloud providers, the ARDC Nectar Research Cloud was used the most and received the highest rating for importance in supporting the respondent’s research.
  • The overwhelming majority of respondents were happy with the available range of platforms or software services available on the ARDC Nectar Research Cloud.

Read the report on the ARDC Survey on Cloud Services Usage in Research.

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