This month, the Australian Research Data Common’s Nectar Research Cloud celebrates surpassing 15,000 registered Research Cloud users. The cloud has seen a steady growth rate of 175 new registered users per month, since it was established seven years ago. This uptake is a testament to the continuing demand for cloud infrastructure amongst Australian researchers.
The raw numbers tell a remarkable story of the Nectar Research Cloud’s popularity. The Nectar Cloud’s 15,000 users have spun up over one million virtual machines to support research across all major research fields. In some cases, such as with the ARDC Data Enhanced Virtual Laboratories, a single registered user of the Nectar Research Cloud represents a service used by many others, even thousands of users. There is no doubt about the considerable impact of the Nectar Research Cloud on the Australian research community. However, quantifying this impact is a little harder to grasp. We spoke to 45 users from 16 major fields of research to discover what it is about the Nectar Research Cloud that makes it so valuable to Australian researchers.
Small cores, easy collaboration enabling world-leading research
When trying to quantify impact it can be tempting to link increasing impact with more compute power. Projects hosted on the cloud vary in size from a single central processing unit (CPU) through to 1000+ CPUs. Yet the impact of a small allocation to a research project should not be underestimated.
Key to the success of collaboration on the cloud is the neutrality of access to the resource. While access to institutional infrastructure tends to be restricted to the host institution, Nectar Cloud resources transcend these barriers through the Australian Access Federation. This allows easy access for collaborators across any number of institutions and internationally. Users agreed the Nectar Cloud enables faster and easier collaboration.
Around a third of users surveyed described the Nectar Cloud as completely enabling or allowing new possibilities for their research.
“Nectar absolutely enables our research. We are doing new research into environmental audio data, we are world leaders in this research and we could not do this without Nectar,” Professor Paul Roe from QUT’s Ecoacoustics Research Group
For Associate Professor James McCaw, University of Melbourne, the research cloud has ”completely changed the kind of research we have been able to do”. Emphasising the significance of this research, James and his collaborators received a 2017 ARC Discovery Grant, that enables them to further develop models of pathogen dynamics within the human body.
Innovation through accessibility
Our users identified rapid and open access to computing resources as a key benefit of the Nectar Cloud. Access to the cloud enhances innovation in research by allowing researchers to easily explore the potential of cloud computing. This is particularly important for early career researchers.
Dr. Nick Engerer, Australian National University, used the Nectar Research Cloud to showcase the potential of his distributed solar energy modelling research to industry and funding bodies.
“Having the cloud resource to get the model running in real-time really showed that we [were] serious about building a real time system and to get funding. It cannot be overstated how important that was,” Dr Engerer said.
“Using Nectar to show off that tool, has now been one of the reasons that we have been able to get industry interested and we now have an ARENA project”.
The Nectar Research Cloud provides a unique and invaluable resource to the Australian research community. The ARDC is proud to support the diversity of research on the Research Cloud and is funding a hardware refresh to maintain the capacity to meet the requirements of nationally prioritised research projects. For more information on the cloud refresh visit Refreshing ARDC's Nectar Research Cloud.