ARDC Nectar Research Cloud upgraded at Monash University and the University of Tasmania

Categorised: ENGAGE, News
Scientists use TERN applications, hosted in the ARDC Nectar Research Cloud, for environmental research.
TERN uses the ARDC Nectar Research Cloud to host applications used by environmental scientists to help understand and manage Australia's unique ecosystems. Image courtesy of TERN.

In an exciting infrastructure upgrade for the Australian research community, two nodes of the ARDC Nectar Research Cloud have been refreshed to provide enhanced cloud computing power for Australian research.

The University of Tasmania’s Tasmanian Partnership for Advanced Computing (TPAC), and the Research Cloud at Monash University both recently completed a refresh of their Nectar Research Cloud hardware.

The two computing centres overcame Covid-19 pandemic-related challenges to roll out the significant upgrade to provide new cloud infrastructure to support research.

The Nectar Research Cloud provides computing infrastructure and supporting core services to over 3,000 registered users for over 1,700 projects, providing self-service access for Australia’s research community to store, access and analyse data quickly and from anywhere in the country. Services hosted on Nectar are used by more than 50,000 researchers.

The TPAC refresh of approximately 5,000 virtual central processing units (vCPUs) and 1.2 PetaBytes of high-performance storage is a significant upgrade to the storage hardware, which means that researchers now have faster access to their data stored on Nectar.

The Deputy Director eResearch Services at TPAC, Brendan Davey, said, “This increase of over 40% in capacity in new resources will allow faster research, speeding up modelling times and data movement. It will provide the latest hardware to match current and future research needs.”

Siddeswara Guru, the Lead of the Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Network (TERN) Data Services and Analytics Platform said, “The increased capacity in TPAC will enable TERN to run more scalable data services and improve orchestration of containerised applications.”

Some of the TERN applications that can now be scaled up thanks to the additional capacity include SHaRED, a tool to publish data sets; EcoImages, a soon to be launched tool to find images collected at TERN ecosystem observing sites; and the forthcoming EcoPlots dashboard, which will integrate plot-based ecology survey data across different jurisdictions.

Sensitive data in the research cloud

The Monash University upgrade includes approx 10,000 vCPUs and 1.5 PetaBytes of storage, along with increased security features for sensitive data built into new state-of-the-art data processing units (DPUs).

“DPUs are the special equipment that we’re using to rethink how security works [in the research cloud],” said Steve Quenette, Deputy Director of the Monash eResearch Centre.

Sensitive data is any data that has a risk associated with it, whether that is information that identifies individuals or data collected in clinical trials.

The new DPUs will play an important role in the ARDC-supported project Secure eResearch Platform (SeRP): Scalable Governance, Control & Management of FAIR Sensitive Research Data, a national collaboration to deliver a secure, trusted and scalable environment for data sharing, governance, control and management services for researchers.

“The project will investigate how to operate sensitive data platforms (like SeRP) on the research cloud, which is this big experiment of shared infrastructure,” said Steve.

“The long-term goal is that secure research platforms are trusted, ubiquitous and federated across Australia on the research cloud.”

Refreshing all ARDC Nectar Research Cloud nodes

The upgrades at Monash University and the University of Tasmania nodes are the latest in a project to upgrade all core infrastructure in the ARDC Nectar nodes. In the coming months, the New South Wales and Queensland nodes will be refreshed through a partnership between QCIF (the Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation) and INTERSECT Australia, which will support more than 10,000 virtual CPUs, 500 TB of volume storage and 230 TB of object storage.

It will be the final stage in the upgrade of the entire Nectar research cloud across Australia, which has seen co-investment of $4.1 million by ARDC, with matching co-investment from partner organisations, for this core national research infrastructure that provides Australian researchers with a competitive advantage through data.

Carmel Walsh, ARDC Director for eResearch Infrastructure and Services says, “Completion of this refresh will see the capacity of ARDC Nectar for national allocation double from previous levels, supporting 38,000 vCPUs and 6 PetaBytes of data storage. This will ensure that as Australia’s National Research Cloud, ARDC Nectar will be able to meet the ever-increasing demand for research computing as well as ongoing support for our existing projects and platforms.”

Learn more about how Australian researchers can use the ARDC Nectar Research Cloud.

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

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