Retirement of the eRSA Node of the ARDC Nectar Research Cloud and continued support for SA researchers

Categorised: COLLABORATE

The Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) Nectar Research Cloud is a federation of Nodes distributed around the country, that host the cloud compute and storage infrastructure funded by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) program. The Research Cloud is implemented through deployments of Nectar-funded infrastructure at organisations known as Nodes, and supported by co-investment from research universities in all the states of Australia.

Earlier this year one of the nodes, eResearch South Australia (eRSA), closed down and as of 30 June, 2019 so will the South Australian Nectar Research Cloud node, managed by eRSA.

ARDC and the remaining 6 Nodes (Intersect, Monash University, NCI, QCIF, TPAC, and the University of Melbourne) continue to operate the Nectar Research Cloud as there is strong support for the continuing operation of an Australian research cloud in the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap and the federal government’s Research Infrastructure Investment Plan. The ARDC is in the process of defining its support and development activities for the cloud program.

ARDC will continue to support allocation of Research Cloud resources to South Australian researchers through our national allocation processes, following the shutdown of eRSA and the South Australian node. This commitment has been confirmed following consultation with, and support from, the operators of the remaining Research Cloud nodes in other Australian states. The approach to supporting South Australian users will be similar to that offered to Western Australian users after the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre withdrew the Western Australian Node from the Nectar federation, instead offering a new national cloud infrastructure service called Nimbus that is integrated with the Pawsey HPC and storage infrastructure.

The Research Cloud and services running on the Research Cloud will continue to be accessible to all Australian researchers, including South Australian and Western Australian researchers.

However there are implications to the absence of Western Australia (WA) and South Australia (SA)-based resource providers and associated co-investment from WA and SA research institutions, and the subsequent reduction in capacity of the Nectar cloud. In particular, local Research Cloud resources will no longer be available in SA for locally prioritised resource allocations, and capacity is reduced for supporting national resource allocations.

Research Cloud Allocations for WA, SA and non-node member Researchers

For the next 12 months, ARDC confirms continued support for allocation of Nectar Cloud resources to researchers at institutions who are not members of Nectar Cloud Nodes, including SA and WA researchers, through our national allocation processes:

  • Projects that are eligible for a national allocation (see below) will be approved by the Nectar allocations committee, based on consultation with nodes to ensure that sufficient capacity is available.
  • Project trials will continue to be available for SA, WA and non-node member researchers.

As previously advised, SA, WA and non-node member researchers will also continue to be supported in the following ways:

  • If the project is a collaboration with researchers from institutions outside of SA or WA or with a node member researcher, one of those researchers can submit a Nectar project resource allocation request for the collaboration, which may simplify allocation approval.
  • For projects that are not eligible for a national allocation, SA, WA and non-node member institutions or research groups may seek to negotiate access to resources from particular Research Cloud nodes, or users may seek access on a fee-for-service basis. Nectar can provide guidance on options for particular requirements.
  • Some Nectar nodes may offer support for SA, WA and non-member participants in strategic research collaborations of interest to the node, e.g. the Tasmanian Partnership for Advanced Computing (TPAC)/University of Tasmania (UTAS) node has offered to provide support for marine science researchers.

Other options for SA, WA and non-node researchers include:

  • Apply for resources at their local institution.
  • Apply for a merit based allocation at one of Australia’s national high-performance computing centres (Pawsey or the NCI), including the Nimbus cloud at Pawsey.
  • Use a commercial cloud provider (the costs would need to be covered by the researcher).

Until additional cloud capacity is available, new allocation requests from non-node users that require significant resources (particularly cloud storage) will be challenging to support due to the shut down of the SA node and the withdrawal of the WA node.

The ARDC is currently working on a capital plan and implementation plan for future national cloud and storage infrastructure. The new plan may include revised policies and approaches to Nectar Cloud resource allocation.  

Further information

Nectar Cloud resources are currently allocated such that 40% of the nationally-funded resources at a Node are available through a national allocation scheme, and 60% are allocated by Nodes based on local priorities. Project trial allocations are automatically available to new users through the national allocation share. Projects are eligible for a national allocation if they are supported by a national competitive research grant, or an NCRIS capability (including projects funded by and/or supported by ARDC).

Questions regarding the Nectar Research Cloud should be addressed to the eHelp support portal or email support@ehelp.edu.au