How NeCTAR's OpenStack cloud boosts research collaboration

The NeCTAR community cloud is encouraging collaboration amongst Australian and international academics

The National eResearch Tools and Resources Project (NeCTAR) has used a community cloud platform to help researchers across Australia share data ranging from computer science to marine biology research.

Speaking to Techworld Australia at the OpenStack Summit, NeCTAR director Glenn Moloney said it decided to use OpenStack in March 2011. OpenStack was chosen because it would allow the organisation to build and deploy a community cloud capable of handling large data sets.

“We wanted to enable greater collaboration for researchers in Australia and remove some of the barriers to collaboration at different universities,” he said.

“One of those barriers was access to a platform to share data and portals. Institutional [IT] infrastructure isn’t set up well for sharing information.”

The first NeCTAR Research Cloud node went live at the University of Melbourne in February 2012. Participants in the research cloud include Australian National University, Monash University, the University of Tasmania and eResearch South Australia, all of whom are building cloud nodes on the platform.

When a researcher wants to access data on the NeCTAR cloud, they are authenticated through their university email address.

According to Moloney, academics have used the research cloud to share wildlife migration tracking data with counterparts in Africa who are keen to understand animal migration in different countries.

NeCTAR has also funded software infrastructure projects which use the research cloud such as virtual laboratories.

“We have funded 15 virtual laboratories, the first virtual laboratory on geophysics was completed recently,” he said.

“Our virtual geophysics laboratory has a lot of interest from partners in the US and Europe. They can access Australian data, simulation models and tools through our platform.”

In addition, academics in Japan have expressed interest in federating their cloud infrastructure with NeCTAR’s for research opportunities.

Looking to the future, Moloney said that it wants to “add value” for researchers with automated workflows.

“We have this platform that gives people access to a lot of capability so we’re now in a position where we can automate manual processes such as data flow.”

For example, a data flow could be coming from Melbourne that needs to be flowed into a supercomputer at Monash University with the results sent to researchers in Canberra.

“That was a very laborious time consuming process and we can now streamline that into work flows for different researchers,” he said.

Hamish Barwick travelled to OpenStack Summit in Hong Kong as a guest of OpenStack

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Techworld Australia on Twitter: @Techworld_AU

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Tags cloud computingOpenStackcommunity cloudNeCTAROpenStack Summit 2013Glenn Moloney

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