Frequently asked questions

About eRSA

What is eResearch - how can it help me?

Broadly speaking, eResearch is the application of advanced Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) to the practice of research. This can be considered as somewhat analogous to the application of e-Commerce to the commercial sector – new tools and techniques open up new possibilities as well as new ways of doing what has always been done. We now take for granted ways of shopping, of making payments, that were not feasible previously.

The range of areas in which eResearch methods can be applied is vast. A very few such examples are:

  • large-scale, robust and user-transparent data transfer, storage and searching capabilities
  • submission of high-performance compute jobs to facilities remote from the user’s location
  • tools to allow local, national and international meetings and information-sharing on users’ desktop and laptop machines
  • seeking patterns and correlations in previously unmanageable data-sets
  • simple and unified login access to local, state and national services.

That is eResearch can help you obtain, store, analyse and interpret your data. It can keep you in touch and working with your colleagues no matter where they may be. In short, it helps you do research. Some of these possibilities may have been previously conceptualised- but were not practicable. Some of them are more effective and efficient ways of doing things that have long been done. In all cases, though, we may expect benefits to the way in which our research progresses as a result.

Eventually, “eResearch” will not be something distinct in its own right – it will just be part of the way we undertake research, an assumed and relied-upon suite of capabilities that form an integral component of how researchers do their work.

Doesn't IT Services do this stuff?

The ITS Divisions of the eResearch SA members (the three SA universities and the State Government) support corporate, desktop and teaching applications. In keeping with normal practice in large organisations, these services are highly standardised in order to deliver consistent service quality across each institution.

While this approach is very cost-effective, it is not always well suited to the needs of researchers seeking to use ICT as a research tool.

eResearch SA, on the other hand, provides researcher-oriented IT tools and services that focus on flexibility and performance and are often highly specialised to specific applications.

Can I pay you to do 'x'?

We would like to think so! Please contact us to discuss your requirements.

Cloud computing

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is the provision of computing infrastructure, software or services that can be remotely accessed by many users. A feature of cloud computing infrastructure is that the resources can be rapidly provisioned or released in a self-service way by the user, and the amount of resource can be quickly and easily scaled up or down based on the user’s current requirements.

Over the last few years the use of cloud computing for providing IT services has rapidly increased, with very large cloud computing infrastructure now available from companies such as Amazon, Google, Rackspace and Microsoft.

What is the Australian Research Cloud?

The Australian Research Cloud is a large cloud compute resource that has been set up specifically for the Australian academic research community. Researchers can get online access to cloud compute resources (virtual machines) and storage through a merit allocation process.

The research cloud currently has over 16,000 processors and is expected to have over 30,000 by the end of 2014.

More information about the Australian Research Cloud

How much resource can I have?

Cloud compute and storage resources are allocated based on research merit, requirements, and the capacity and availability of cloud resources, which is changing as more nodes come online.

We recommend that before you apply for an allocation, you contact us to discuss your requirements and how we can help you to make best use of the cloud.

How can I ensure my work is secure in the cloud?

The research cloud allows you to set a Security Group for each virtual machine, which allows you to specify restrictions on access to the VM. You should talk to your local IT support group or eRSA to discuss how to secure your cloud resources.

High-performance computing

What is high-performance computing?

High-performance computing (HPC) is the use of specially-designed hardware systems (and associated software) that allow computational operations to be undertaken at higher speed than is possible with “typical” computers.

Typically, HPC systems consist of many individual compute nodes that are connected together in such a way as to make the overall system much faster at computational jobs than any of the individual nodes alone would be.

Thus, the combined nodes (dozens, to hundreds or even thousands in number) can work together to undertake tasks that would take a single node a prohibitively long time.

This relies on not only a large number of compute nodes- the way they pass data between each other, the way they access common data, and the way the software that is run makes use of the many compute nodes, is of vital importance. So, while an individual node may be no faster than a good contemporary laptop or desktop machine, it is the overall capability of the entire system (multiple compute nodes, their interconnection, data and memory access, and optimised software) that gives the increase in performance.

Such systems are quite complex in terms of hardware, management software and maintenance, and they also require purpose-built rooms with air-conditioning, mains power conditioning and similar non-trivial support infrastructure.

However, without the sort of number-crunching capacity enabled by facilities such as our HPC systems, many of the problems encountered in today’s research areas would not be able to be investigated.

How much faster will my code run on your supercomputers?

The answer to this question depends on the resources required by your code.
If your code can use multiple processors on the same node or across multiple nodes, you should see a significant speed up in processing time.

However if your code can only run on a single processor, you may be able to queue up multiple single processor jobs, thereby reducing the time it takes to process your data.

Finally GPU optimized code can give significant performance boosts when using CUDA and our Tesla cards.

Unfortunately there are no hard and fast rules, generally it is taken on a case by case basis.

How can I use your HPC facilities?

Register for a eRSA user account

Once your account is approved, you will receive an email with instructions and links to training documentation on how to your the HPC systems.

Will you install or upgrade my software package?

Commercially-licensed (or paid for) software can also be installed on our systems by eRSA staff. However it is up to the user to pay for a valid license for the product. Please note that we will not install software on our systems that in any way violates a usage or licensing policy.

Upgrading of software is done based on the resources and effort required. Upgrade licenses for software are the responsibility of the user.

Can I run my own code on your systems?

Yes. Any code that can compile with the available software compilers on the HPC systems will run.

Will you help me develop/debug my code?

Custom-written user code can be installed and compiled on our systems; please note that we can only provide limited support for custom-written user code.

Can I run Windows code on your facilities?

We make use of the Linux Operating System on our HPC facilities and as such cannot support native Windows code.

What are the limits on using your HPC facilities?

We do not place any hard limits on HPC usage, however our HPC facilities are a shared resource and as such we ask users keep their usage to a reasonable level.

What is considered unreasonable or excessive usage on your HPC facilities?

Submission of more than 50 jobs to the queue in a single run. Requesting large amounts of wall time on a large number of queued jobs (Submitting 50 jobs to the queue and requesting 300 hours wall time per job).

How long will my job take to start?

Job start times vary based on a number of criteria. These include:

  • the number of jobs in the queue
  • the walltime of the queued jobs
  • the number of jobs a user has run in the last week
    available system resources.

During busy times you may have to wait 2 or 3 days for your jobs to start.

If you think your job has been queued for an excessively long time, contact the Service Desk and let us know.

What about GPUs?

Tizard, our latest High Performance Computer, has a number of compute nodes with Nvidia Tesla and GTX580 GPUs. Further information about Tizard.

What packages are available?

To find this information:

When logged-in to one of the eRSA systems, use the module avail command for an up-to-date list of installed modules on that system.

How much HPC storage can I use?

All eRSA HPC accounts have access to 200GB (Burstable to 250GB for a week) of storage in our home area.

Can I purchase additional HPC storage?

Yes – please contact Service Desk by email, giving us the details of your storage requirements.

Can I share my HPC data with colleagues?

Yes. We can create unix groups to allow you and your colleagues to share data on the HPC system.

What stops me using more than 250GB of storage on my home directory?

Answer: Quotas

What the heck is a quota?

A quota is a restriction that is placed on the amount of data an account may use.

A quota consists of a soft/hard quota and a grace period.

A soft quota is a predetermined level where a warning email is sent out. This however does not prevent you writing more data until the grace period is reached.

A grace period is the amount of time you are allowed to go over the soft limit before the system blocks your ability to write more data.

A hard quota is a predetermined level where the system blocks your ability to write more data. You will still however be able to read your data.

What is an example of the quota system?

Scenario 1:

I have 200GB of data in my home directory. I copy another 10GB to my home directory.

So I now have 210GB of data which means I’m 10GB over the soft limit. I receive an email stating I have gone over the quota.

A counter is now started on the server which is called the grace period.
I now have 7 days to reduce my data back down below 200GB (the soft limit), however I can still keep my data at 210GB safely for a week.

Scenario 2:

I have 200GB of data in my home directory and I decide to copy another 50GB. As soon as I reach 250GB of usage on my home directory, the system stops me writing any more data.

The copy / scp / rsync command would return an error “quota has been exceeded”.

Scenario 3

I have 210GB of data in my home directory and I forget to reduce the data below 200G. The 7 day grace period then expires.

The 200GB soft limit now becomes a hard limit. I will be unable to write any more data to my home directory until I reduce my usage below 200GB.

Will my HPC data be backed up?

Data stored in our home area is snapshotted for 7 days, with backup to tape.

Troubleshooting

My program crashed!

The console output of your jobs are emailed to you and stored in your working directory (eg. jobname.o11111).

Normally error messages or crashes are captured in these files. Review these files and if you are unable to debug the problem, submit a request to the Service Desk.

Please attach the output file and point us to where your submission script/code is stored in your home directory.

How can I change my password?

You can change/reset your password via our portal:
Password Reset

Why can't I log in?

We only allow logins to our systems from The University of Adelaide, UniSA and Flinders University networks.

For networks that are outside the Universities (i.e The Internet), we can explicitly grant access, however you must have a static public IP address.

We cannot allow direct access from ADSL or 3G Broadband systems. If you are using an ADSL or 3G broadband system, please contact your local University ITS Helpdesk and request VPN access to a University Network.

Data storage

What is eRSA storage for?

Our data storage allows researchers to better manage and share data in a secure environment. It enables researchers to store, access, transfer, and backup research data, and share it with their collaborators.

South Australian researchers and their collaborators are eligible to use eRSA storage.

Can my data be backed up or replicated?

Your data can be backed up if you wish. The frequency and kind of backup is determined for each dataset based on user requirements.

Most of eRSA’s data storage equipment is in The University of Adelaide’s Plaza data centre, but the tape silo for backup is in the University of South Australia’s City West data centre, allowing for offsite backup.

Where will my data be stored?

Data is stored on eRSA equipment housed in The University of Adelaide’s tier 2 data storage facility.

The tape silo for backup is in the University of South Australia’s City West data centre, allowing for offsite backup.

How do I upload/download files into eRSA storage?

There are a variety of methods available for data upload. The chosen method will depend on:

  • the format of your data
  • how it’s currently stored
  • its size
  • what you want to do with your data
  • how you want to access your data.

We can work with you to determine the best way to upload your files. Options include SFTP, and WebDAV. We offer assistance to upload your data.

Data download will be available via similar methods with the addition of HTTP. In the future we will provide a web interface.

How much storage can I use?

There is no theoretical or administrative upper limit. Our storage infrastructure offers potential for storage of  large quantities of data overall, and of large individual datasets.

Funded data storage is allocated on a case-by-case basis, and potential restrictions include merit criteria and technical limitations associated with moving large quantities of data onto the storage.

Can commercial data be stored on eRSA infrastructure?

Yes. While some eRSA storage services are intended for facilitating collaboration around datasets, which may not be possible with some commercial data, other services are appropriate for commercial purposes.

We can assist facilitating discussions with your host institution to determine the most suitable storage arrangements for your data.

My data is not in a digital format. Can I still use eRSA's storage facilities?

No. We offer services for storage of digital data. However, we may be able to assist or provide advice on converting your data into a digital format. Talk to us to explore your options.

What if my data collection or research work doesn't meet all of the merit criteria?

We can still help; we offer a number of data storage options.

Contact us to discuss your data storage needs.

Data sharing

Will I be able to control who gets access to my data collection?

Yes. Access control will be implemented and you will have the final say in, and control over, who gets to access your data and the conditions of access. You can provide access to anyone you like, or to no one.

Do I have to share my data if I store it with eRSA?

No. Some eRSA storage services require data be made available for sharing, but other services do not require sharing.

I do not want to share my data because it might be misinterpreted.

Research data stored for sharing will have metadata published in Research Data Australia, or another suitable registry. By creating and publishing good, descriptive information about your data collection, you are providing a context for that data. The metadata will help others to understand how and when the research data was generated, and this will minimise misinterpretation.

A good description of a research data collection will also provide information describing the individuals involved in creating and managing the data, so other researchers can search for you and contact you if they need further information about the data collection.

You can require that potential users contact you to request access, at which time you can discuss your data and clarify how it should be interpreted.

We can point you in the direction of people at your university who can help with creation of metadata.

I don't want to share my data because if it is reused it won't be attributed to me.

Data collections can be cited by using a Digital Object Identifier (DOI), or other persistent identifier. This is a unique label (often displayed as a hyperlinked URL) used to identify a data collection, and is guaranteed to be managed and kept up-to-date. There is growing culture of citing data similar to the way publications are currently cited.

This is an example of a data collection metadata record that provides a DOI and an example of how the researcher would like the data collection to be cited and attributed to them.

You can also require that the data be attributed to you in the licence you make your data available under. For example the Creative Commons licences can require attribution.

We can point you in the direction of people at your institution who can help you determine if a DOI is suitable for your data collection.

Will I be assigned a DOI (or other persistent identifier) for my data?

We do not currently offer a DOI minting service. Most universities will provide this service internally, via the library or eResearch office. We can help facilitate discussions with the appropriate contact in your institution to determine if a DOI will be appropriate for your data and how to mint a DOI.

I cannot share my data because it is confidential.

We understand that some data cannot be shared due to ethical, privacy or confidentiality matters. Our data storage infrastructure can support data with a range of security and access requirements. We encourage you to contact us to discuss a data storage solution to meet your needs.

It is also worthwhile considering anonymisation or de-identification processes and planning how these can be managed from the outset of a research project, so that there is scope for later sharing of the data. Even then it may not be possible to share your data; but good research data management should still apply.

I cannot share my data because it is not ready to be published or shared.

Your data may not be shareable in its current state but eRSA can help with storage for data that you are still in the process of preparing. We encourage you to contact us to discuss a data storage solution to meet your needs.

If the data cannot be shared because it is not formatted appropriately, in a manner that allows it to be interpreted, it is an issue of good research data management. Effective research data management will allow you to manage your data collections appropriately so that, even if they are not shared, they are in an accessible format and can be interpreted by those who are working with the data.

Data management

Where can I get assistance in developing a data management plan for my project?

There are many resources available to help you develop a data management plan. We recommend you check with your institution or organisation to see if there is an existing plan template or guideline available. For example, The University of Adelaide provides a comprehensive guide to creating data management plans. For further information, the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) provides general information about data management planning.

My data is derived from third party data. Can eRSA help me to sort out the licensing issues?

The owner of the third party data and your host institution will both have input into this discussion. We can assist by directing you to the appropriate people at your institution to discuss licensing issues.

I don't have enough time to undertake research data management activities. Is it ok to just leave my data in storage as it is?

Planning for research data management will take some time initially but will save time later. Having a data management plan will make data management activities more efficient. For example, deciding upfront how data will be captured and stored, and how metadata for that data will be captured and created, means that these activities can be incorporated into the research process rather than being extra tasks that must be performed on top of the project later. Taking the time to plan how you will organise and store your data, including deciding on things like file naming conventions, will make it easier to find and access data throughout and beyond the project.

My data management needs are special. I don't think eRSA can help me with my research data needs.

Data takes many different forms and is used in many different ways, meaning that data management requirements will be hugely variable and a one‐size fits all model will not suit all researchers’ needs. Talk to us about flexible and adaptable tools and systems that can be developed to suit various needs. It is possible that the university or eRSA can cater to your requirements.

What's a metadata repository?

A metadata repository is a collection of metadata records describing research data that has been created within the university.

Each of the South Australian universities has its own metadata repository. These repositories are only accessible to staff and students within the particular university.

What are the benefits of metadata repositories?

The main benefit is facilitation of discovery of existing research data, to facilitate its reuse.

The use of a persistent identifier (PID) such as a Handle or DOI in metadata repository records allows other researchers to cite existing the datasets they use in their publications.

How do handles/DOIs/PIDs work?

Handles and DOIs (Digital Object Identifiers) are types of persistent identifiers (PID).

A PID is a unique label used to identify a thing (e.g. a dataset), and is guaranteed to be managed and kept up-to-date. A PID provides a dataset or collection with a way to access it, usually as a hyperlinked URL, that never breaks.

A PID can resolve to either the dataset itself or to a metadata record which provides a description and details of the access rules for the dataset.

PIDs allow a dataset to be cited and linked to in journals, other publications and across the internet. They can be tracked and used to demonstrate the impact of research work.

The allocation of a PID should be carefully considered as they must be maintained and updated whenever a dataset moves or changes. We can help facilitate discussions with the appropriate contact in your institution to determine if a DOI will be appropriate for your data.

What are the benefits of data citation?

The benefits of data citation include:

  • increased visibility for you and your work
  • enhanced credibility – your work can be thoroughly peer reviewed
  • some organisations, including some funding bodies, are beginning to use dataset citation as a metric in a manner similar to publication citation.

eduroam

What is eduroam?

eduroam is a global service enabling staff and students of educational, research and related institutions to share wireless network access, allowing easy inter-institutional roaming. Visitors use the login of their home institution to access the network of other institutions while visiting.

Eduroam infrastructure provided by eResearch South Australia (eRSA), AARNet and global NRENs enables a visitor’s ‘home institution’ to authenticate the visitor remotely. Upon successful authentication, eRSA grants wireless network access to visitors authenticated via eduroam. Other eduroam participating institutions similarly grant network access to visiting staff from eRSA.

If configured correctly, the eduroam user should be able to get a network connection at a visited institution just by opening their laptop or activating their phone or tablet device.

More information about eduroam is available from AARNet, the eduroam AU ‘roaming operator’.

How do I use eduroam at eRSA?

As an eduroam user, you should have already configured access to eduroam while on your home campus, using the authentication parameters provided by your home institution local eduroam webpage.

The wireless encryption protocol used by eRSA access points is the WiFi standard “WPA2/AES” (also called WPA2 Enterprise). Accessing eduroam successfully within eRSA requires only that your device’s configured wireless network connection and encryption protocol is compatible. Due to near-ubiquity of “WPA2/AES” support by institutional wireless access points, it is pretty much guaranteed that your wireless connection will be configured correctly if you’ve already tested your eduroam authentication on your own campus.

Note: There is no need to change any of your authentication parameters. These are only relevant to your home institution. If you have successfully configured authentication to eduroam at your home institution, you should be able to access eRSA’s network via eduroam with no change to your setup.

What Network Services are provided?

eRSA provides full outbound access with NAT’ed IP addresses. In other words, you can access any services you normally do e.g. the Internet, your institution via VPN etc. However any servers running on your devices will not be accessible externally while connected to the eRSA network.

How do I get support in using eduroam?

When you’re at eRSA and connect to eduroam, due to relative complexity of wireless and eduroam infrastructures, you may experience difficulty in getting a network connection for several reasons e.g.an issue with your device configuration, wireless networking, institutional eduroam operability or eduroam infrastructure operability.

When you’re at eRSA and connect to eduroam, due to relative complexity of wireless and eduroam infrastructures, you may experience difficulty in getting a network connection for several reasons e.g.an issue with your device configuration, wireless networking, institutional eduroam operability or eduroam infrastructure operability.

If network access issues occur, in the first instance eduroam users should contact their home institution’s IT helpdesk to seek support.

If this is not possible, or if the home institution can’t resolve the issue, visiting users may contact eRSA IT support.

If required, your home institution’s or eRSA eduroam support staff will contact AARNet, the eduroam AU national roaming operator, for additional assistance.

What Usage Logs are kept by eRSA and what are they used for?

The eduroam trust model (between institutions remotely authenticating their users, and other institutions providing network access, via eduroam) is supported by the ability to trace a particular network access event to an authentication of a ‘real user’ by their home institution.

Home institutions agree to take appropriate action on behalf of visited institutions in case a user doesn’t comply with the home institution’s network AUP.

In order to provide this traceability, remote authentication and network access transactions via eduroam are logged by eRSA, with logs being retained for a period of six months. Access to usage logs is restricted to authorised personnel and authorities as required by the law.

Usage logs may also be used for purposes of service trouble-shooting and user support.

Want to find out more? Talk to us today.

CONTACT US
  • "The eRSA support is very personal and solution-focused and not just a brushing off 'it's-your-fault-check-your-code' kind of support which one sometimes gets from University tech supports. I very much appreciate the help."  
    Sven SchellenbergSchool of Science, RMIT University
  • “Open source intelligence is about extracting information from blogs, news sites and social media platforms, any information that can be freely accessed online. There’s way too much information out there for an individual or group of people to comprehend, so we have created automated tools to allow our users to extract the data they need...access to the latest technology allow[s] us to continue to provide the best platforms to our end-users.”
    David BlockowData to Decisions CRC
  • “It would be impossible to do the type of research that we’re doing without them – it is a major factor in achieving our research outcomes.”  
    Associate Professor Con DoolanSchool of Mechanical Engineering, University of Adelaide
  • “The supercomputing facilities at eResearch SA permit analysis of a host of interesting problems in evolutionary biology. It is the only computer system in SA that can perform certain complex calculations required to infer large evolutionary trees and associated patterns of evolution.”  
    Associate Professor Michael LeeSouth Australian Museum
  • On using an eResearch program to complete 3D modelling of architectural records: “We were able to build an interactive, photo image model of the [historical South Australian property Joseph Elliot’s cottage] home – transforming simple sketches and floor plans into an interactive 3D experience... what we have now is a computerised model that allows us to experience the Elliott house beyond just words on paper”.
    Associate Professor Christine Garnaut
  • "eResearch capabilities ... ensure we can continue to use the latest methods available in our field. The hope is that through the use of these technologies, we will be able to achieve some research outcomes that may otherwise not have been possible.”  
    Professor Ina Bornkessel-SchlesewskyCognitive Neuroscience, UniSA

Our partners

University of South Australia logo