eResearch SA is making it easy for researchers to use the National Research Cloud1 for computational work such as simulation, modeling and data processing in the same way they use the eResearch SA supercomputers.
As well as working on the design and deployment of the South Australian node of the Cloud, our staff have been assisting researchers in migrating their applications to the Cloud. One of the main aspects of this work has been to implement systems that make using the Cloud very similar to using eResearch SA supercomputers.
There are two main aspects of this work. The first is to make it easy for users to run the application software they use for their research on virtual machines in the Cloud. For our existing users, this software is installed by our staff on our supercomputers and compute servers. Instead of the usual approach of creating many different custom virtual machine images (the operating system plus the required application software) for different user groups, we have instead created one image which can mount all the software installed on eResearch SA’s machines. This image is now available in the image repository, and can be selected when a user starts a virtual machine on the Cloud.
The second aspect of our work is to make it easy for researchers or research groups to set up their own private “cluster in the Cloud”. Researchers can request an allocation of compute cores on the National Research Cloud, and then set up Cloud virtual machines so that they look just like a standard supercomputer cluster, e.g. the Corvus cluster that was hosted by eResearch SA and recently decommissioned.
We are working on migrating users of Corvus to using a cluster in the Cloud which looks just like their own personal Corvus, i.e. users can use their eResearch SA username to log in, use the same job submission system, the same application programs are accessible, and they can even mount their eResearch SA home directory. For researchers who are already familiar with using compute clusters at eResearch SA or elsewhere, this provides a minimal learning curve for starting to use the large computational resources offered by the National Research Cloud.
We are also working on migrating other applications to the Cloud, including web applications, databases, and software that runs on a Windows operating system and is accessed using a remote desktop interface. This would be ideal for researchers who are used to running applications on their Windows desktop PC, but need more compute or memory than their PC can provide.
1 The National Research Cloud is an outcome of the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources project (NeCTAR). NeCTAR is a $47 million Australian Government, Super Science project, financed by the Education Investment Fund.