A commitment in the 2009-10 Federal Budget to provide researchers with national storage and computing infrastructure is now bearing fruit, with the first node in a national research cloud going live in February. Procurement is also set for a storage network and the selection of vendors for national storage infrastructure.
In the 2009-10 Budget, $47 million was allocated for a project to be led by the University of Melbourne that would establish virtual server and cloud infrastructure to provide the computational and fast storage requirements of researchers, as well as support research tools and virtual laboratories for communal use. This effort was named the National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Research (NeCTAR) project, to be built using open-source cloud platform OpenStack.
NeCTAR released a request for proposal last year, where Australian research institutions could apply for funding to develop research tools and virtual laboratories, and to be supported by the cloud. NeCTAR signed its first e-research tool contract in April with the University of Western Australia, providing funds for a cloud-based bio-informatics tool to help researchers better analyse and collect phenotypic, genotypic, pedigree and bio-specimen data.
The University of Melbourne has completed the first node of NeCTAR, which went live on 1 February 2012, using Xenon Systems gear. The university currently operates 3850 cores over two datacentres, but NeCTAR is expected to reach 25,000 cores across the country over the next 18 months. Xenon was chosen, as it is able to provide the highest-performing server installation within the university's budget.
Two months after the node went live, it had 500 users trialling the service by using two cores each for three months, in order to get an idea of what processing and networking requirements they would have in the future.
Further nodes will be built by other universities and research institutions, for example by the Australian National University, Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation and Monash University.
Also laid out was $50 million for a Research Data Storage Infrastructure Project led by the University of Queensland to battle rising storage costs, and to make it easier to reuse research data.
The project has four programs: the first is to develop nodes, or datacentres, that can hold and process high volumes of data; the second is to identify data repositories of "lasting value and importance", and to fund their developments; the third is to find network infrastructure to enable the sharing of data; and the fourth involves the establishment of a vendor panel to use for the undertakings.
A request for proposals looking for vendors to supply the project was released earlier this year, and a shortlist was reached recently, with SI Solutions, Cisco partners Dimension Data and Frame Group, DataDirectNetworks, Dell, EMC Australia, Frontline, Hitachi Data Systems, Intersect, NetApp, Safewell, SGI and XOStor being selected.
The projects are expected to accelerate each other's progress by co-locating parts of their infrastructure in the same facilities. They are to be completed by 2014, when funding comes to an end.