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Research Cloud Data Communities


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Meade, B, Manos, S, Sinnott, R, Fluke, C, van der Knijff, D and Tseng, A 2013 , 'Research Cloud Data Communities', paper presented at the THETA: The Higher Education Technology Agenda 2013, 7-10 April 2013, Hobart, Tasmania.

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Available under University of Tasmania Standard License.


Big Data, big science, the data deluge, these are topics we are hearing about more and more in our
research pursuits. Then, through media hype, comes cloud computing, the saviour that is going to
resolve our Big Data issues. However, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly what researchers can actually
do with data and with clouds, how they get to exactly solve their Big Data problems, and how they
get help in using these relatively new tools and infrastructure.
Since the beginning of 2012, the NeCTAR Research Cloud has been running at the University of
Melbourne, attracting over 1,650 users from around the country. This has not only provided an
unprecedented opportunity for researchers to employ clouds in their research, but it has also given us
an opportunity to clearly understand how researchers can more easily solve their Big Data problems.
The cloud is now used daily, from running web servers and blog sites, through to hosting virtual
laboratories that can automatically create hundreds of servers depending on research demand. Of
course, it has also helped us understand that infrastructure isn’t everything. There are many other
skillsets needed to help researchers from the multitude of disciplines use the cloud effectively.
How can we solve Big Data problems on cloud infrastructure? One of the key aspects are
communities based on research platforms: Research is built on collaboration, connection and
community, and researchers employ platforms daily, whether as bio-imaging platforms,
computational platforms or cloud platforms (like DropBox).
There are some important features which enabled this to work.. Firstly, the borders to collaboration
are eased, allowing communities to access infrastructure that can be instantly built to be completely
open, through to completely closed, all managed securely through (nationally) standardised
interfaces. Secondly, it is free and easy to build servers and infrastructure, but it is also cheap to fail,
allowing for experimentation not only at a code-level, but at a server or infrastructure level as well.
Thirdly, this (virtual) infrastructure can be shared with collaborators, moving the practice of
collaboration from sharing papers and code to sharing servers, pre-configured and ready to go. And
finally, the underlying infrastructure is built with Big Data in mind, co-located with major data
storage infrastructure and high-performance computers, and interconnected with high-speed networks
nationally to research instruments.
The research cloud is fundamentally new in that it easily allows communities of researchers, often
connected by common geography (research precincts), discipline or long-term established
collaborations, to build open, collaborative platforms. These open, sharable, and repeatable platforms
encourage coordinated use and development, evolving to common community-oriented methods for
Big Data access and data manipulation.
In this paper we discuss in detail critical ingredients in successfully establishing these communities,
as well as some outcomes as a result of these communities and their collaboration enabling platforms.
We consider astronomy as an exemplar of a research field that has already looked to the cloud as a
solution to the ensuing data tsunami.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Authors/Creators:Meade, B and Manos, S and Sinnott, R and Fluke, C and van der Knijff, D and Tseng, A
Keywords: THETA, Big Data, cloud computing, virtual infrastructure, virtual machines, platforms, communities, discipline-specific support
Additional Information:

Copyright 2013 THETA: The Higher Education Technology Agenda

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