By Abdullah Shaikh
The University of New South Wales (UNSW) Research Technology Services (ResTech) Cloud Pilot Scheme aims to promote public cloud services. The pilot scheme supports ‘Proof-of-concept’ projects by providing funds for using Amazon Web Services (AWS). It is a pilot to assess the usage of public cloud platforms by the UNSW researchers to carry out their projects that involve the utilisation of GPUs, artificial intelligence, graphics and visualisation techniques.
The researchers must apply for the scheme using an Expression Of Interest (EOI) form, which UNSW ResTech experts assess before the grant of up to A$12,000 value of using AWS is approved.
UNSW ResTech is promoting its services to the researchers of non-STEM faculties this year. Communication and outreach activities focused on increasing the engagements with the faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture, Business, Medicine and Health, UNSW Canberra, and other non-STEM faculties.
Therefore, an underpinning goal of this Cloud Pilot Scheme for UNSW ResTech was to promote the use of cloud resources among the researchers of non-STEM faculties.
The Role of Intersect eRA and Cloud Experts
Abdullah Shaikh, Intersect’s eResearch Analyst who is placed at the UNSW ResTech team, advertised this scheme to UNSW researchers, mainly focusing on the researchers of non-STEM faculties. The challenge was to help the researchers identify and gain a better understanding of the use of cloud services in their research. Identifying the stakeholders and the potential researchers who were using the existing computing infrastructure such as NCI Gadi, UNSW Katana, and on-premises systems to do their research was another challenge.
The process involved identifying researchers, engaging with them to understand their work, and delineating whether cloud services could help them to carry out their research faster, more efficiently and effectively. Abdullah actively engaged with the faculty and school-level research support staff to utilise the internal faculty and school communication channels to broadcast and present the scheme to a broader audience.
The response to the outreach activities resulted in several researchers showing interest in the scheme. Researchers wanted to know more about the scheme and whether their project is suitable for AWS. At this stage, the Cloud Experts from Intersect based at the UNSW (Peter Lee and Michael Grogan) met with the researchers to provide technical advice and consultation.
Abdullah, Peter, and Michael met with more than 25 researchers from non-STEM faculties to help them assess the suitability of their project against AWS. They also organised information sessions and seminars to explain the use of Cloud computing in research and shared the success stories of those who used the scheme. UNSW ResTech received several EOIs as a result of active engagement and outreach activities.
The pilot scheme has resulted in helping the researchers successfully transition from investing in buying their own “under the desk” GPUs and computing infrastructure to using AWS, which is scalable and on-demand. It has also enabled the researchers to utilise the right computing resources to carry out their research faster!