Nectar Research Cloud

The Nectar Research Cloud is a national collaboration to provide high-scale community cloud computing infrastructure to Australian researchers. Nectar allows researchers to deploy virtual machines (VMs). Using the VMs, they can then build and use software tools to run experiments, process and analyse data, or host complex online research applications – without having to build or maintain the necessary hardware. The Nectar Research Cloud consists of cloud nodes across Australia. It is partially supported by investment and operating subsidy by the Australian Research Data Commons project, an NCRIS project initiative of the Australian Government Department of Education.

Intersect owns and operates one of the national nodes, offering around 5000 of the Australian capability of approximately 35,000 x86 computing CPU cores. Production cores are used for private cloud research computing for Intersect customers, offered as Own Time. Supporting assets include large scale memory, high speed networking, high I/O disk and virtualised infrastructure based on OpenStack, all connected via the AARNet ScienceDMZ high speed optical network and colocated with Space. Nectar supports several operating systems and provides a large number of pre-built images that researchers can use as the basis for their own VMs, without having to configure the entire system. Researchers can also take snapshots of their own configured VM and make them available for others to use.

Typical uses of the Nectar Research Cloud include:

  • Deploying compute resources for running simulation and data analysis software
  • Hosting of websites, databases, web applications and other online resources
  • Establishing customised access to online data sets and data analysis tools
  • Hosting of online research tools and domain-specific virtual laboratories.



Nectar Cloud Access

The Nectar Research Cloud can be accessed by any researcher from any organisation that participates in the Australian Access Federation (AAF).  All Australian universities are members of AAF. Project allocations on the Intersect node are authorised by participating member organisations.

From 1 July 2016 the NSW node of the Nectar Research Computing Cloud adopted a consumption funding model to sustain its future in the national eResearch landscape. This means your organisation needs to have a subscription with Intersect to fund resource consumption; all current Intersect members have some arrangement in place.


Personal Trials

Every user account in the Nectar research cloud is allocated a small amount of computing resource – a maximum of two virtual server instances, totalling no more than two cores – with which they can build a basic VM that will have around the same power as a desktop computer. Personal trial instances expire after 4000 CPU hours, which is about three months of continuous use. They are intended for limited testing purposes and are not suitable for production servers. In order to obtain servers to be used for production, you’ll need to apply for a project allocation.


Project Allocations

Project allocations can be much larger than personal trials and can last for much longer . Within a project allocation, you may build as many instances as your allocated resources allow and these instances will persist for the life of the project. Instances built within project allocations can also be shared among other users. They are designed for collaborative research. Local policies apply at each node for resource allocation. In NSW, project allocations must receive some combination of national merit approval, NSW node approval and participating member approval, depending on the nature of the application.


Nectar Cloud Flavours

Project resources are consumed as ‘flavours’ of virtual computing. There are four classes; Balanced (m3), RAM optimised (r3), CPU optimised (c3) and Tiny (t3). Full information is available on the Nectar Flavours page of the Nectar knowledge-base. Create multiple virtual machines with up to 64 virtual CPUs. Supported Linux operating system distributions include Centos, Ubuntu, Fedora and Scientific Linux. Researchers can directly access seven national network nodes for additional scale or data proximity.


Nectar cloud reliability

Physical hardware in cloud computing can be susceptible to power outages, scheduled downtime and other events. Although these tend to be rare events, they may affect your project allocations and trial allocations.  Nectar does allow you to select a particular physical availability zone to host your VM, but each zone is susceptible to occasional temporary downtime. If your project requires a server with uninterrupted uptime, you could take measures to ensure that a power outage does not affect it, such as a parallel instance running the same processes hosted at a different node. If your project does not require constant uptime, it may be sufficient to simply restart machine instances when service is restored. Nectar routinely communicates to users via email service information, including outages and scheduled maintenance and you can follow @intersectops on Twitter for real time information.

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