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 OwnTime.intersect.org.au. 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.intersect.org.au. 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.