On Demand High Performance Computing

UNSW IT has been working with our research community to determine the viability of a High Performance Compute On Demand service. The service could potentially allow researchers across UNSW to ‘spin up’ high end computing clusters for research purposes. Put simply, HPC on Demand is a shopping cart style portal that guides researchers through a series of simple questions to automatically provision the compute, storage and software required for their need.

istock_000025761478_narrow_0The service, still in beta, was created in conjunction with the UNSW research community, with researchers from many faculties contributing to the project. The questions are designed to be nontechnical, with an emphasis on “what would you like to achieve?”, not “how many cores do you need?” – to ensure HPC on Demand will be easy to use.

Matt Scolari, Director of IT Solution Delivery at UNSW, is excited to get the service in the hands of researchers. “It’s got all the software you need, all the compute and storage you need, it’s using world’s best security, with all costs estimated up front.” But it’s not just the technical achievements Matt is excited by, he believes the new service could simplify the grants application process for researchers

image1“After a series of demos and co-design sessions with some researchers it was quickly identified that this portal has another fantastic opportunity for researchers ” Matt said. “We found researchers were able to use the self service checkout, and in just a few minutes, end up with an estimate they could use in their grant application. This has the potential to make grant applications much easier for all researchers, particularly those applying for micro grants. The portal provides researchers with the ability to email an estimate after they have identified their need and that estimate can be used to inform and help the grant submission.”

The potential savings of HPC on Demand are impressive. “Traditionally, a researcher going for a grant would need to buy all the computing equipment outright, even if they know the research may only take a year or less to complete. They would buy compute and storage for the grant, so for instance, they might include five $30K research workstations into that grant. So a one year grant has an immediate, up front cost of $150k. With On Demand HPC, they’re only buying the computing power they need for the time they need, so a comparable service could be as low as $40k over twelve months, depending on usage. And we’d be able to estimate all of that up front.”

Matt and his team are working hard to ensure HPC on Demand will cover just about every use case a UNSW research might need. “We have partnered with a research organisation that supplies over 600 prebuilt or scripted software, tools and utilities that researchers use across many disciplines. This list is added to on a daily basis and we have access to tap into this catalogue.”

For more information, contact the team at UNSWHPCondemand@unsw.edu.au

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