Research Cloud Data Communities

2015-04-13T06:43:10Z (GMT) by ANDY TSENG
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 in