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How consumption based cloud can stretch research funding for education institutions

Blog

The availability of cloud technologies and consumption-based ITaaS (IT-as-a-Service) allows researchers access to the very best tools at the very lowest cost to budget.

It’s all about access to resources

The purpose of any research project is to establish facts and reach conclusions based on a systematic approach to analysis. Although careful planning provides for input into the budgeting process, research often requires some level of flexibility with regards to resource utilisation.

Consumption-based access to infrastructure provides for this flexibility. Researchers can not only scale their usage of technology platforms upwards, but can also shut down (and stop paying for) resources when the project is complete. This model eliminates the rigidity and redundancy related to the procurement, configuration and maintenance of IT resources for the duration of the project, and their subsequent retirement.

This model also applies to high performance compute (HPC) platforms. The cost of building and maintaining such a platform versus on demand HPC consumption of world class commercial cloud platforms on demand can no longer be justified. In general, capital expenditure on the acquisition of rapidly evolving platform technologies is seen by CFOs to be far less appealing than operational expenditure on consumption-based ITaaS.

The NASA Nebula cloud platform provides for a great example of Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) deployed in support of a researcher’s ability to ‘to unilaterally provision, manage, and decommission computing capabilities (virtual machine instances, storage, etc.) on an as-needed basis through a Web interface or a set of command-line tools.

Agile, scalable cloud resources also facilitate the integration of leading edge solutions with devices across the Internet of Things (IoT). This connectivity is often not possible within an environment on-premise and curtailed by a local area network.

Choosing a cloud

The many cloud offerings are easily differentiated based on performance, connectivity and regional compliance as applied to research institutes.

Enterprise scale cloud offerings with highly evolved SLAs focused on availability, performance and data security are easily identified. Where partnerships exist between the local NREN (National Research and Education Network), compliance and connectivity are guaranteed. Here, governance with regards best practice is also implied.

A further differentiator is whether or not a global cloud network has the ability to host locally and support both data sovereignty regulations and the ability for cooperation across collaborative multi-national research projects.

Very few cloud platforms have been able to check all the boxes with regards NREN endorsement, fewer still on a pan-regional scale.

In a nutshell

The ubiquitous, consumption-based nature of cloud levels playing fields – allowing smaller, less adequately resourced institutions the ability to compete for research initiatives and related funding. It is therefore imperative that the institution identifies the right cloud partnership, enabling its researchers to stretch their budget against resource constraint – and succeed!

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