Maximising Research Potential with Multipurpose Hardware

Miss Sara Drieman1

1eRSA, Thebarton, Australia


eResearch hardware is typically purchased with academic grant funding, resulting in large scale solutions using current market high end hardware. Due to the periodic nature of the funding and the continuous advances in technology, solutions purchased today can often appear archaic in even a year’s time. Without the funding to upgrade, this tends to lead to hardware solutions exceeding warranty and falling short of researcher needs towards the end of the lifecycle. In addition, funding is increasingly uncertain and grants may not be available to replace end of life infrastructure.

This was the cycle eRSA needed to break out of in order to accommodate the ever changing researcher needs. With new hardware required for both HPC and Cloud infrastructure, the problem had to be approached uniquely in order to provide both. Fortunately the solution was made possible with hardware leasing and by selecting hardware to meet both needs based on demand. Rather than the traditional “build it and they will come” approach and only focusing on a single service capability, we were able to create a multipurpose cluster with 8 nodes being used for Cloud and 12 for HPC.

As this solution is easily scalable, the cluster can grow to meet demand, rather than building a large underutilised platform. This provides the flexibility of increasing each service as required as well as meeting the researchers needs as they evolve. By leasing the hardware from the vendor, we are able to stay ahead of the hardware lifecycle, while ensuring capabilities progress as the technology does.

Of course, constant change of hardware components can lead to a high overhead in system administration. This challenge is handled with configuration management tools, ensuring new nodes need minimal human input to join the cluster.

This presentation details how we configured the multipurpose cluster, an overview of the technical specifications of the cluster, how we overcame the challenges of increased overheads, and other cost saving aspects we  adopted; all to ensure we provide our users with a service that allows them to do what they do best, leaving the technical knowhow to us.



Sara Drieman is the Operations Team Leader at eResearch SA, where she works with researchers as well as commercial users. Having an extensive background in both IT Support and System Administration roles, Sara takes pride in helping users adopt technologies as well as improving services for her team and eRSA clients.

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