Several of Australia’s leading universities and research institutions have called for a major overhaul of how research data infrastructure is managed, floating the possibility of merging the management of Australia’s two tier-one high performance compute (HPC) facilities.
The calls follow a recent federal government issues paper that recommended funding upgrades at the ANU’s National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) and the CSIRO’s Pawsey Supercomputing Centre.
In their responses to the paper, both the CSIRO [pdf] and ANU [pdf] both advocated merging the governance of the two facilities, but conceded that funding models would need to be adjusted for the proposal to go ahead.
The CSIRO labelled the current HPC funding situation “dire”, with NCI receiving “what is effectively emergency support to ensure its continuation beyond its current four-year life” and Pawsey requiring “funding for a capital replacement in 2017/18 to remain viable”.
While supporting the federal government’s proposed new funding model, the CSIRO suggested there “may be benefit in moving to a single unitary capability for peak (tier one) HPC” delivered through “a new national governance approach”.
It said given appropriate funding it would be “happy to provide logistical support” for the new organisation.
The ANU suggested the two tier-one facilities could form the building blocks of a new "national advanced computing service".
Along with HPC, the service would offer a research data cloud, high-capacity storage, and technical assistance to help research organisations, the ANU said.
“These capabilities will need to operate in harmony, to have co-investment, and overlapping advisory structures to govern the communities using them, to ensure users are able to get information in and out of the platforms according to their needs,” it said.
One, not many
The calls for a single national research data service were echoed by QCIF [pdf], Monash University [pdf] and Griffith Universities [pdf], which said the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), Nectar, and Research Data Services (RDS) should be consolidated into one organisation.
ANDS offers data management tools and services, Nectar offers a distributed research cloud, while RDS offers high-capacity research data storage and related services.
Monash said the current arrangements mean that it has to “reconcile the sometimes conflicting requirements of three separate entities”.
“Coordinating the three programs into one entity will greatly streamline and accelerate the eResearch infrastructure program, and will make the research infrastructure environment more effective for all concerned,” it said.
Griffith argued that “separately governed national agencies managing elements of the [national research data] infrastructure” have “allowed a focused development but at the expense of maximising the value of the research outputs that are created”.