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Navigating QRIScloud

QRIScloud Support buttonQRIScloud's new portal makes it easier to find information, ask for support and apply for services. To see what is on offer, click 'Services' on the QRIScloud website. 

Users can request a virtual machine, ask for storage allocations, or apply for specialised compute services.
 
Once a user is registered, the services dashboard will show them their existing services, such as data storage, and allow them to manage their services, such as asking for a storage upgrade.


Users will log in with their Australian Access Federation credentials, which, if based at an Australian university or research institute, is their institutional login. 
 
Our 'Support' page lists all the ways users can get in touch: Web, email (support@qriscloud.org.au) or a chat with one of our eResearch Analysts. We have a team across six Queensland universities, so users can talk to someone local.
 

QCIF helps to neutralise VENOM

A computer security vulnerability called VENOM with the potential to affect cloud services around the world was disclosed on 13 May (US time) and posed a critical security risk to QRIScloud. 



VENOM (Virtualised Environment Neglected Operations Manipulation) meant someone could jump out of a virtual machine (VM) and execute malicious code on the host. For QRIScloud this meant someone using a NeCTAR VM instance could potentially delete data owned by other users, or even destroy the entire system. 
 
The NeCTAR Directorate decided the vulnerability required immediate patching. Delaying patching to enable adequate notification to Research Cloud and QRIScloud users was assessed as a greater risk to data than the impacts of immediate patching. 
 
Due to the rolling approach to patching across compute nodes, it was not possible to provide an exact outage time window for any particular instance.



However, QRIScloud Service Operations managed to apply patching with very little user impact — the downtime for most instances, including QRIScloud collections storage access, was around 15–30 minutes, and users' data was protected from the potential effects of someone exploiting the VENOM vulnerability.



QCIF is currently conducting a Post Incident Review (PIR). 
 

Data stored in QRIScloud:
secure and protected

All data stored in QRIScloud's Brisbane data centre are routinely and regularly replicated.  A replica copy is stored on tape in the same data centre.  Second replica copies are being created in an offsite remote data centre for extra security and by the end of July all data will have a second copy. 
 
Replication has already demonstrated its value to one QRIScloud user. He lost valuable primary data due to an accidental deletion in early May. Hopeful but not expectant that QRIScloud Support might be able to assist, he was delighted to find that QRIScloud Support was able to fully recover the missing data within a very short space of time.
 
Recovery of data in such circumstances is not a standard QRISdata service but our support teams are always keen to help out.
 
Replication services are part of the QRIScloud assurance against loss of data due to service provider infrastructure failure. Please direct any enquiries to QRIScloud Support: support@qriscloud.org.au.


Further enhancements to QRIScloud data replication are well progressed with the implementation of a state of the art service to efficiently replicate changes in very large data collections. This service — due in July — does not impact user functions and is already in pre-production and actively replicating data on and offsite. 
 

QRIScloud's focus on service delivery

The QRIScloud team is focusing on making the QRIScloud service easier for researchers to use. 
 
The qriscloud.org.au website was expanded in early May as the first step to a more comprehensive service delivery portal later in 2015 with an expanded catalogue of services and greater delivery automation. 
 
The topic of service delivery was workshopped last month with ITS, eResearch and research staff from all QCIF members. A team of QCIF staff and members will now plan the expansion of our uptake and support services working directly with researchers to enable highly effective and productive use of QRIScloud. 
 

QRIScloud reaches 3PB of research data

chickpeasQRIScloud passed a significant milestone in early June – it is now storing more than 3PB of research data. 
 
Within the 3PB are 150 individual collections. Of those, 62 are from The University of Queensland, 25 from James Cook University, 24 from the University of Southern Queensland, and 17 from Griffith University.
 
The most popular discipline is life sciences, which includes several genomics data sets, such as The Chickpea Portal. Environmental sciences are also well represented, and increasingly, medicine. But QRISdata is not all hard sciences – education, psychology and history are also well represented, and numbers are growing.
 
Take-up of virtual cores is also on the increase, with 67% of capacity currently used. QRIScloud’s specialist large memory nodes have proved popular and requests are on the rise to use our elastic pool and Nimrod/Kepler experiment workflow tool.

 

QCIF receives funds to work with NeCTAR

nectar logoQCIF has received funds to participate in several NeCTAR projects to improve the production quality service delivery capabilities of the compute cloud.
 
Under QCIF’s leadership a shared help desk is processing support requests for all eight NeCTAR nodes and several of the NeCTAR virtual laboratories. A portfolio of training material and a knowledge-base of self-help materials is being added.
 

New ReDBox releases

ReDBox logoQCIF Engineering Services is pleased to announce two new ReDBox releases, ReDBox 1.8 and ReDBox Lite. 
 
ReDBox is a platform for describing and publishing metadata for research data collections. It is already the main metadata platform for 13 universities across Australia, helping to grow the national catalogue of research data under the ANDS Project.

With the ReDBox 1.8 release, QCIF has introduced significant improvements to functionality and administration, including:
  • Simplification of the build process
  • New security framework to improve security configuration tasks
  • Improved configurable forms
  • New harvester functionality
  • A new stand-alone curation manager 
  • Improvements to managing internal roles based on AAF logins. 
QCIF Engineering Services is providing direct assistance to ReDBox administrators to upgrade and migrate their existing versions. Please contact us at support@redboxresearchdata.com.au to book in your upgrade.

In parallel, QCIF announces ReDBox Lite. ReDBox Lite is a fully featured metadata management platform designed for deployment to the NeCTAR cloud. It is ideal for research institutions and communities to fast track meeting their metadata management requirements.

If you would like to know more about ReDBox, or QCIF’s Engineering Services capabilities, please contact: Gavin Kennedy, Outreach and Engineering Manager, gavin.kennedy@qcif.edu.au.
 

QCIF, JCU and AARNet face Cyclone Nathan

Cyclone Nathan over northern Queensland
Shortly before Cyclone Nathan struck north Queensland in March,  QCIF was asked to help transport critical data for emergency services use, preferably within two hours and at one day’s notice.
 

Aircraft were planning to fly over Nathan’s path and collect imagery to pass back to Queensland Emergency Services for its response plans.



As these data had to be transported quickly from Cairns to the Amazon Web Services analysis site in Sydney, within an hour QCIF, AARNet and James Cook University in Cairns (the only high speed network in north Queensland) had established a virtual ‘war room’ at JCU to efficiently solve the problem. 



Although in the end Nathan thankfully caused less damage than feared, and the data was not required, the capability is in place for future cyclones and other extreme weather events.
 

QCIF eResearch Analyst profile:
Dr Francis Gacenga, USQ

Dr Francis Gacenga
Dr Francis Gacenga has made significant progress in increasing eResearch services uptake and usage at the University of Southern Queensland.
 
He has championed research development at USQ by advancing eResearch compute, storage and collaboration. Francis was key to securing QCIF funding for the USQ’s HPC upgrade, and has provided pivotal input into the development of cloud computing, enterprise architecture and research data management policies and procedures at the University.
 
He has a doctorate in Information Technology Service Management from USQ. He is adept at orchestrating customer-centred development, delivery and improvement of IT services by integrating people, processes, and technology. 
 

FlashLite coming soon

FlashLite, a new data-intensive High Performance Computer for Australian researchers, has been installed in Brisbane’s Polaris Data Centre adjacent to QRIScloud. UQ’s Research Computing Centre (RCC) will make FlashLite available for use within July.



Funded through an ARC LIEF grant, FlashLite also attracted funding from QCIF, CSIRO, Griffith University, Monash University, Queensland University of Technology, The University of Queensland and The University of Technology, Sydney. 
 
Designed to support data intensive science, and incorporating special features to allow researchers to process very large amounts of data, FlashLite was supplied by HPC specialist XENON Systems. 
 
FlashLIte is a parallel platform with about 1600 Haswell compute cores, some 35TB of main memory and almost 330TB of Flash memory. It is connected to QRIScloud with a high bandwidth link. 
 
Users will be able to apply for a FlashLite account through the QRIScloud portal. RCC Director Prof David Abramson will run information sessions in July to highlight FlashLite’s special capabilities and to help researchers decide if FlashLite is right for their research needs.
 
In related news, the University of Southern Queensland is close to ordering a replacement HPC cluster part-funded by QCIF.


More FlashLite info


XENON Chief Technology Officer Werner Scholz and RCC Director Prof David Abramson with FlashLite at its base in Brisbane. 
XENON Chief Technology Officer Werner Scholz (left) and RCC Director Prof David Abramson with FlashLite at its new base in Brisbane. 
 


QRIScloud is supported through the Australian Government Research Data Storage Infrastructure (RDSI) Project (led by The University of Queensland) and National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources (NeCTAR) (led by The University of Melbourne), by the Queensland Government Department of Science Information Technology Innovation and the Arts (DSITIA) through its Co-investment Fund and by Queensland’s universities and research institutions. RDSI and NeCTAR Projects are conducted as part of the Super Science initiative financed from the Education Investment Fund.

      
      

   

   
June 2015

 



Upcoming Events


June 29 –30 - NCI training
June 29–10 July - AMSI Winter School
July 2–3 - Software Carpentry Workshop
July 610 - Winter School in Mathematical & Computational Biology
July 8 - Genomic Virtual Laboratory training
October 1923 - eResearch Australasia 2015

Featured Collection

Lambert Ancient and Modern DNA Sequence Collections and Analyses: Prof David Lambert of Griffith University, in partnership with the Beijing Genomics Institute, is investigating how animals respond to climate change by comparing the genes of ancient and modern Antarctic Adélie penguins. The data, originally estimated at 50TB, is now nearer 231TB, as DNA from other studies of sacred ibis, dingoes and from ancient and modern Aboriginal Australians has been added to the collection. More

DNA strand


Milestones and Metrics

QRIScloud recently passed the 3PB (petabyte) milestone for data ingested into its cloud storage facilities. See the story in this newsletter.
 
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