October 2011, Issue 22

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NIE’s Private Cloud for Research

Alex Chan Wai Mun

In February 2011, the National Institute of Education (NIE) embarked on a strategic programme to build a private cloud to support the ongoing research projects. NIE’s Research Data Center (RDC), built upon a private cloud platform, enables NIE to provision computing resources to researchers quickly and providing easy access to a wide range of operating systems. The costs of these resources are then charged to individual research projects for usage.

The ubiquitous access to the private cloud provides greater flexibility for NIE researchers in the use of computing resources, enabling more effective and efficient collaboration among and beyond individual research groups. Researchers can view the availability of computing resources online, and request for these resources via a user-friendly self-service portal, as shown below.

With the automated end-to-end provisioning of resources in a systematic manner, the request turn-around time is significantly reduced and researchers can have access to the requested resources in a more timely fashion. Coupled with the pay-per-consumption model that the RDC private cloud delivers, researchers and principal investigators (PI) can now have better visibility of costs, which in turn translates to better project and cost management.

For the IT team in NIE Computer Services Centre (CSC) managing the private cloud, there is better accountability of costs as asset usage is systematically tracked. With the asset pool being managed centrally, the issue with excess equipment is minimised as the IT department now has a total oversight on equipment requirements. In addition, return on investment (ROI) for equipment is also enhanced as they can now be deployed for reuse in the most optimal way.
 
With the automation in resource tracking, system alerts and reporting on infrastructure utilisation, the IT team can now free up their time from manual tasks to perform more high-value tasks such as capacity trending, performance analysis and proactive risk management.

NIE plans to extend the use of cloud technology to provide value-added service portfolio for the academic and administrative functions. Furthermore, the successful implementation of the RDC private cloud will form the foundation and confidence for NIE to migrate all its IT services to the cloud. The Institute’s vision is to eventually deliver IT services to its staff and students via an array of cloud platforms, providing high availability in IT services delivery, and at the same time achieving business continuity.