Purchasing BEAR Compute Power and Storage

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For some years now, the Research Computing Team has offered research groups a service to add dedicated compute or storage capacity to the centrally hosted BEAR facilities. This has relieved the research group of the infrastructure support and sys admin effort as well as allowing us to buy cost effectively by aggregating needs. It has also ensured the services needed to support the research are delivered on highly reliable, enterprise class equipment with multiple resilience features to maximise availability and reduce disruption and maintenance. Going forward, BEAR will continue to offer this facility but will move to a ‘resource as a service’ rather than a hardware purchase model which, amongst other things, will radically reduce lead-times for standard requirements.

For such purchases, compute and storage resources are charged at a rate equivalent to the core component costs (including the essential licensing and warranties). Except in the case of large requirements, the costs for all supporting infrastructure (the data centre itself, management devices, racks, enclosures, controllers, switches, power and network cabling etc.) are usually met by IT Services.

Compute Resource

In the case of compute capacity, the research group gets (virtually) dedicated access to the resource for a period of 5 years. For efficiency, we do ask that idle computational resources are released to the pool so we can get the absolute maximum benefit for the University from the investment. This does mean that there could be a brief delay to work starting as the scheduler re-directs general workload to give way for the priority user. This would mean a wait of no more than 30 minutes. This is very much in line with the ethos of Cloud Computing.

After 4 years, the registered PI for the purchasing group will be notified that the service has entered its final year in order to allow the group to review its requirements and make arrangements for any future needs (beyond the 5 year service life). This refresh cycle is roughly in line with the life expectancy of the equipment and the pace of change in the technology which means 4 year old kit is starting to become obsolete, incompatible with needs and even uneconomic to operate. The Research Computing Team uses the central investment in BEAR to smooth this cycle and maintain service but must withdraw resource at the end of the 5 year term. Service Extensions may be bought at any point from the start of the 2nd year in one-year increments[1]. The cost is based on the framework pricing for the equivalent node/resource, current at the time an order is raised. This will ensure compatibility with the evolving BEAR infrastructure and that the spec of the resource will at least match (and possibly exceed) what was originally purchased.[2]

To find out more about this service, including indicative pricing for the options that are available, please visit the Service Desk, go to the ‘Research Computing Service’ section in the Service Catalogue/’Make a Request’ and choose the option ‘Other BEAR Request’. Let us know what you need and we will advise.

Storage

Resource purchases are again based on a 5 year cycle and take account of our ability to relegate little accessed data and archive material to much more cost effective media like tape. Policy and pricing for storage can be found on the BEAR web site at:

https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/it/teams/infrastructure/research/bear/research-data-service/index.aspx

Storage is provided on the RDS and RDA. We no longer accommodate user purchased storage on BlueBEAR.

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[1] Note, at any point in time, you cannot hold more than 5 years future provision. This is essential to set a practical planning window, based on IT Service’s funding and strategy for research computing.

[2] Where a funder mandates the purchase of physical hardware rather than an equivalent ‘resource as a service’ e.g. for some EU projects, an accommodation may be possible. Please log a call via the IT Service Desk to discuss your constraints and possible BEAR solutions.

 


Last Modified: 3 March 2017