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global eResearch leadership

eResearch is an uncommon professional term. Thus this page will describe what a Director of eResearch does and the three most substantive impacts of my tenure at Monash University


former Deputy Director, Monash eResearch Centre

I was recruited into the newly reconstituted Monash eResearch Centre (MeRC) in 2010 to provide vision and administrative know-how. eResearch, now commonly referred to as digital research infrastructure, is about enabling researcher-led technology. The Centre was Monash University’s strategic initiative to increase research performance by establishing a world-leading environment underpinned by digital research infrastructure. A decade later, the University’s growth in research rankings was among the top three globally. The Centre’s institutional and national activities have grown by $1m per year, and the Centre is now globally renowned. 


In practice, the Centre is the trusted custodian of the Institution’s computing fuel for research (processing power, enduring data & digital transformation capability). I have pioneered an operating model that achieves flat-lined expenditure and very high user satisfaction, despite a sustained 75-85% CAGR demand in consumption growth. It has over 2000 users / Chief Investigators, and these users provide for an estimated 100,000 other researchers. It is ISO9001 certified, centred primarily on operating DevOps shared services, alignment with the institutional ecosystem and delivering co-designed projects. 


As Deputy Director, my primary roles are driving vision, direct responsibility for half the initiatives (the fabric for digital infrastructure, cloud and the research data lifecycle strategies), coaching our next generation of leaders, implementing digital and data governance, and the Centre’s financial accountability. 


Innovation requires an innovative culture and engaging with creative partners. The following partnerships have transformed the University:

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established a globally renowned engineering centre

I pioneered the transition of cloud & HPC into the data processing era, developing and re-training staff on the journey. I positioned team members for leadership roles in the national and international communities. We developed a global brand; for example, “Nectar / Monash was the first to push HPC and GPUs on OpenStack. Whereas Monash started with OpenStack and then did HPC, Cambridge has done it vice-versa” – Cambridge University, 2019 


I positioned the Centre as an early adopter of Mellanox’s ConnectX NICs, based on a technology (RDMA) that dominated the HPC market but was largely unknown to general computing. We produced the global first reference implementation of ConnectX for societally relevant use cases, launching at OpenStack Summit Tokyo 2015. By 2019 ConnectX was 70% of the market share (for NICs above 10GbE).


As one of Australia’s top universities, my obligatory “biggest” story was building the southern hemisphere’s largest Ceph storage cluster in 2016. However, my “proudest” account is when the ARDC partnership re-invented how clouds, security, machine learning, data science and AI make solving grand challenges easier, 2021. As a result of this success, many call me a “cloud builder”.

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changing IT culture - pioneering DevOps beyond cloud teams

In collaboration with Red Hat, I pioneered the adoption of Ceph (software-defined storage) to contend with the breadth of heterogeneity and scale of storage needs. It drove a transition in our capabilities towards DevOps for the deployment and continuous improvement of storage infrastructure and data management services. We ultimately won the award of Red Hat’s storage client of the year in 2017. 


In partnership with the University’s networking team and Cumulus Networks (acquired by Mellanox and then Nvidia), I pioneered DevOps adoption by our and the broader Institution’s networking capability. Accolades include the early adoption of Cumulus and accelerating Web-Scale adoption


However, pioneering DevOps adoption within high-performance computing teams was the most significant impact from a researcher’s lens. We bought the cloud and HPC worlds together at Supercomputing 2016, and my team substantially contributed to adopting OpenStack for scientific research in 2016.

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