Brain information flow within the CAVE2

Transforming and operationalising digitalisation within an organisation - the Monash eResearch Centre

In 2010 I was recruited into the newly reconstituted Monash eResearch Centre (MeRC), specifically to provide vision and administrative know-how. Monash University had embarked on a strategic initiative to increase in research performance by establishing a world-leading research environment, underpinned by digital research infrastructure. During this period the University's growth in research rankings was amongst the top three globally.

eResearch is 21st century discovery through the application of advanced computing and IT. We partner with research groups to accelerate and transform knowledge, connecting them to the most appropriate hardware, software and services. 

MeRC is now globally renown. It is the trusted custodian of the Institution's fuel for research (computing, enduring data & digital transformation capability). It has grown in consumption at 75-85% CAGR. Its revenue has grown at $1m/yr over a 10yr period (approximately $15m/yr). It has over 2000 users / Chief Investigators, and these users provide for and estimated 100,000 other researchers. Our group 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, oversight of approximately half the initiatives (the fabric for digital infrastructure, cloud and the research data lifecycle strategies), coaching our next generation of leaders, implementation of business-led digital governance, and our financial accountability. 

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Partnering with a national facility - Australia's Research Cloud

Nectar was established in 2009 by the Australian Government as part of the Super Science initiative. An outcome of Nectar is the Research Cloud, a distributed research infrastructure providing Australia’s research community with fast & interactive access to computing infrastructure, software, and data. It is a powerful platform for collaboration. Its "cloud age" self-service model allows researchers to store, access, and analyse their own data at any time, create dedicated virtual servers on demand, and collaborate with others from their desktop in a fast and efficient way. 

When the Research Cloud started, cloud computing had now uptake within the Australian research community. It has since grown to over 8000 concurrent instances / 50,000 concurrent virtual cores, over 18,000 unique users, 10 physical sites / 12 tenant organisations, and flavours tuned to both research need & effective bin-packing. Key to the Research Cloud's success is the ambidextrous nature of site-specific hardware & business models, and Core Services as the establishment of OpenStack best-practices and the co-operation of those best-practices. 

I successfully bid for a node to be hosted by Monash University (R@CMon) at its inception, and recently re-bid for its refresh. In both instances our commitment was to push what is technically possible - back in 2013: Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) and High Performance Computing (HPC) interconnects to virtualise data-centric HPC, and in 2019: Data Processing Units (DPUs) / SmartNICs for security in 2019). I am the longest serving member of the Research Cloud's Steering Committee. 


Developed a globally renowned engineering centre

To be innovative, you need to foster an innovative team and engage innovated partners. 

Pioneering cloud & HPC into the data processing era

I positioned the eResearch Centre as an early adopter of Mellanox's ConnectX NICs. Mellanox had decided to promulgate RDMA, originally applied to Infiniband for HPC, to Ethernet for clouds. We produced the global first reference implementation of ConnectX for societally relevant use cases, launching at OpenStack Summit Tokyo 2015. ConnectX now 70% makes share for NICs above 10GbE.

"Nectar / Monash was 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 

Scaling out security and data governance to 1000s of applications

Partnered with our CISO and Bugcrowd on a crowdsourced approach to identifying vulnerabilities in our ecosystem of hundreds of advanced research-led digital systems. Introduced the business processes to scale out behaviour change in our researcher community to pro-actively participate and respond to these vulnerabilities. Case Study: Monash University Leverages bugcrowd for improved security visibility and continuous assurance, 2021.

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