Technology & governance projects
The following are sample of my current projects (or collection of projects), enacted as either a thought-leader or consultant in the digital technology domain. Each involve navigating people and technology complexity, and articulate the impact of getting it right.
Research Data Cultures Conversation
In 2018 I founded and now chair the Research Data Cultures Conversation (RDCC). The RDCC is a partnership between research-intensive universities (Monash University, University of Melbourne, University of NSW, University of Queensland, and the University of Sydney.
The term "culture" is purposefully ambiguous. It applies to the systemic changing of research behaviour and to the systemic limitations of individual university business units attempting to solve a life-cycle and hence an organisation-wide problem. The partners "feel the pain" and recognise the need for (a) good practices and (b) pre-competitive macro-scale consumption data to be established.
The RDCC has established a data gathering & analysis team, released several papers, and hosts meetings of experts across libraries, IT and research.
Australian Scalable Drones Cloud (ASDC)
In 2020 I founded and now chair Australia's Scalable Drone Cloud (ASDC). The project aims to coordinate and standardise how scientists process and analyse drone/UAV-collected data by establishing best practices and FAIR data principles.
Nationally significant research initiatives inform the ASDC through its foundational partners. The partnership constitutes three National Collaborative Research Infrastructure (NCRIS) capabilities, including the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF), Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN), AuScope, and additionally, the Monash Drone Discovery Platform, and the CSIRO (Mineral Resources).
ASDC's mandate is to leverage existing tools and practices from the partners and establish a cloud-native national platform. It will further instil a culture of digitisation within the partners by helping users focus on and exchange data processing pipelines, eliminating the effort of coordinating tools, data and resources. (Image - from the Monash Earth Science Garden walk through early demonstrator)
Smart Energy City
Monash was the first Australian university to commit to an energy reduction target, culminating in the Net Zero Initiative. The initiative aims for net-zero emissions by Monash's built environment by 2030. It is the winner of the United Nations 2018 Momentum for Change Award. It encompasses energy efficiency measures, campus electrification, addressing residual emissions through offsetting, deploying on-site and off-site renewable energy, and creating a sustainable Smart Energy City microgrid.
My early role was to influence two heavily related sub-projects of the initiative: the ARENA funded microgrid project (with our partners Indra) and the Victorian Government funded Microgrid Energy Market Operator trial project. Namely, re-direct the project away from a once-off physical deployment to create a re-usable digital research platform. The future of energy will have the properties of democratisation, IIoT, edge, fog, web3.0 and DevOps. Hence the challenge is motivating and uplifting literacy within the long-established sector toward the new norm.
To this end, we say the Smart Energy City microgrid takes the form of a living laboratory. Its experiments range from advanced grid stability management, optimised virtual power plants, and the democratised prosumer in society (peer-to-peer energy trading transactions). Its activities transcend the disciples of Engineering, IT, business and economics and the social sciences.
Sensitive data for research and innovation
I have been advocating for collaborative sensitive data in the health and education sectors for some time.
I am chair of the technical committee of the SeRP Platform - a national safe-haven service. An impact of the cloud is the democratisation of access to computing resources. The role of safe havens then is to democratise access to sensitive data. They combine technology and process to ensure that data cannot leave an environment until the governance entities approve (see ‘Data in Safe Havens’).
I identified and drove the certification of ISO27k at Monash University, a sustained differentiator for almost the years. It has enabled the institution to host numerous global registries and clinical trials.
Another example is the SleepVL - a tool orchestrating extractions from medical records, performing CI/CD-based analysis on those records, and presenting results to the patient, all in real-time.
Nectar 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 data, create dedicated virtual servers on-demand, and collaborate with others from their desktops quickly and efficiently. The differentiating value of the Research Cloud is that every facet is formed by or informs research best-practice - it feels like a research community.
The first era of the Research Cloud initiative outstandingly achieved its core remit: to accelerate the collaboration of Australian researchers. It has grown to over 8000 concurrent instances / 50,000 virtual cores, 10 physical sites / 12 tenant organisations, and flavours tuned to both research needs & effective bin-packing. Most pertinently, it lifted the capability of over 18,000 researchers into the cloud. Key to the Research Cloud’s success is the ambidextrous nature of site-specific hardware & business models (marketplace of wholesalers) and Core Services (OpenStack best practices and the cooperation of those best practices).
I successfully bid for a node (R@CMon) in 2012 and its refresh in 2019. My approach has been to redefine what is technically possible. In 2013: introduced Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) and High-Performance Computing (HPC) interconnects to virtualise data-centric HPC. In 2019: introduce Data Processing Units (DPUs) / SmartNICs for Zero Trust.
Before too long, DPUs will be pervasive in the data centre, and many users will be using DPUs without realising. I have partnered with Nvidia and the ARDC to explore the role of DPUs and AI in cybersecurity. Our approach has always been frictionless and zero-trust. However, the technologies and processes need to evolve as the risk tolerance tightens. In this partnership, we use the research sector as a microcosm of a connected society to explore the transition to security everywhere. Cybersecurity teases the tension between control and freedoms at a scale not previously encountered. Hence, there is a journey for the technology giants and the marketplace.
The evolution of my thought leadership on the matter, applicable to all industry sectors, is in my GTC series of talks (“Securing Health Records for Innovative Use with Morpheus and DPUs” 2021, “The DPU Paradigm Shift: Halos to Assure Data Governance” 2022). Both introduce the halo manifesto, which describes how heroes (researchers) need to be protected without adding work they need to do and without removing computing resources from them. It is the innovator’s narrative for zero trust.
Australian Research Container Orchestration Service (ARCOS)
In 2019 I founded and was the inaugural chair of an Australia-wide call to action to understand and establish a Kubernetes research infrastructure - the Australian Research Container Orchestration Service (ARCOS).
From a researcher's lens, Containers, sometimes described as a computer within a computer, allow researchers to bundle their tools into a more readily consumable form by other researchers. Kubernetes is the emerging open-source standard for deploying and managing scalable and portable container-based cloud-native applications. ARCOS lifts literacy and capabilities in both directions. It helps researchers discover when scaleable cloud-native is worth it for their technology and how to do so. It helps cloud providers understand and adapt to non-web2.0 use cases. Australia's largest research infrastructures were its inaugural members: Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC), BioPlatforms Australia (BPA), AARNet, and the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre.