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IT Help and Support

University Information Services
 

Thinking of using cloud services for your research, but don’t know where to start? UIS is here to help.

This information is aimed primarily at academics and researchers, particularly those less familiar with using cloud services. It is also relevant to others who need cloud computing services.

Benefits of cloud computing for research

The greatest benefit of cloud computing is that it gives you the opportunity to transform how you do certain compute tasks. It is particularly suited to short, time-limited tasks like research projects. It is not intended as a direct replacement for long-term or ongoing purposes such as institutional web servers. 

Historically, many researchers using IT to solve research problems will be used to buying (or sharing) a computer, running some code, and getting a result that may take days, weeks or even months. The Cloud provides you with access to all the compute power you need to get your results quickly without investing in your own IT infrastructure. The pricing model is flexible and controllable to ensure you remain within your budget. 

You only pay for the compute power you use. For example, using 10 cloud computers for 100 days costs the same as using 24,000 cloud computers for 1 hour, meaning that it may be possible to run your 10-day job over lunch instead of waiting 3 months for the results.

Other potential benefits vary with each scenario, but generally include:

  • increased automation
  • access to specialised hardware, for example, GPUs
  • not having to manage your own infrastructure
  • the potential for significant cost reduction.

What exactly are AWS and RONIN?

Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides a huge range of services and options to suit every plausible cloud need, but it requires extensive technical knowledge, which can be off-putting. That’s where RONIN comes in. 

RONIN is a user interface specifically designed for researchers who do not have the time to dedicate to learning the more complex AWS interface. These two screenshots give you an idea of the different user experience:

Part of the AWS console

​​​​

RONIN’s main dashboard

 

Using RONIN makes it easier to access the most common subset of AWS services, such as compute and scaling. The simplified dashboard shows you the status of your resources, forecasts and notifications according to your budget thresholds, and provides detailed expenditure tracking so you can ensure your costs don’t spiral out of control. 

Buy directly from UIS using a purchase order

UIS is pleased to announce that access to AWS and RONIN are now available directly through a new University-provided cloud research platform service. If you would like to join the increasing number of Cloud users and to save around 11% on AWS list prices (there is no discount on RONIN compute services), this is an opportunity to do so.

UIS’ cloud research platform provides a curated catalogue of virtual machines (VMs) and software images including popular research packages, as well as customisable base images. Currently, all images offered are Center for Internet Security (CIS) hardened to comply with security requirements.

How it works

Both AWS and Ronin can be purchased using Purchase Orders.

For Ronin, the Purchase Order is to UIS, who will recharge for the service. We will create a ‘research project’ for you where you will be able to manage a budget, the users who can access the system, and access a management console through which you can monitor and control the project.

For AWS, the Purchase Order will be with Jisc, who are acting as an AWS reseller. You will have access to the full power and complexity of the AWS infrastructure.

Further information:

We’re here to help and advise

If you have any questions or would like to talk about how the Cloud might help in your situation, please contact cloudsupport@uis.cam.ac.uk, giving us as much notice as possible.
 

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