Computing Resources

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What computing resources are needed for my research project?

There are a number of computing resource related topics that may require your attention as you chart the course for you research work. The following paragraphs address the most common resources. The purpose of this document is to help identify resource requirements and get the conversation started on how those needs can be met.

Servers and Compute Cycles

What role can virtual machines play in my research effort?

Many projects have implemented partial or complete virtual infrastructures as part of their computing strategy. Virtual server infrastructures offer several advantages over physical infrastructures. They require a specific set of expertise to plan and implement. Leveraging virtualization may help your research project meet sustainability, cost containment, efficiency, and scalability goals.

Storage

How will my data be accessed and shared?

Understanding the flow of the data will assist in determining appropriate access controls and security measures as the data moves around. The growth of interdisciplinary and cross-institutional research has seen a corresponding change in the need to share data: it has become much easier, faster, and more reliable than ever before. Consider how you will share the research data ahead of time and determine if there will be cost implications.

Existing UW Tacoma cloud and network based storage solutions are listed on this webpage: https://www.tacoma.uw.edu/information-technology/cloud-services

How much data will there be? How long do I need to keep it? How will I access it in the future?

One of the most costly considerations in any IT implementation is the ability to store and restore data. It is important to weigh the cost of the storage against the risk of data loss. Using cheap desktop storage without any redundancy or backups could end up being the most expensive choice you make.

When planning storage architecture, take into account the following points:

  • Calculate storage volumes by projecting a baseline and rate of growth for the duration of the project.
  • Determine if the data is static with only periodic needs to access and/or update, or if the data is dynamic with frequent changes and updates.
  • Determine backup and retention policies. If data were lost, is it possible to re-create the present state and how far back would you need to go to recover the present state?

What are my sponsor’s storage retention and archive requirements? Do I need to keep my data available to them after my grant is finished?

Many sponsor agreements require the researcher to make and/or keep the research data publicly available for a significant amount of time after the grant has completed. If you have not considered how to meet those requirements and the potential cost implications, you may find yourself short on research funds in order to meet compliance requirements. IT support can provide further information on options available.

Security

Can the security requirements of your data be identified? Will protected data (HIPAA, FERPA, PHI, etc.) make up my research data?

Both the University and many sponsors have specific requirements for handling, transmitting, and storing certain types of data used in research. Familiarize yourself with those details ahead of time: it can be costly if you hadn’t anticipated your data protection needs until after the fact.

Applications

What applications will my project require?

Powerful computing hardware can't do any work without the right software application. The UW has made a number of agreements with softward vendors to reduce or eliminate licensing costs for UW users. ITConnect has a list of the software titles and applicable operating systems at UWare.

If the software application you need isn't available at UWare or you need assistance in choosing and procuring the best application for your use case, IT at UW Tacoma can help. In addition to procuring the software we can often provide structure for the maintenance and updgrades of software titles as new releases become available.

Every research project is different and no single software application or procurement procedure can apply to every situation. We will do our best to assist researchers on a case by case basis. UW Tacoma IT's purchase policy directs us to be your partner in acquiring, configuring, and maintaining your software applications when reasonably feasible. Please contact us at tachelp@uw.edu to discuss software solutions for your research project.

Support

How is all of this going to stay running? Does my research group possess the appropriate level of expertise to support my computing resources? Do I want my researchers spending their time patching servers? Should I really use my research assistants to run this critical environment?

As computing needs become more fundamental to your research, ensure that you have support options covered. You don’t want to suspend research to address repairs or problems. Knowing who the local network administrators and systems/storage administrators are and how to contact them in the event of problems is important. They can help to schedule ongoing maintenance to ensure interruptions to your research are minimized.