ACCREx: ACCRE’s Experimental Technologies Program
ACCRE has been working to identify and adopt new solutions required by our researchers. The menu of production-level services currently available to PI’s can easily be found in iLab and represent the fundamental HPC resources common to research computing centers. Not too long ago, those types of systems were more than sufficient to satisfy the needs of researchers who used ACCRE as one of their primary tools. Over the last six years there has been an increase in the number of ways researchers’ workflows are structured and in the insatiable need for data storage capacity. While ACCRE’s user base more than doubled during that time, the demand for resources grew much faster.
Along with that growth came a wider range of needs from the researchers. GPU’s required a new set of freshly minted software tools that did not easily fit into ACCRE’s curated software stack. Big data analysis tools were designed for an entirely different type of cluster architecture than what ACCRE was used to operating. ACCRE’s response to these needs include the Visualization Portal, support for virtual environment execution, and the Big Data Cluster (funded by Vanderbilt’s TIPS). The selection and implementation of these new technologies and tools are made possible because of the working partnership ACCRE has with the research community as a user-driven facility.
To continue expanding the tools available to our user base, ACCRE is launching new types of resources through a program we call “ACCREx.” The first round of these experimental tools deal with some of the biggest pain points reported by our researchers. The three ACCREx services scheduled for launch are designed to address the aggressive growth in demand for backup and storage. They are also a better fit for ACCRE’s business model which relies heavily on researcher-funded hardware purchases for additional capacity. ACCRE will periodically review the usage and adoption of these services in order to determine when they are ready to be promoted to production.