Research Computing Task Force

The Research Computing Task Force (RCTF) workgroup of the Biomedical Research Computing Facility provides researchers with local compute and storage capabilities (termed Compute PODs) suitable for research computing workflows not addressed by TACC.

POD compute servers offer a wide variety of pre-installed bioinformatics software (with flexibility for additions), in an interactive non-batch environment without execution time limits. POD storage servers offer high-capacity storage for research artifacts, coupled with automated backup and archiving processes.

To date, 6 compute PODs have been implemented, consisting of 18 compute servers, over 500 TB of local storage, and more than 400 TB of spinning disk backups, all on a standardized hardware and software platform that can be efficiently and centrally managed.

Benefits to use of the storage server:

Files kept on the server are available on any system (Windows, Mac, and Linux), which has a network connection from anywhere at anytime. You can drag and drop your files at any time. This makes it much easier to share files between computers. The files stored on files.ccbb.utexas.edu will also be available on our clusters making them easier to use.

While we may not back them up immediately, at least they are stored on redundant hardware. You may even work on the files directly on the server.

One problem with keeping data on individual computers is sometimes their owners have not been aggressive about reporting computer problems. Backups are not effective if the files are already damaged. All you do is backup a damaged file, if that. By keeping your files on the sever, you keep them stored on a system that we can monitor directly. Finally, desktops and laptops are not meant to be high performance computers. Between that, and older hardware, we actually spend more time backing some systems up than we do backing up our servers even though we are backing up less total data.

Storing files on the server is a nice disaster recovery feature. If your desktop, or laptop computer were to have problems, it could be very time-consuming and painful to get your data moved onto a replacement computer. In some cases, it might not even be possible, or might require that we send your computer's hard disk to a company offering specialized data recovery services, which can be extremely expensive. In the past, we have tried to avoid these disaster recovery problems by attempting to back up all systems.

NOTE: Due to the security requirements of such systems, NO CCBB systems are qualified to store Category I data. At most, research data, or other personal files should be stored on CCBB systems. If you need to store sensitive, private data, you need to do so securely. The easiest way to do this is to use an ITS data storage solution such as Austin Disk Services.

Backups

All CCBB maintained systems are backed up to LT05 tape. We take a full snapshot of all the systems right around the first Friday of the month (full backup). Then we back each system up daily for any new or changed files on that day (incremental backup). We try to keep about three months worth of tapes before re-using them. One month is stored offsite, one is stored locally, and one is the set we are currently writing. This should give us plenty of copies of files so if you find that you have accidentally deleted a file, or wish to restore an earlier version of a file, please let us know.

Software installed on CCBB systems

Services Provided

  • We have wiki documenting CCBB computing resources and how to use it.
  • We have web-based project management tool, Redmine.
  • Co-location the lab servers for CCBB affiliated faculty.
  • We provide web hosting for lab website servers with moderate data storage needs, and moderate software demands (eg. PHP, MySQL). More elaborate sites should be hosted elsewhere, with with ITS or another hosting company.