Now in its second year of full operation, the CloudBank project has supported a range of users looking to use the cloud for their computational work, from researchers to educators, small private colleges to large public institutions, and cloud novices to pioneering experts. Part of this success has been a result of the self-reflective research CloudBank does as a part of its charter: Created with the intention of lowering barriers-to-entry and reducing friction for academic work in the cloud, CloudBank has experimented with several different funding models and figured out how to bring “cloud to the researcher,” rather than the other way around.
The most successful pivot yet has been to adopt a rolling application model with tiered commitments: Any researcher with an active NSF CISE award can submit a request for supplementary cloud funds, after which researchers are granted a generous initial amount to begin turbo-charging their work. As these funds are spent, researchers are invited to consult with CloudBank’s technical staff on the success and cost-effectiveness of their cloud work, and can submit a follow-on request for more funding. Through this model, even groups with trepidation about committing to cloud infrastructure can put together proof-of-concept builds and take advantage of a CloudBank support team with the background needed to get them from point A to point B. In the first two months of this new funding model, CloudBank has on-boarded 35 projects with a cumulative total of more than $300,000 in initial funding.
In addition to its rolling applications, CloudBank has served several smaller experimental projects through its community funds and Campus Champions program. This past year Dr. Jacob Fosso Tande, a Research Computing Administrator at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, used CloudBank community funds to provide course infrastructure for a neuroimaging class taught by Dr. Derek Monroe and a CS databases class taught by Dr. Regis Kopper. The project was tremendously successful, and highlights the value of pairing curious faculty with a skilled cloud-aware community. According to Jacob, “I like to keep my tools at my side, and it's good to know I have these cloud servers right there to pick up whenever the need arises.”
When asked if he had any advice for others looking to adopt the cloud, Jacob said “The first time you use these [cloud] services is difficult, and that difficulty is normal, but then you get used to the process and it's fine. We just need to find a way to experiment and let faculty learn without [getting scared away].” With this notion at the heart of its mission, CloudBank is excited to continue innovating faculty cloud access for years to come.
Researchers with existing NSF awards interested in applying for CloudBank funds can apply here: