When rubbish enters the ocean what happens? Oceanographer Dr Erik Van Sebille says: “The plastic joins other rubbish ... and is eaten by thousands of sea animals, birds and fish who mistake the plastic for food.” Dr Van Sebille is using the NeCTAR Research Cloud to host http://www.adrift.org.au a research tool 'Adrift' to explore how objects drift through the ocean.
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Everett Toews, cloud builder, shares his story
Tell us a bit about your background? Such as your studies and involvement with Cybera?
I received my Bachelor's Degree in Computing Science from the University of Alberta. For the past decade I have worked in the IT industry as a Software Developer in Canada and all across the world. I've been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to live and work in Germany, Malaysia and Hawaii.
In 2009 I joined Cybera as a Senior Developer but almost immediately took a deep dive into the world of Operations and System Administration. It's been a fascinating journey into an entire world that I was really only peripherally aware of beforehand. I've gained a whole new appreciation for the work System Administrators do. I've learned about the the kinds of things that can make their lives easier, such as well written log files, and the kinds of things that can make their lives nightmarish, such as poorly written log files. It's made me a better developer and given me additional respect and understanding of Operations.
How long have you been scuba diving?
I have been diving since 2004. I love exploring the alien environment of the underwater world. I log all of my dives at TotalBottomTime.com.
In your visit to Australia what are some differences between our two cultures? Such as your technical work or the way we work - to food and so forth...
Literally the first difference I bumped into was the tendency for people to walk on the left hand side of the sidewalk. The first stroll I went for after arriving I was walking down the right hand side of the side walk and constantly dodging and bumping into people. It felt like I was in the movie "Inception" and Australia's subconscious had noticed me. It didn't take me too long to realize it made more sense to walk on the left hand side along with everyone else walking that direction.
Another difference I was unprepared for was the ubiquitous coffee culture in Australia. When I first walked into a coffee shop I was stymied by the array of options. I tried to order a "Coffee" but was met with only a blank stare. I later
learned that it was the Italian immigrants who brought their coffee culture with them to Australia and that Starbucks style coffee was not nearly as pervasive here as it is in Canada. After learning what the names for various ways to prepare coffee I finally settled on the Long Macchiato as my coffee of choice.
What are some similarities between our two cultures Australia and Canada?
I think our cultures share a similar work ethic. We're both prepared to do what it takes to get the job done while still maintaining a life/work balance.
In terms of the economy I would say that, at the moment, both of our economies are very much dependent on natural resources. In Canada it's oil and gas whereas in Australia it's mining. However, both countries are looking to expand their horizons and put more emphasis on a knowledge based economy built on a foundation of Cyberinfrastructure. Natural resources won't last forever and it's much better to begin the transition now rather than waiting until it's too late.
What can Nectar and Australia learn from Canada’s "Digital Accelerator for Innovation and Research" Cloud?
When building our first cloud we made the inevitable missteps and misconfigurations. All the while learning what makes an OpenStack cloud tick. We took the lessons learned from those missteps and wrote scripts to automate our way through the maze of deployment and documented the correct path where we couldn't automate it.
This documentation and these scripts are easy to share via email but the real learning comes from collaboration. Getting together to work on the NeCTAR deployment together, having the time to discuss new and different strategies based on the requirements for the NeCTAR cloud and the informal discussions that happen over lunch or after work. It was during these times that I felt like a part of the NeCTAR team.
Is there anything that you think we should try to avoid?
Man eating sharks. Jellyfish. Poisonous snakes and spiders. The list goes on...
With respect to the cloud, the number one thing to avoid is any kind of barrier to using the NeCTAR cloud resources. Always keep the barriers low. Anytime there might be a notion to add a form or an approval process, it needs to be examined if that will actually be beneficial in any way. If not, disregard it.
A rule of thumb in publishing is that anytime you add an equation to a book, you halve the sales. I would like to see a rule of thumb in cloud computing that anytime you add a process in order to access the cloud, you halve the number of users.
In your opinion – how does cross cultural and multi-disciplinary teams – such as Cybera Canada working with Melbourne Australia – add value to projects such as Nectar?
We've already gone through the entire process of learning how to build an OpenStack cloud and have done it twice now.
I think we were able to impart much of that knowledge and experience to the highly capable NeCTAR team. They've been eager to collaborate from the start and I know that it's paid off...for both organizations. We've already learnt a lot from the NeCTAR team from the differences in our OpenStack cloud deployments and how we both went about the installation and configuration process. We're looking forwarding continuing the collaboration and the learning process.
Any other comments or opinions as to the Nectar research cloud being built, your own experiences or the Canadian research cloud?
I firmly believe that Australia is on the right track. Providing a nationally available cloud to all researchers is a lofty but realistic goal. Now is the time to do it. The technology is ready and the people are ready. Investing in Cyberinfrastucture can only benefit the Australian economy.