Grid on top of KAREN network proposed in MoRST report

Ministry recommends 'national advanced computational network'

One of the key proposals for improving use of scientific knowledge to benefit New Zealand is a plan for a “national advanced computational network, including e-science services for researchers,” says the Ministry of Research Science and Technology’s report Igniting Potential, which accompanied John Key’s recent pre-Budget announcement on science funding.

KAREN (Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network) already provides the core connectivity, but the statement refers to a layer of grid computing capability on top of that, says a Morst spokesman.

On the framework of KAREN, “data, services and computers [will be] brought together and developed to form a high performance computational grid,” says Morst. “This is referred to as an “advanced computational network” in Igniting Potential.

“The grid will be run by research organisations, which will also develop the services required to best use the computer power.”

Government intends to “present an investment case for the national advanced computational network, including partnership funding support from the [research] sector, with a goal to implement this facility in the 2010/11 financial year,” the report says.

The implication is that, while government is kicking in some additional funding in the Budget to support productive use of the network, the research organisations will be required to make their own contribution.

Don Clark, head of REANNZ, the company that runs the KAREN network, is naturally pleased at the announcement, though he had not yet explored the detail of the arrangement, particularly its financing when he spoke to Computerworld.

Taking the statement at face value, it will be “a great addition to the country’s e-research capability”, he says.

KAREN provides a basic “road”, he says, but this is clearly not enough; there must be computing resources conveniently accessible through it – which he compares to the on- and off-ramps, petrol stations and other services attached to a highway.

This is something that governments and research organisations in most other countries have done or are doing for their scientific networks, Clark adds; it is a necessary development.

So does this mean New Zealand has been falling behind in the ability to make advanced practical use of its research and education network?

“I’d never say we were falling behind,” says Clark, but the commitment given in the pre-Budget announcement is “timely.”

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