Return on Investment

The CASC Return on Investment Working Group has investigated the value of research computing and data services to their campuses and communities. The working group has conducted surveys of the CASC community and reported its findings in the following conference publications.

Cloud and on-premises data center usage, expenditures, and approaches to return on investment: A survey of academic research computing organizations

Alan Chalker, Curtis W. Hillegas, Alan Sill, Sharon Broude Geva, and Craig A. Stewart. 2020. In Practice and Experience in Advanced Research Computing (PEARC ’20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 26–33. https://doi.org/10.1145/3311790.3396642

Critically important findings from this first survey include the following: many of the respondents are engaged in some form of analysis of return in research computing investments, but only a minority currently report the results of such analyses to their upper-level administration. Most respondents are experimenting with use of commercial cloud resources but no respondent indicated that they have found use of commercial cloud services to create financial benefits compared to their current methods. There is clear correlation between levels of investment in research cyberinfrastructure and the scale of both cpu core-hours delivered and the financial level of supported research grants. Also interesting is that almost every respondent indicated that they participate in some sort of national cooperative or nationally provided research computing infrastructure project and most were involved in academic computing-related organizations, indicating a high degree of engagement by institutions of higher education in building and maintaining national research computing ecosystems. Institutions continue to evaluate cloud-based HPC service models, despite having generally concluded that so far cloud HPC is too expensive to use compared to their current methods.

Results from a second longitudinal survey of academic research computing and data center usage: expenditures, utilization patterns, and approaches to return on investment

Sharon Broude Geva, Alan Chalker, Curt Hillegas, Donald Petravick, Alan Sill, and Craig Stewart. 2021. In Practice and Experience in Advanced Research Computing (PEARC ’21). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, Article 41, 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1145/3437359.3465589

Availability of cloud-based resource delivery modes is transforming many areas of computing. Academic research computing and data (RCD) support largely remains based on on-premises delivery and has adopted commercial clouds more slowly than the private sector for a variety of stated reasons including factors related to cost efficiency, return on investment, institutional requirements, high costs for bulk commercial cloud computing usage, and funding patterns. Other factors involved in selection of computing resource delivery modes include capabilities and applications that are available only in or best adapted to specific computing environments. It is important for the higher education and research communities to be able to learn from each other as institutions and individuals to make optimum use of appropriate modes of delivery for RCD resources. This paper reports an overview of results from the second annual community-wide survey conducted by the Coalition for Advanced Scientific Computation on patterns of funding, usage, and return on investment for academic research computing and data resources. The results show that on-premises delivery continues to remain the preferred mode for RCD resources for most responding institutions as found in the first survey, but that commercial cloud usage is beginning to be reported for production use by a small number of respondents to the survey. Reasons for these preferences are further explored in the survey and initial high-level results are reported here.