Name: Sinan ErbayTitle: Chief information officerCompany: RMIT UniversityCommenced role: 2021Reporting line: COOMember of the executive team: YesTechnology Function: 350 staff, 10 direct reports
Dealing with large and complex datasets was becoming increasingly challenging for researchers at RMIT University.
This was compounded by the limited availability of infrastructure and resources to support the growing demand of the university’s research communities.
“At RMIT, we recognise the crucial role of research in driving progress and creating solutions for the challenges faced by society,” chief information officer Sinan Erbay tells CIO Australia.
“However, as datasets become denser and more complex, our researchers face significant challenges in running computational-intensive simulations.”
On-premise and national research infrastructure meanwhile is in high demand, and cloud services can be complicated to use – requiring deep technical knowledge to establish secure and cost effective solutions, he says.
To addresses these issues, Erbay and his team worked to transform how high-performance computing was delivered at the university.
“Partnering with our research communities we set out to move from a finite capacity on premise to leverage high-performance computing resources at scale with no boundaries,” says Erbay.
Also working closely with AWS and AARNet, the team established – the RACE Hub, which now provides researchers with access to state-of-the-art technology and expert support, and helps to foster innovation and scientific progress.
“Our initiative provides AWS-oriented services, training and expertise to enable researchers, academics, students and industry partners to maximise scientific return, supported by the Victorian Government’s higher education investment fund,” says Erbay.
“We leveraged our cloud-first strategy to establish an easy-to-use platform, called Service Workbench, that gives researchers access to the latest AWS technologies on demand and at scale.”
The RACE Hub complements RMIT’s cloud platform by providing a collaborative workspace where users can tap the university’s research expertise and leverage fast connectivity of up to 400Gbps, he says.
“Our collaboration with AWS and AARNet has enabled us to establish a cutting edge research facility that fosters innovation and scientific progress.”
This initiative has been transformative for RMIT and has revolutionised the way its researchers work with large, complex datasets, says Erbay.
“Our results speak for themselves. The RACE Hub has significantly improved the efficiency of research at RMIT. We successfully demonstrated that researchers can process huge simulations in less time and create photonics solutions faster than ever before.”
This is helping RMIT academics improve their teaching. In one example, it has enabled a lecturer to deploy teaching software which performs molecular simulations eight times faster than the previous on-premise systems.
In addition, the initial upfront cost of the RACE Hub will negate the need for research specific, localised HPC purchases, says Erbay.
Integrated institutional service
Meanwhile, the hub provides an integrated institutional service with its Service Workbench platform part of RMIT’s institutional corporate service addressing the data and computing needs of researchers, academics, students and industry partners.
Plus, the initiative has had a reputational benefit.
“RMIT is the first Australian university to implement a dedicated commercial cloud supercomputing facility to drive digital innovation,” says Erbay.
For a CIO to gain trust across all levels of an organisation, Erbay believes it is important to both deliver great technology experiences and get the basics right – such as communication, collaboration and leading by example.
“Once trust is established you must keep an eye on continually improving and innovating.”
To be a change agent a CIO needs to truly align the business and IT and speak a common language, he says.
“This mean sponsoring not only technology programs but also leaning into business challenges to ensure the best outcome is always achieved for the business.”
Leading by example is a crucial strategy in influencing others across the organisation, says Erbay.
“By demonstrating my commitment to innovation and technology, I can encourage others to follow.” At times, this has involved taking calculated risks, embracing emerging technologies and investing in time and research for the technology department to develop and drive innovation.
Louis van Wyk