Developing A Virtual Computing Lab for REN Community
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National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) build and maintain advanced broadband networks that interconnect universities and research institutes. The NRENs not only provide basic Internet and shared services but are also considered part of innovation and capacity development ecosystem of the countries. KENET has embraced the idea of providing online training boot camps including the Internet Society (ISOC) introduction to Unix course that is moderated by KENET technical staff. This paper will describe the innovative methodology, automation, architecture and tools used by KENET to develop the Virtual computing Lab, usage by KENET for internal and external capacity building and the usage by the University and research community. KENET has adopted the Ganeti virtual machine cluster management tool with synnefo open source cloud management tool to deploy a massively scalable cloud-based virtual computing lab solution integrated with several automated services to enhance its usability. The virtual computing lab has optimal computing resources that will enhance the training methods and improve efficiency by providing virtual machines during training boot camps for KENET members. The Virtual Computing Lab developed by KENET allows staff, faculty and students within KENET members to register to the cloud environment and upon approval they can utilize the computing resources by self-provisioning a virtual machine within a few seconds. This lab is also used internally by KENET technical staff to simulate practical environments for pilot services before production deployments. Security is also enhanced on the lab by ensuring that rules and traffic shaping is implemented for all the virtual machines as a way of curbing possible abuse by users. The architecture and design of the lab ensures scalability by having a cluster model where resources are increased by adding physical machines to the cluster. The key advantage is that KENET training boot camps are now no longer limited by the computing resources available on end user machines. The virtual lab is currently available to users only within the KENET network and will be tested with large numbers of ICT students in the next 12 months.