Research Virtual Machine Service

Operating Model

Further information is contained within the Technical FAQ. If you have a question which is not answered by the service description, below, please check there.

Funding Model, Cost and Entitlement to VMs

Funding Model

The service runs on a financial model whereby the University funds a basic level of capability that is available to all researchers, with substantial contributions funded by research groups to meet their own requirements. Groups then receive VM resources equivalent to their financial contribution. Therefore there is some free-at-the-point-of-use resource available to groups that have not directly financially contributed. However, VMs available through this free at point of use resource are of a limited specification and may not be suitable for all use cases (further details below)

Who is entitled to a VM?

All University research groups are entitled to a VM.

What if I don’t have any funds available?

There are limited resources available for research groups to obtain VMs free-at-the-point-of-use. However, the VMs available will be of a lower specification than those offered to contributing groups.

Typical “free” VMs will have a low specification:

  • One virtual CPU core.
  • A maximum of 4 GB RAM.
  • 10 to 24 GB disk space — though more storage can be added by mounting RDS shares.

If you are considering contributing to the service we would be happy to discuss your requirements and may be able to provide evaluation access.

How much does a VM cost? (Virtual hardware and VMware licences.)

The cost of a VM reflects the cost of the underlying hardware and also the cost of the VMware licences. (Sysadmin support and hosting costs are free-at-the-point-of-use.)

Typically, a VM will not be cheaper than a similarly-specified standalone, physical machine. However, there are many benefits of using one of these VMs over such a physical machine — see below.

For an estimate, please contact the Research Infrastructure team.

How much does a VM cost? (Operating system licences, e.g., MS Windows)

Any licences required for your chosen operating system and applications must also be paid for. In particular, VMs running MS Windows will require a licence to be purchased. VMs running Ubuntu do not require the purchase of a licence.

About the Platform

Supported Operating Systems

VMs are available with either Linux or MS Windows installed. OS-X is not supported because of Apple’s licensing restrictions.

Available Operating System Images

The following images are available. They have the recommended security configuration in place, including measures to prevent brute-forcing of passwords; a minimal installation of applications; and authenticates using central University credentials.

  • Ubuntu LTS — we no longer support Scientific Linux.
  • Please contact us for the versions available – we update the default version of our images

Researchers who wish to install their own operating system from scratch will need the help of a member of IT staff as VMware console access will be required.

Backups and Service Resilience

Should the physical server on which a VM is hosted fail, the VM can be migrated to another physical server in the VMware cluster.

All VMs are backed up nightly (at the block level). Should a catastrophic failure of the infrastructure occur, VMs can be restored from backup.

Data located on a VM-mounted CIFS RDS/Isilon share can be considered safe, assuming the share is replicated and snapped.

Benefits of these VMs over a standalone, physical machine

These VMs are located on a platform with hardware redundancy and failover, nightly backups, and are located in an IT Services data-centre in which hardware and power supply is monitored. i.e., the service is resilient.

Furthermore, VM snapshots can be taken and stored, so that: VMs can shutdown and spun up again at a later date easily; VMs can easily be cloned; a VM can be returned to a known, earlier state.

Use Cases

What are these VMs suitable for?

Typical uses include:

  • Web servers with a SQL database backend.
  • Download sites for publicly-accessible data (e.g., mounted from the RDS).
  • Hosts which require fast, secure access to RDS.

What are these VMs not suitable for?

These VMs are not suitable for:

  • CPU-intensive work.
  • Any service requiring high bandwidth IO.
  • Large amounts of RAM.
  • Hosts which are required to be particularly secure, e.g., those holding sensitive data.

Root/Administrator Privilege and Available Support from IT Services

Can I get root/administrator access?

Yes. This is the default. N.B. With root/administrator access you will have responsibilities to meet, as detailed in the section Responsibilities of the VM Owner and VM Administrator, below.

Can I get sysadmin support from IT Services?

In most cases the answer is no, the VM Owner and VM Administrator become responsible for the VM on handover. However, in some circumstances it may be possible to offer support, e.g., via the RIT Edge Compute service.

Service Availability and Support

  • Every effort will be make to ensure VM availability but service availability is not guaranteed.
  • There will be no support for the service outside of office hours; this includes weekends, bank holidays and times at which the University is closed (e.g., over the Christmas and New Year period).

Last modified on August 11, 2022 at 2:12 pm by Simon Hood