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University of Alabama at Birmingham accelerates research with Canonical and Dell

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is an internationally renowned public research university and academic medical centre that has more than 22,000 students enrolled, and 24,000 faculty members. UAB generates $12.1 billion in annual economic impact within the State of Alabama.

UAB is committed to empowering its researchers with all of the tools and technologies they need to work as efficiently and effectively as possible. With the rise of containerisation, the university saw an opportunity to further accelerate research by transforming its approach to compute and storage resource management through Kubernetes

The university is always on the lookout for new ways to support its research community, and so it was keen to empower its users to take full advantage of these container-based capabilities. To make this vision a reality, the organisation turned to its trusted partners Dell Technologies and Canonical.

With Kubernetes, the university would be able to leverage pre-configured software components to seamlessly orchestrate workflows at a high level, without the complexity of manually designing and building each research environment. But UAB also understood that implementing Kubernetes would be easier said than done.

“Getting Kubernetes up and running is not a light lift, especially if you have little experience in the domain. We needed a partner that could help us get down the road faster so that we could start hunting the application use cases that we were envisioning.”

John Paul Robertson, HPC Architect for Research Computing at UAB

UAB was already in the final stages of deploying Charmed OpenStack with the help of Canonical and Dell, and it knew that they would be the ideal partners to support the Kubernetes adoption as well.

Moving ahead, the same reasons that made Canonical and Dell compelling options for the OpenStack implementation also made them the right choice for Kubernetes. To complete the stack, UAB is also implementing Charmed Ceph, Canonical’s enterprise-ready distribution of the leading open- source storage solution.

“The fact that Canonical and Dell had a partnership made it easy for us to act on our deployment goals.”

Using Charmed Kubernetes, Charmed OpenStack and Charmed Ceph on Dell hardware, UAB has now completely transformed its compute landscape. In the past, the university maintained one on-site data centre for its HPC cluster and another for ancillary services. Today, UAB has HPC, cloud, container and storage deployed in two modernised data centres with full integration between them.

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Kubernetes, or K8s for short, is an open source platform pioneered by Google, which started as a simple container orchestration tool but has grown into a platform for deploying, monitoring and managing apps and services across clouds.

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