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COVID-19: Research Computing Continuity

March 20, 2020
Dear Faculty,
 
We are writing to update the campus community on the status of research computing operations and services at UC Merced with regard to Vice Chancellor Samuel Traina’s recent announcement that all on-campus research will cease by noon on Sunday, March 22. We appreciate your patience and cooperation as our operations continue to adjust in response to on-going recommendations and requirements. We are hopeful that some degree of cyberinfrastructure can be maintained and supported to provide research computing capacity for campus researchers.
 
To this end, the Cyberinfrastructure & Research Technologies (CIRT) office has established a set of continuity plans for the research computing enterprise as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our campus community. Consistent with other campus continuity plans, continuity of CIRT at UC Merced is anchored in the following two principles: (1) personal safety for the entire campus community; and (2) ensuring ongoing technical support of research operations to the extent possible.
 
CIRT status updates will be posted online and on the MERCED Cluster GitHub user wiki.
 
Below, we list CIRT assets/services with current and anticipated levels of availability during the time campus is impacted by COVID-19. As always, we encourage use of the Service Now system to request CIRT services (including account requests). The CIRT team will endeavor to respond to such requests in a timely manner, though delays may arise due to the current situation.
 
MERCED Cluster
 
The MERCED Cluster was taken offline late last week to undergo maintenance and to be moved to the new Computational Research Facility (Borg Cube), a state-of-the-art data facility built in Project 2020 in support of campus high-performance computing. The cluster move has been somewhat affected by COVID-19 emergency measures, though we remain hopeful that cluster access will be available by Wednesday, March 25. To the extent possible, the CIRT team is committed to keeping the MERCED cluster available for campus researchers to maintain research computing continuity.
 
Maintenance activity on long term storage assets has been impacted by the recent campus operational changes. At present, those resources are unavailable. Access to long term storage servers will be limited for an indefinite time.
 
WAVE Lab
 
The WAVE Lab is closed. WAVE Lab operations will remain suspended until campus leadership determines conventional in-person campus operations are safe to resume.
 
Research Computing In-Person Consultation Is Moving Online
 
The CIRT team has been holding weekly office hours on Fridays as well as providing in-person consultation by appointment. The weekly office hours have been canceled for this week and during spring break. CIRT expects to use a webinar format for weekly drop-in research computing office hours starting Friday, April 3, 2020 through such time as campus leadership determines conventional in-person campus operations are safe to resume. More information about research computing drop-in office hours will be shared with the campus community the week of March 30 via the Research Computing website and the MERCED Cluster GitHub user wiki.
 
PI and Lab Hardware/Software Deployment Support
 
The CIRT team is committed to continuing some level of support for hardware and software support for individual research groups. However, faculty and other members of the campus research community should anticipate delays in such support. In-person consultations and on-site physical support will be suspended until campus leadership determines conventional in-person campus operations are safe to resume. We also note that many hardware and software vendors are also impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which may result in additional service delays and limitations beyond our control.
 
MERCED Node and Other Hardware/Software Purchase Planning
 
The CIRT team is committed to continue some level of support for MERCED node purchasing and purchase planning for grant proposals, start-up budget planning for faculty candidates, and the like. Additionally, CIRT will coordinate with campus procurement to determine feasibility of node and other hardware/software purchases supporting research computing efforts on a case-by-case basis accounting for research project impact, fund source, budget closing dates, and other similar factors. Note that meetings for such planning will be available only by phone and videoconference; CIRT will not provide in-person consultations until campus leadership determines conventional in-person campus operations are safe to resume.
Sincerely,

Hrant P. Hratchian
Suzanne S. Sindi
Interim Co-Directors Cyberinfrastructure & Research Technologies