A NeCTAR PT ("project trial") is a small NeCTAR allocation that is granted automatically to a user the first time that they visit the NeCTAR Dashboard. PTs have limited resources: 2 VCPUs, 2 instances, no object storage, no volume storage, and so on. They also have a VCPU hours limit of 4000 hours, which is equivalent to running a 2 VCPU instance for 3 months. These limits are set by policy, and they cannot be changed or extended. These are sufficient for the intended purposes of a PT, but not for undertaking a significant project.

Some member organizations are using NeCTAR resources to run teaching and training courses. The recommended way to do this is for the training coordinator to apply for a NeCTAR allocation, and take (ultimate) responsibility for the management of the resources.  However, we have noticed that some course coordinators are encouraging (or even requiring) their students / course attendees to use PT tenants for the training course.

Problems with using a PT for training

There are practical problems with using PTs for training.

  1. PTs are resource limited by design. The limits may not be adequate for training purposes.
  2. When a PT reaches 80% of its VCPU-hours limit, an email is sent to the owner to warn them. When it reaches 100%, an automatic "PT expiry" procedure starts which ends in the PT being disabled.  NeCTAR policy is that expired PTs are not reactivated.
  3. If a student arrives at a training course with an expired PT, there is nothing NeCTAR support can do about it.  If the course organizers have not made alternative arrangements the student will be unable to participate.
  4. When a training course ends, students ought to terminate the instances they created. If they don't do this:
    • The student risks wasting their remaining VCPU hours quota by running an unwanted instance.
    • The instance is a security risk, since nobody will be apply security patches to it. The instance may then be compromised and be used to cause damage to NeCTAR and more generally.

Advice for Students

If you are required you to use your PT for a course, we advise you to do the following, well before the start of the course:

  1. Visit the NeCTAR Dashboard at https://dashboard.rc.nectar.org.au to check that you can (still) login using your University credentials.  (If you don't know which credentials to use, or if the credentials don't work, contact your course coordinator or your University's IT support.)
  2. If you have previously used your NeCTAR PT:
    1. Visit the NeCTAR Dashboard.
    2. Select your "pt-<nnnnn>" project using the project selector in the top left menu.
    3. Go to the Compute Overview page.
    4. Check that your PT has not expired. If it has, the overview should tell you that you have zero instance quota and/or zero VCPU quota.
    5. Check that you don't have left over instances consuming resources.  Any instance listed in the overview will be consuming resources, even if it is in Pause, Suspended or Shutdown / Powered-off state.
    6. Check that you still have sufficient VCPU-hours quota left for the course.  You can find out how much you have used from the Usage Summary section of the overview page as follows:
      1. Enter 2001-01-01 as the "From" date and today's date as the "To" date
      2. Click submit
      3. Read "This period's VCPU-Hours"
      4. See how close to the 4000 VCPU-hours limit you are.
  3. If you get an email about your PT expiring, do not ignore it.

If there are problems with your PT, it is unlikely that NeCTAR Support will be able to help you. You should contact your course coordinators to find out if they have alternative arrangements.

If your PT is close to your VCPU-hours limit, you may be able to get by, with careful management of your remaining quota. However, you should probably talk to your course coordinator about this too.

Advice for Course Coordinators

The best approach is for you to apply for a NeCTAR allocation for the purpose of running your course or courses. You can then either grant students access to the course project (via the Dashboard - in the Project / Users tab) or launch instances on the students' behalf. You can also take responsibility for ensuring that any teaching instances and images are properly managed; e.g. by keeping them patched and / or terminating them when the training ends.

If you want students to use PTs (despite all of the problems) then we would advise the following:

  1. Have a "Plan B" for students whose PTs have expired.
  2. Understand how AAF login works, and find out beforehand who your local AAF contact is so that you know who to talk to when student's cannot login.
  3. Be aware that NeCTAR Support staff cannot extend or reactivate PTs.  It is against policy!
  4. Be aware that approval of non-PT NeCTAR allocations takes time. Depending on the approver, it can take 2 to 3 weeks.
  5. Be sure to brief students on how to use their PT's sensibly.  Advise them that:
    1. Security of their instances is their responsibility, and tell them how to do it properly. 
    2. They need to Terminate instances when they are no longer required to avoid wasting their VCPU-hours quotas.