Service Costs

Client Categories

The Ohio Supercomputer Center provides services to clients from a variety of types of organizations. The service costs and business models are different between Ohio-based academic clients and everyone else.

Ohio-based academic clients

Primarily, OSC users are Ohio-based and academic, and the vast majority of OSC resources are consumed by Ohio-based academic users. See the Ohio Academic Fee Model FAQ and General Services FAQ sections below for more details.

Everyone Else

Other users (business, non-Ohio academic, nonprofit, hospital, etc.) interested in using Center resources may purchase services at set rates. All clients not affiliated with an Ohio academic institution must sign a service agreement, provide a $500 deposit, and pay for resource usage.  In most cases, they typically also need to provide their own license for commercial software packages.  Some details are available in the General Services FAQ section below. Please visit this page to contact us for more details about the rates and to start the process of signing a service agreement.

General Services FAQ

What are OSC's services?

OSC charges for the following services:

  • Premium Compute: This the compute service nearly all OSC clients utilize. Across all of OSC's HPC clusters, there is a single low rate (for each client category) charged per core-hour, a slightly higher rate for core-hours on the huge memory nodes, and a higher GPU-hour rate.
  • Dedicated Compute: This is the “condo” service used by a handful of OSC clients. For a fee based on the specific node types selected and their quantity, OSC clients can secure priority access to that hardware for multiple years, fully paid in year one.
  • Project Storage: This is OSC's large scale storage service (which is different from the Home Directories or Scratch storage), which clients must explicitly request be allocated to them.
  • Consulting Expertise:  OSC staff provide basic technical support and expertise to clients at no cost.  Clients needing more advanced or lengthy engagements with OSC staff that might require weeks or months of effort are charged fees based upon the scope of the project.

OSC is also planning on adding a “spot” style service in the future, allowing users to consume compute services at a low priority without little to no core-hour charges. In addition, OSC is piloting a Protected Data Service, charged at higher rates, that allows for the use of certain categories of data, such as PHI, HIPAA, or CUI.  Details will be forthcoming on these.

What is the relationship between the service costs for each client category?

The Ohio academic fee model has no direct impact on other clients or the rates they are charged. Clients that are NOT based at Ohio academic institutions account for about 10 percent of usage of OSC resources, and the income derived from their usage helps fund the Center’s operating budget. While OSC charges them rates significantly higher than those charged to Ohio-based academic clients, OSC strives to keep its pricing competitive in the market.

How can clients allocate job costs to different funding sources?

Clients can be associated with multiple projects so that they can indicate at the time of submission which projects a job charge should apply to.  The dashboard info a client sees in OnDemand has info broken down by projects and this project-level usage is detailed in the billing to the institutions.  Another approach is to encode information in the job name. Clients can then log on to my.osc.edu and are able to run reports that group things by job name patterns.  Finally, there is an ‘add note’ field available in my.osc.edu for each job that allows clients to add notes after a job has run (and hence then filter/sort by those notes).

Can clients tell day by day what their current compute charges are?

Each project in my.osc.edu will have a ‘budget balance’ display that is updated automatically each day and tells clients how much dollar balance is remaining on the project out of the budget you set.  Certain types of clients are allowed to associate an 'unlimited' budget to projects to make them 'unbudgeted' if needed.  In addition, it’s possible to run reports in my.osc.edu for any custom time frame showing all the jobs run in that time period and their corresponding charges.  You can check your usage and cost yourself by following the instructions here.

How do these rates compare to the costs a client would incur using another service?

OSC has done extensive cost comparisons between our rates and comparable services such as commercial cloud providers (e.g. Amazon), peer institutions (e.g. other Big 10 universities), federally-funded national resources (e.g. NSF's XSEDE), and maintaining a dedicated local cluster.  When comparing the total cost of ownership (including compute hardware, power, cooling, software licensing, data storage, and operational staff) OSC costs are significantly lower than what would be expended at a cloud provider, other peer HPC centers, or with a local cluster.  When comparing opportunity cost (e.g. the time it takes to prepare a proposal and the chances of it being approved), OSC's costs are significantly lower than what would be expended at national resources for all but our largest resource consumers.

Where does OSC funding come from?

Since its establishment more than 30 years ago, state funding for OSC has been made through a separate line item in the biannual state operating budget, directed through the Department of Higher Education. All state capital and operating appropriations in Ohio are considered public information, which available through the Legislative Service Commission website (https://www.lsc.ohio.gov).  This funding comprises the majority of OSC's revenue. OSC funding is a separate line item from and not associated with the State's Share of Instruction (SSI) through DHE, which is the line item that supports Ohio’s higher education institutions. A fraction of OSC’s funding also comes directly from client fees (such as commercial clients and academic condo purchasers), as well as from sponsored research awards. The smallest portion of the funding comes from Ohio-based academic client fees.

Ohio Academic Fee Model FAQ

What are the service rates?

Ohio-based academic clients incur charges at the following rates (which are the SAME for Premium and Dedicated Compute services):

  • Standard compute: $0.003 / core hour 
  • Huge memory compute: $0.004 / core hour
  • GPU compute:  $0.090 / GPU hour*
  • Project storage: $3.20 / terabyte month*

*From July 2020 through June 2021, OSC will provide credits to each client equal to 50% of the charges that the client incurs for GPU-hours and TB months.

The table below shows how the core/GPU hour rates below translate into node hours on each of our clusters assuming one were to request all cores (and GPUs if applicable) in a node (rates include the 50% GPU discount through June 2021):

Service Core/GPU hour rate Owens node hour rate

Original Pitzer (Skylake) node hour rate

Pitzer Expansion (Cascade Lake) node hour rate

Standard compute $0.003 $0.08 $0.12 $0.14
Huge mem compute $0.004 $0.19 $0.32 $0.19
GPU compute $0.003 +  $0.045

$0.08 + $0.045 = $0.125

$0.12 + $0.090 = $0.210

$0.14 + $0.090 = $0.230

Is there a subsidy that Ohio-based academic clients receive?

Starting July 1st, 2020 OSC automatically issued a $1,000 credit to each faculty member that expires on June 30, 2021. This credit will be used to pay any fees until it is exhausted on June 30th. Based upon historical usage patterns, ~90% of faculty members are not expected to utilize more than the annual credit and hence are not expected to have to pay for OSC's services.  Beginning in July 2021 OSC expects that faculty will be required to request this credit by reporting some student success and scholarship data. OSC will have more information once the details are determined.

In addition to the $1,000 per year credit, the rates listed above represent about 20% of OSC's actual costs to provide these services.  The remaining 80% of the costs are being subsidized by a variety of other sources, including State funding and fees from commercial clients.

Will classroom projects incur bills?

OSC intends to encourage the use of its resources in the classroom and hence such usage will not incur charges to faculty or institutions.  Faculty using OSC resources as part of a classroom project is eligible to request a $500 'classroom' credit in addition to their annual $1,000 credit.  That credit expires at the end of the current semester.  If the credit is fully exhausted before the end of the semester then additional credits can be requested. 

What is a summary of the changes that took place on July 1st, 2020?

OSC eliminated Resource Units (RUs) and allocations, set heavily subsidized prices for all services (including ones that didn’t have RU charges in the past), and added annual per-faculty credits that for many faculty offset any fees incurred. Any fees not offset by credits are invoiced to that faculty member's university; how those fees are paid are decisions that are made at each university. OSC also implemented new administrative workflows to ensure universities and faculty have the ability to approve and set budget limits on resource usage in order to ensure no-one receives an unexpected bill.

I have concerns or additional questions that haven't been answered here

Please don't hesitate to contact oschelp@osc.edu. Faculty at the universities currently under contract should contact their local administrative representative, listed below, for institution-specific questions, which include topics such as how to get institutional budget approval, whether funding needs to be allocated in advance via some mechanism, and whether overhead charges apply.

I am NOT at a school currently under contract, what impact does that have?

OSC is working to establish master service agreements with each Ohio university with active clients over the coming months. OSC recognizes it may take some time to establish these agreements.  OSC will not prevent clients from continuing to utilize OSC resources, nor will they incur charges should their usage exceed the annual $1000 credit OSC is providing to each client, while good-faith discussions are underway to execute such contracts.

Is there an allocations committee that reviews and approves project proposals?

No, project review and approval is not through an allocations committee.  Projects and corresponding budgets will be potentially ‘approved’ by an institutional representative since the institutions are the ones technically on the hook for any bill.

What happened to compute allocations and/or project storage that existed prior to July 1, 2020?

Previous compute allocations are no longer applicable. Previous project storage remained on the associated project.

What about the 10,000 RU per project that was fully subsidized before?

The “first 10,000 RU per project are free” mechanism has been eliminated and replaced with a $1,000 annual credit. Using the rates mentioned above, this credit is equivalent to approximately 34,483 RU (~344,830 core hours).

Are faculty going to get an unexpected large bill?

No. If a faculty member's usage for this year is anticipated to exceed the $1,000 credit, OSC should have already contacted that faculty member to inform them of that.  Otherwise, in order to incur charges above the $1,000 annual credit faculty will have to explicitly request that project budgets be set to a value higher than that.

Why does OSC charge Ohio-based academics?

Sustainability for research computing on campuses is a national concern. For the first 30 years of OSC's existence, OSC provided Ohio academic researchers with fully subsidized services, subject to peer review. However, despite significant efforts to constrain costs in recent years, OSC faces funding shortfalls that require additional revenue to ensure core services continue at current levels.

In 2018, OSC implemented certain fees for six Ohio universities that comprised the greatest usage of OSC's resources.  OSC worked with key stakeholders at these universities, along with the Department of Higher Education, as part of a process to further define and implement changes in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the center. OSC is also working to ensure the center continues to provide subsidized access to advanced technology resources and services that will meet the ever-evolving range of client needs.

This fee model addresses some key concerns that stakeholders and the university community have had with the previous business model and are listed below.

  • Clear service pricing:  Resource units (RUs) are no longer be utilized to quantify usage.  Instead, industry-standard units such as core-hours, GPU-hours, or Terabyte-months are shown on reports.
  • Charges are fair and applied across all resources and institutions: There are now costs and service types associated with standard, big memory, and GPU computing, as well as project storage. Usage and billing reports are more detailed and now apply to faculty at all Ohio universities.
  • Universities must be able to ensure funding is available:  Aggregate bills are sent to a central administrative contact at each institution, who is able to approve individual faculty spending limits.
  • Faculty can't end up with unexpected bills:  Faculty can set automated budget ceilings on individual projects in order to prevent cost overruns.
  • All Ohio faculty must have access to some level of free resources:  Ohio faculty can annually apply to receive a $1,000 credit.  Additional $500 credits are also available for classroom usage.