Academic Fee Structure

Ohio Academic Fee Model FAQ

NOTICE:
Due to a delay in the rollout of the billing infrastructure, OSC will not be billing academic clients for project storage for the month of July, 2020.  Storage charges for academic clients will begin on August 1st, 2020.
OSC hosted webinars Friday 6/19/20  and Thursday 6/25/20 to discuss these changes and address questions.  Recording of those webinars are available here and here.

What is a summary of the changes effective July 1st, 2020?

OSC is eliminating Resource Units (RUs) and allocations, setting heavily subsidized prices for all services (including ones that didn’t have RU charges in the past) and adding annual per-faculty credits that will for many faculty offset any fees incurred. Any fees not offset by credits will be invoiced to that faculty member's university; how those fees are paid are decisions that will be made at each university. OSC is also implementing 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 six universities under contract (Akron, BGSU, Case, UC, OU and OSU) 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.

What are OSC's for-fee services?

Starting July 1st, 2020, OSC will charge for the following services:

  • Premium Compute: This is replacing the compute service nearly all OSC clients use today. Across all of OSC's HPC clusters, there is a single low rate charged per core-hour, a slightly higher rate for core-hours on the huge memory nodes, and a new GPU-hour rate.
  • Dedicated Compute: This is replacing the current “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 current project storage service; OSC is adding a low terabyte (TB) / month charge.

OSC is also planning on adding a “spot” style service in the future, allowing users to consume compute services at a low priority without core-hour charges. Details will be forthcoming.

What are the new service rates?

Ohio-based academic clients under this new fee model will 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 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 Ruby node hour rate Owens node hour rate Pitzer node hour rate
Standard compute $0.003 $0.06 $0.08 $0.12
Huge mem compute $0.004 $0.13 $0.19 $0.32
GPU compute $0.003 + $0.045

$0.06 + $0.045 =

$0.105

$0.08 + $0.045 =

$0.125

$0.12 + $0.090 =

$0.210

I am at a current “fee structure” school (OSU, OU, CWRU, UC, UA, or BGSU), what impact can I expect from these changes?

The changes above will result in a reduction in fees generated by most users, as the new core-hour rates are significantly lower than the corresponding RU rates today.  Bills will continue to be sent to a central point of contact at your university.  What happens to that bill after that is up to the individual institutional policy.

I am NOT at a current “fee structure” school (OSU, OU, CWRU, UC, UA, or BGSU), what impact can I expect from these changes?

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.  Come July 1st, 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.

What is the impact on commercial and non-Ohio-based academic clients?

The Ohio academic fee structure 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 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.

What rate will I be charged if I submitted a job before July 1 but it doesn't end until after July 1?

If a job has not completed by July 1, it will not be charged under either fee structure model. The job will show up on the invoice as a $0.00 line item. 

How can faculty allocate job costs to different funding sources?

Faculty can be PIs on multiple projects so that they can indicate at time of submission which project 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 faculty 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.  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.

Will there be an allocations committee that reviews and approves project proposals?

No, project review and approval won’t be through the 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 happens to existing compute allocations and/or project storage?

Existing compute allocations will no longer be applicable. You will have a budget on July 1 based on your FY20 usage for that project. You can check your usage and cost yourself following the instructions here. Existing project storage will remain on the associated project. Please contact oschelp@osc.edu if you want to change a project budget value or project storage quota.

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

The “first 10,000 RU per project are free” mechanism has been eliminated. Starting July 1st, 2020 OSC is automatically issuing a $1,000 credit to each faculty member that expires on June 30, 2021. This credit will be used to pay any fees generated by a single project up to the balance, until it is exhausted or June 30th. Using the rates mentioned above, this is equivalent to approximately 34,483 RU. 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.

Are faculty going to get an unexpected large bill?

No. If a faculty member's usage 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.

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 are 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. 

I received a personalized email from OSC. Can you explain the "FY20 YTD Usage" and "FY21 Budget" columns in more detail?

If you received this email, it is because your usage patterns, storage quotas, or the number of projects means your usage in the coming year might generate a bill to your institution (if you are at a current fee structure institution). The "FY20 YTD Usage" is taking your service usage between July 1 2019 and June 9 2020 and applying the FY21 prices to those consumption levels. We did this to help you estimate what your "normal" utilzation might cost under the new prices. You can check your usage and cost yourself following the instructions here. The "FY21 Budget" took your remaining allocation balances as of June 9 2020, converted those to core-hours, and then calculated what those core-hours would cost at the FY21 prices. We added 12 months of storage at your current quota on the Project file service, if appropriate, at the full FY21 price (before the 50% discount). On July 1 2020, we will be setting your initial budget based on the allocation balance at that time. We are setting initial budgets this way to avoid you being locked out from computing very early in FY21. 

Update: follow-up emails were sent with FY20 Usage and a budget discussion utilizing Projected FY21 Charges @ new rates for FY20 Usage Levels; after initial feedback, this is what we will set your budget at instead of remaining allocation. It takes into account the discount on storage and gpu costs for FY21.

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

OSC has done extensive cost comparisons between these new 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.

Is there still a subsidy that Ohio-based academic clients are receiving?

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.

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 this academic fee model.

Why is OSC doing this?

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.

Two years ago, OSC implemented certain fees for the six Ohio universities that comprised the greatest usage of OSC's resources.  OSC has worked with key stakeholders at these universities, along with the Department of Higher Education, as part of this process to further define and implement these 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 new model will address some key concerns that stakeholders and the university community have had with the previous model and are listed below.

  • Service pricing will be clear:  Resource units (RUs) will no longer be utilized to quantify usage.  Instead, industry standard units such as core-hours, GPU-hours or Terabyte-months will be shown on reports.
  • Charges will be 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 will be more detailed and will now apply to faculty at all Ohio universities.
  • Universities will be able to ensure funding is available:  Aggregate bills will still be 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 will have access to some level of free resources:  For the upcoming academic year (20-21), Ohio faculty will be granted a $1,000 credit to cover charges.  In the future, faculty will annually apply to receive this $1,000 credit.  Additional $500 credits are also available for classroom usage.