Key Resources

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We have seen how systems thinking can be useful for describing and understanding the people, services, technologies, organizational contexts, and other aspects of research computing. In this section of the monograph, we will itemize key resources that are relevant to research computing.

One place where an itemization of key resources is handy is the business model canvas (Osterwalder et al., 2008). In a business model canvas, the components of an organization are laid out in nine different categories. This is a tool that encourages description of all the important elements of a system, and helps to identify how those elements can, together, achieve organizational goals. A characteristic of key resource lists is that they likely span different types of phenomena. For research computing, we can consider several general groupings, and example resource types within each.



  • User support personnel: To assist in effective utilization of resources.
  • Technical support personnel: All aspects of resource management. At many centers, these personnel are also sources of innovation.
  • Management: To interface with stakeholders, and oversee smooth operation of the organization.
  • Training and outreach personnel: To effectively communicate how to utilize resources, and the value of their outcomes.
  • Other personnel: May include faculty, students, contractors; may include split or joint appointments for people from other units.


  • User-accessible computational systems: supercomputers, clusters, workstations.
  • Administrative systems: Log servers, security servers, test and development systems, etc.
  • Storage systems and subsystems: Disk/flash storage. Tape backups or hierarchical storage management systems.
  • Networks: High-speed networks within the computational systems (InfiniBand and others), management networks, local area networks within the organization, Internet connectivity, other private or research networks.

Organizational Status and Relationships

  • Upstream ties: Status within the organizational hierarchy.
  • Downstream ties: Departments, groups or other sub-units that, together, comprise the research computing organization.
  • Lateral ties: Relationships to other units. May be formal (such as a unit that reports to more than one upstream manager) or informal (such as research collaborations or projects that span units.

Fiscal Resources

  • Direct fiscal resources: The budget for the organization, and the budgetary context (reporting, limitations) that it exists in.
  • Indirect fiscal resources: Revenues that are contingent on other actions or outcomes, such as by service to external grants or contracts.
  • Capital resources: Equipment (above), buildings and other capital items.


  • Reputation (local, regional, national and international): Bring trusted and viewed as competent and of high quality.
  • Perceptions of competence: Research computing units might have personnel with valued skills, unique among local/regional peers.
  • Goodwill: General positive feelings towards a research computing unit, its personnel, its resources, or its role for an organization.


  • Academic productivity: As measured by papers, proceedings, courses taught, etc.
  • Discovery: Science & engineering outcomes that help to understand phenomena of interest.


Another key resource is stakeholders, which will garner an entire separate analysis. All of the human elements of the key resources listed above are likely to be stakeholders in a research computing organization.

The key resources described here are likely to be in constant motion. Is goodwill increasing or decreasing? Do technologies need to be upgraded or replaced? Is there staff turnover? What funding changes are being pursued?