... some names and terms that you might come across

This glossary covers names and terms that are likely to be relevant to people who use NeCTAR research cloud and related facilities, or who are trying to understand documents in the Virtual Wranglers collection.

A more extensive OpenStack glossary may be found in the OpenStack Documentation.

Name / TermMeaningReferences
access control The process of determining if an (authenticated) agent is permitted to perform some action.  Synonym: authorization.  (Note: some IT texts make a distinction between access control and authorization, but take contradictory positions on which is which.) 1
access group OpenStack terminology - a synonym for security group.
access rule OpenStack terminology - a security group is a set of access rules.  An access rule allow network access to an instance from other hosts with a specified combination of protocol family (e.g. TCP, UDP, UCMP), port number and address range.
account NeCTAR and OpenStack terminology. A synonym for "project" and "tenant".
Active Directory Microsoft's directory service product; essentially LDAP enhanced with Kerberos. 1
AAF Australian Access Foundation - a Shibboleth-based federated authentication service for the Australian academic community.  Also the name of the organization that runs the AAF service. 1
AARNET Australia's Academic & Research Network - the organization that runs the networks connecting Australia's Universities and Research Organizations. 1
API Application Programming Interface - an interface that that is designed for program to use.  (As distinct from a user interface, which is designed for people to use.) 1
API endpoint See service endpoint.
apt-get The package manager used on Debian family distros. 1
amanda Advanced Maryland Automatic Network Disk Archive - an open source backup system 1
AMD Advanced Micro Devices Inc. A manufacturer of x86 and x86_64 compatible microprocessors. 1
ascp The Aspera command line copy program
Aspera Shares
attach An OpenStack volume can be attached to an OpenStack instance to provide it with additional disk storage.
authentication The process of establishing that an agent (i.e. a person, or other entity) in a computer system is who they say they are.
authorization See access control.
availability zone OpenStack terminology - a logical grouping of compute nodes within a region 1
AWS Amazon Web Services
AZ See availability zone.
Azure Microsoft's commercial cloud computing platform / service.
Barrine An HPC system run by UQ/RCC. 1
BCCVL The Biodiversity and Climate Change Virtual Laboratory. 1
boot Bootstrap a computer. Bootstrapping is the process in which a computer goes from having empty memory to having the operating system loaded and running.  (C.f the phrase - "pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps").  See also reboot, soft boot, hard boot.
bricked Colloquialism: describes a system that has been damaged in a way that permanently locks out some or all functionality.
Canonical The company that produces Ubuntu.
CDS RDSI terminology - Collection Development Storage.
cell OpenStack terminology 1
CentOS A community-based rebadging of RHEL distros.  The result is "for free", but with no support. 1
Ceph "Ceph is a unified, distributed storage system designed for excellent performance, reliability and scalability."  Volume Storage is typically implemented using Ceph. 1
Chef A recipe based system configuration framework. 1, 2, 3
CIDR notation Classless Internet Domain Routing notation - a concise notation for writing IPv4 or IPv6 network address ranges. 1
Cinder The OpenStack Volume Storage management service.
cloud computing

Computation performed using machines that are "out there in the cloud".  Generally speaking this refers to computational resources implemented on commodity computer systems that are managed and owned by some other organizations.




A free cloud-based file transfer service provided by AARNET. Allows researchers to send and receive large files (up to 100Gb)


An enhanced version of CloudStor that supports secure long-term file storage. (Free for AAF users, up to 100Gb per user.)


Implementing HPC-style compute facilities on top of cloud computing infrastructure.


A Linux distribution designed for building clusters. Uses Docker as its application software deployment mechanism rather than yum, apt-get or equivalent.

collection RDSI terminology -
collection vm RDSI collections in QRIScloud are exposed via virtual machines that run access services; e.g. scp, sftp, rsync, WebDAV & GridFTP.
compute node

 OpenStack terminology for a physical computer used to run virtual machines.  It will typically have multiple CPUs and shared memory, and one or more network interfaces.  It may also have on-node disc storage.



Container OpenStack terminology - Object Storage objects are held in containers.

A form of software licensing that uses Copyright Law as the legal basis for granting and enforcing license terms.

Creative Commons

A family of licenses originally designed for creative (non-software) works, that is often used for published scientific data.


Characterization Virtual Laboratory - A NeCTAR Virtual Laboratory project.



Dashboard The NeCTAR Dashboard is the main web-based interface for managing NeCTAR virtuals.  Dashboard is an OpenStack component service.
data centre

A place where a large collection of shared computing equipment is housed.

data repository

A system or service that provides systematic data management services. More than just "a shared fileserver".

deb The Debian standard package format.
Debian A long-running Linux distro.
Debian family Debian, Ubuntu and many lesser known but similar distros.
distro A contraction of "distribution".  Typically refers to an operating system distribution, comprising the core OS itself, and compendium of utilities, services and applications that run on the OS.
Drupal A popular open source website / content management system.
DuraSpace The not-for-profit organization that manages the DSpace and Fedora Repository projects 1
EC2 Amazon's "Elastic Compute Cloud".
EC2 Credentials One of the kinds of credentials you can obtain from the NeCTAR Dashboard.
elastic computing
ephemeral storage Disc storage associated with a NeCTAR virtual that goes away when the virtual is terminated
ERSA eResearch SA runs the South Australian node of the NeCTAR research cloud.
espace The UQ library managed system for UQ research publications.
eSpaces A web-based collaboration system for the Australian academic community. 1
FAQ A Frequently Asked Question. A software project or an IT support organization will often create an online FAQ document consisting of a number of such questions, and their answers.
Fedora RedHat's "bleeding edge" Linux distro.  (It was called Fedora Core in early releases) 1
Fedora Repository "Fedora was originally developed an architecture for storing, managing, and accessing digital content in the form of digital objects.  The Fedora Repository Project (i.e., Fedora) implements the Fedora abstractions in a robust open source software system." 1
Flashlight An RCC / QCIF HPC system designed for data intensive computation.
flavor An OpenStack term for virtual sizing specification.  Gives the amount of memory, number of VCPUs and ephemeral disc size.
Git The most popular distributed version control system.
Github The most popular free open-source project hosting site. 1
Glance OpenStack's Image store service.
Globus GridFTP
GNU Stands for "GNU is Not Unix".  Originally a project that aimed to provide a complete open-source replacement for the (proprietary) AT&T Unix operating system.  GNU now focus mostly on things "above the kernel".
Google Drive
GPL The GNU Public License. One of the most important open source software licenses. In fact there are a number of variants of GPL currently in use: GPL2, GPL3, LGPL, Affero
GPU Graphics Processing Unit - primarily designed for high-speed graphics process (e.g. on a video card), GPUs can also be exploited for certain kinds of parallel computation. 1
GPGPU General Purpose computing using GPUs. 1
Grizzly The name of an OpenStack release. 1
Grizzly A scalable web server framework implemented in Java (not servlet based).
GVL Genomics Virtual Laboratory - A NeCTAR virtual laboratory project.
hard reboot A reboot in which no attempt is made to shut down cleanly prior to booting.  This has an increased risk of damage to file systems or application data on the instance.

The name of an OpenStack release.


The orchestration service for OpenStack. It is designed to launch multiple composite cloud applications based on templates in the form of text files that can be treated like code.


Hierarchical File Storage (usually) or Hierarchical File System.


High Performance Computing systems - typically refers to "high end" computing hardware designed for doing "large" computational tasks.


A document written for users that tries to explain "how to" do a specific task or solve a specific problem.


Microsoft's main virtualization technology offering.


The software that performs the core management of virtual machines in a virtualized computing system.


The name of an OpenStack release.


A starting state for a new "clean" virtual machine.  Typical consists of an image of a file system with freshly installed operating system and applications.

image store

The place where OpenStack images are held.

Instance OpenStack terminology for a virtual machine
IP The Internet Protocol (IP) is the principal communications protocol in the Internet protocol suite for relaying datagrams (also knows as messages or packets) across network boundaries. Transmission and the routing of IP packets are what makes the Internet work. 1

The (currently) dominant version of IP in use at the moment.  IPv4 is limited by its design to 232 distinct addresses. The IPv4 address space is "full" in most regions, and networking providers are rolling out support of the next generation (IPv6).

IPv6 The successor version of IP, which supports 264 addresses.
iSCSI Internet Small Computer System Interface, an IP-based storage networking standard for linking data storage facilities. 1
issue tracker An issue tracker is a system that is used to record "issues" in a software product, and track their resolution. Issues can include bugs, requested enhancements or planned features.
Juju A virtual configuration system for Ubuntu-based virtuals. 1
Juno The name of an OpenStack release. 1
Kepler A computational workflow engine.
key pair A matching pair of public and private keys; see public key encryption.
Keystone Keystone is an OpenStack service that provides Identity, Token, Catalog and Policy services for use specifically by projects in the OpenStack family. 1
Kilo The name of an OpenStack release. 1
KVM Kernel-based Virtual Machine(s) - a virtualization framework supported by modern Linux kernels.
launch OpenStack terminology for creating a new virtual machine instance.  There are multiple steps in the launch process; e.g. "scheduling" where the system decides which cell, aggregate & compute node to put the instance on, "building" which creates the virtual machines, allocates network addresses, etcetera, and "booting" where the virtual machine is started up.
Linux The leading open-source operating system, originally developed by Linus Torsvalds.  (What we normally call Linux is better labelled GNU / Linux, reflecting the fact that the core user libraries and utilities are provided by GNU projects.)  Linux is "Unix-like", but contains no Unix code.
LiveArc Another name for Mediaflux
LTS Long Term Support - Ubuntu LTS releases are
MariaDB A fork of MySQL that is managed by the original MySQL founder and developers. 1

Multi-modal Australian Sciences Imaging and Visualisation Environment. A GPU-based HPC system run by Monash.










Message Passing Interface - a standard API for passing message in a parallel computing system.


An open source SQL database system.  Currently owned by Oracle Inc.






National Computing Infrastructure - typically refers to one of the NCI systems

NeCTAR National eResearch Collaboration Tools and Resources project. 1
NeCTAR RC The NeCTAR Research Cloud
NeCTAR RC Support
NeCTAR VLs The NeCTAR Virtual Laboratory (VL) projects fund the development of computational science facilities in the NeCTAR RC to support particular research domains.
Neutron OpenStack "networking as a service".  Neutron manages the network interface devices (e.g., vNICs) used by other Openstack instances.  Neutron will supersede "nova network" 1
NFS "Network File System" - a standard network protocol for making a file system on one machine available on another across the network.
Node NeCTAR terminology - a Node (or cloud node) is one of the "data centre aggregations" that comprise the NeCTAR research cloud. 1
NoDE RDSI terminology 1
node The term "node" can also refer to a compute node; see above.
Node Zero The NeCTAR RC node managed by University of Melbourne. (Obsolete terminology)
Nova compute
Nova cells
Nova network
NSP Nectar Servers Program - provides managed servers for eResearch projects. 1
object NeCTAR & OpenStack terminology - the unit of storage in object storage
object storage NeCTAR & OpenStack terminology - a kind of data storage where "objects" are saved and retrieved using a RESTful API. Object Storage is typically replicated with copies held at (at least) 3 locations.
object store
open source Open source refers to a computer program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design. 1
OpenStack A project that is developing an Open Source framework for doing Cloud Computing.  Also the name for the framework. 1, 2
OpenStack APIs
OpenStack clients These are tools that you can install on a system (e.g. your desktop or laptop) for interacting with the OpenStack services.
operating system
ORM Object-Relational Mapping - a mapping from a conventional (table-based) database to object-oriented programming.
OS A contraction of Operating System
overcommit A way of dealing with resource shortage in a virtual computing framework.  (Many virtuals do not use all of the resources allocated to them all of the time.)
password A secret (e.g. known to the user) that is used for authentication purposes.
passphrase A longer secret that is typically used to secure a private key.
Pausey The Pausey Centre runs the Western Australian node of the NeCTAR research cloud.
persistent store
Plone A popular website / content management / wiki system.  Espaces is implemented on top of Plone.

The tier3 data center that houses the second stage QRIScloud infrastructure.  (No, they don't offer site tours.)


The predecessor of QERN.  (Decommissioned)


The first stage QRISCloud infrastructure was housed in the UQ Prentice building.

private key

See key pair, public key encryption.

Project The NeCTAR term for a "resource container"; i.e. what you get when you are granted a NeCTAR allocation. A project "owns" virtual machine instances, snapshots and various kinds of storage, and may be shared by multiple users.  (See also "tenant" and "account") 1
public key See key pair, public key encryption.
public key encryption A kind of encryption system based on "one-way functions". These systems depend on a public / private key pair, where the public key is for encryption and the private key is for a decryption. Knowledge of one key does not allow you to determine the other one.
putty A widely used Windows tool for accessing a command shell on a remote Unix/Linux system.  Putty supports SSH.
python A programming language. (OpenStack is largely implemented in python.)
QCIF Queensland Cyber Infrastructure Foundation 1
Qcloud The previous name for QRIScloud (
QERN The predecessor of Qcloud / QRIScloud implemented by QCIF.  (Decommissioned)
QRIScloud The overall name for the QCIF's cloud computing systems. 1
QRIScompute The "compute" component of QRIScloud. This includes the QRIScloud NeCTAR RC facilities, special compute, elastic compute and Kepler / Nimrod based services.
QRISdata The "data" component of QRIScloud. This includes QCIF's RDSI storage and data access services.
Quadrant 1
R A programming language
RAID Redundant Array of Independent Discs. A way of putting together disc storage that provides a degree of recoverability in the event of the loss of disc media. 1
RDA Research Data Australia - A project of ANDS.
RDP Microsoft's Remote Desktop Protocol.
RDSI Research Data Storage Infrastructure - A organization / project funding the provision of storage for "research data collections" to the Australian academic community.
Redhat Inc A leading open source software vendor that produces RHEL and Fedora, as well as other software products. 1
ReDS RDSI terminology - Research Data Storage. 1
replica A copy of (say) a file or collection.
replication A process for creating or updating a replica.
rescue As system administration terminology: a procedure for recovering a system that won't boot properly.
As OpenStack terminology: a function of Nova that provides a possible way of recovering a damaged instance.
research data management The topic / problem-space of storing and curating the data outputs of (academic) research.  Aspects include safe storage, metadata, data publication, data discovery, access control & ethical considerations, provenance & audit, and long term archival considerations.
REST / RESTful Representational state transfer (REST) is an architectural style for implementing web-based system. RESTful APIs are designed to be easy to use by both web browsers (e.g. from Javascript) and from stand-alone clients and servers. OpenStack APIs are RESTful. 1
RESTful service A service that exposes RESTful APIs.
RHEL Redhat Enterprise Linux.  The flagship product of RedHat Inc. RHEL distros are "paid-for-support" Linux aimed at the "enterprise computing" market.
RHEL family RHEL, CentOS and Scientific Linux.  (Amazon Linux is pretty similar.)
RPM Redhat Package Manager format. 1
rsync A standard Unix / Linux utility for incrementally copying changes between file trees; i.e. "synchronizing" them.
SaaS Software as a Service.
Samba An open source reimplementation of the Windows fileserver technology; e.g. it can store Windows "shares" on Linux systems.
SAML Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML, pronounced sam-el) is an XML-based data format for exchanging authentication and authorization data between parties. 1
Scientific Linux / SL Scientific Linux - a rebadging of RHEL produced by CERN.  The goal is to support "scientific computing".  SL is "for free", but with no support.
scp A Unix/Linux command for copying files and file trees over SSH.
service endpoint Typically a web URL that can be used by an application to access a service.  (Synonym: API endpoint.)
Security Group
shared memory Computer memory regions that can be accessed by different processors (or processes) in computer system.
SLES SUSE Linux Enterprise Server - a paid-for Linux distro. 1, 2
SMB The Windows network file system protocol.
snapshot OpenStack terminology for an image produced from an active (typically not "clean") virtual instance.
SSH A protocol and tools for establishing secure "shell" sessions over the network.  SSH encrypts the data transferred, and supports user authentication using public/private keys.  See also "putty".
Solaris A proprietary Unix system produced by Sun Microsystems, and now Oracle.
Subversion / SVN A widely used non-distributed version control system.
support ticket
Swift The OpenStack object storage API, and associated command-line tool.
tar The standard file archive utility (and format) for Unix, Linux and related platforms.  (Analogous to ZIP files on Windows.)
tenant Openstack terminology - "isolated resource containers forming the principal organizational structure within the Compute service".  Note: NeCTAR uses / prefers the term "project".
terminate OpenStack terminology - permanently destroy an Instance and its ephemeral storage.
ticket Synonym for support ticket
tier <n> storage
tier <n> support

IT support terminology - support functions are typically classified into 4 tiers:

  • Tier 0 is user self-help; e.g. using online help, reading user guides, HOW-TOs and FAQs, and "googling".
  • Tier 1 is non-technical support; e.g. problem triage, providing solutions for common mistakes, and answering simple questions.
  • Tier 2 is technical support; e.g. initial diagnosis of more complicated problems, solving some of them, and answering technical problems.
  • Tier 3 is deep technical support; e.g. things that the other tiers can answer.
Turnkey Linux

A Debian based Linux distro produced by Canonical, aimed primarily at the desktop computing.  Ubuntu is for-free, though paid support is available.


A proprietary operating system for "minicomputers" originally written by Bell Labs / AT&T in the 1970s.  Many versions of Unix have been produced by many companies over the years.


Universal Resource Identifier / Universal Resource Locator.

Vagrant A desktop virtualization framework aimed at supporting transient virtual machine instances.
VCPU OpenStack terminology - a Virtual CPU.
VCPU hours
virtual Contraction of "virtual machine". 
Virtual Barrine A project to use "cluster as a service" technology to build a cluster in QRIScloud.
virtual machine A "computational element" that "thinks" it is a real computer with control of its own (virtual) reseources, but is actually running under the control of something else.  In the cloud computing context, virtual machines run directly on real computer hardware (i.e. they execute native instructions at normal clock speed), but access to system resources is "mediated".
virtual memory
VM Either a contraction of "virtual machine" or "virtual memory".
VMware A commercial virtualization company, and the name of their main product line.
Volume Storage
Windows A generic name for Microscoft's operating systems.
WinSCP A popular open source file transfer tool for Windows.
x86 The most common instruction set architecture for 32 bit computers.
x86-64 The 64bit version of x86.
XML Stands for eXtensible Markup Language.
Xen A virtualization framework supported by modern Linux kernels.
yum The package manager used on RHEL family and Fedora distros.