European Science Champions Score an Early Goal for Cloud Computing
‘Helix Nebula – the science cloud’, set up earlier this year to support the massive IT requirements of European scientists and create a cloud computing market for the public sector in Europe, has announced the initial deployment of its first flagship applications in high energy physics, molecular biology and natural disaster recovery.
“Setting up sufficiently powerful computing infrastructures for genome analysis in the cloud is not trivial. Hence, we are very happy with the initial results from the PoC. These are important milestones towards making our software available to scientists worldwide later during the Helix Nebula pilot phase.”
A collaboration between big science and big business, Helix Nebula joins the forces of leading IT providers and three of Europe’s leading research centres (CERN1, EMBL2, and ESA3), and has now received €1.8 million funding from the European Commission. The initiative strongly supports the Commission’s Digital Agenda for Europe: It stresses a unified approach to data protection regulations and lightweight, efficient governance; it also has ambitions to support European economic development by making its services available to the wider community.
First results of the initiative’s on-going Proof of Concept (PoC) phase now show that CERN, EMBL and ESA succeeded in deploying challenging scientific applications each involving tens of thousands of jobs running at data centres operated by Atos, CloudSigma and T-Systems.
By getting the ATLAS experiment’s flagship application deployed quickly, CERN was able to run simulations that had previously been executed on the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid, helping to build the case for the recent announcement related to the Higgs boson search. “These initial deployments have confirmed that building a multi-tenant, multi-provider public cloud infrastructure is a massive undertaking that will need a number of steps to complete. However, the first results are very encouraging and we are confident we can reach our goal during the two year pilot phase,” said Frédéric Hemmer, Head of CERN’s IT Department.
EMBL’s team successfully deployed and tested their novel software pipeline for large-scale genomic analysis on the different cloud provider infrastructures. Using real world large genomic data sets originating from EMBL’s sequencing machines, EMBL’s PoC extensively evaluated key elements such as scalability, performance and on-demand provisioning of resources for high performance computing and fast data storage in these clouds. Paul Flicek, Head of Vertebrate Genomics at EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute explained: “Setting up sufficiently powerful computing infrastructures for genome analysis in the cloud is not trivial. Hence, we are very happy with the initial results from the PoC. These are important milestones towards making our software available to scientists worldwide later during the Helix Nebula pilot phase.”
“ESA has successfully tested large-scale data processing and dissemination from its radar satellites (ERS, Envisat) using different cloud provider infrastructures. The results have demonstrated that these applications can run on multiple providers, despite using different technologies. Thanks to these cloud assets and the modern communication tools, the global science community will be able to better exploit ESA’s large-scale data archive covering 20 years of Earth Observation and foster collaboration of science communities working in different domains,” commented Volker Liebig, Director for ESA Earth Observation Programmes.
Atos, CloudSigma and T-Systems have provided the cloud computing resources to host the flagships and were instrumental during this PoC phase.
Atos has been active in opening up its existing cloud services to research organizations. Michael Symonds, its Principal Solutions Architect, confirmed that: “Setting up a public style cloud for very demanding research organisations is very different to providing private enterprise cloud services to companies. It has taken a lot of effort but we are all pleased with these early results and are confident we can build on this in the future.”
Robert Jenkins, CTO of CloudSigma, which already operates a public cloud service, said: “Not only does this early success show we are on the right track but it is also helping us identify new business opportunities for cloud services in the public sector that we hope to develop during this pilot phase.”
Jurry de la Mar, Head of International Sales – Public Sector at T-Systems, the company which has been driving the work to define the governance model for this public-private partnership, concluded: “Like any successful team, we needed a small core to get things going. During 2012 we will be studying how to expand the consortium membership to include more suppliers, more applications and more public sector organisations.”
In addition to the infrastructure providers, SME’s such as SixSq, Terradue and TheServerLabs were vital to get the flagship applications up and running. More scientific organisations and service providers are welcome to join Helix Nebula- the Science Cloud.