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Europe to Deploy Commercial Clouds to Support Big Science

It is good to see Europe take an important leadership role in recognizing the critical contribution that commercial cloud providers can play in providing solutions for big science through their recent Helix Nebula—the Science Cloud announcement.

It is estimated that 1/3 of the science applications running on expensive HPC facilities could easily run on commercial clouds, freeing up these facilities to focus on true high computational problems. As governments are under increasing financial pressure we need to find creative solution such as these types of partnerships to support big science in an era of massive data (See Ian Foster’s presentation: Rethinking how we provide science IT in an era of massive data but modest budgets).

To get around data privacy issues I hope European governments will also look at cloud franchise models as now being offered by Fujitsu (representing Microsoft Azure). With franchise models the physical infrastructure can be opened and operated by Europeans and therefore not subject to US Homeland Security rules and privacy regulations. The software and middleware can then still be consistent with global standards such as Amazon.

Although details are still sketchy I hope the Europeans focus on developing middleware and cloud applications rather than funneling most of the money into infrastructure. As the Economist magazine pointed out the economic and business opportunities are in developing the cloud applications and middleware. Cloud infrastructure is a commodity business—best operated and funded by large commercial operators. Initiatives like JISC cloud applications program or XSEDE Globus On Line to relieve researchers from mundane tasks are good examples.

Finally I believe the entire infrastructure could be paid for, in energy and carbon savings, if they ensure the cloud infrastructure is 100% zero carbon by locating the facilities at sites that use 100% renewable energy.

Relatede: Strategic Plan for a Scientific Cloud Computing infrastructure for Europe

Goal #1 Establish a Cloud Computing Infrastructure for the European Research Area serving as a platform for innovation and evolution of the overall infrastructure.

Goal #2 Identify and adopt suitable policies for trust, security and privacy on a European-level can be provided by the European Cloud Computing framework and infrastructure.

Goal #3 Create a light-weight governance structure for the future European Scientific Cloud Computing Infrastructure that involves all the stakeholders and can evolve over time as the infrastructure, services and user-base grows.

Goal #4 Define a funding scheme involving all the stake-holder groups (service suppliers, users, EC and national funding agencies) into a Public-Private-Partnership model to implement a Cloud Computing Infrastructure that delivers a sustainable and profitable business environment adhering to European-level policies.

By Bill St. Arnaud , Green IT Networking Consultant

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