EU project helping meet IT requirements of science sector
An EU-funded project that was set up to create a cloud computing market for the public sector in Europe and support the massive information technology (IT) requirements of European scientists has just announced the initial deployment of its first flagship applications in high energy physics, molecular biology and natural disaster risk management.
The HELIX NEBULA ('Helix Nebula - the science cloud') project, which kicked off in January and runs until 2014, brings together scientists from Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. It receives EUR 1,800,000 of funding under the 'Research Infrastructures' Theme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
The project is a unique collaboration between the science and the business worlds, bringing together leading IT providers such as Atos, CloudSigma and T-Systems, and three of Europe's leading research centres: the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the European Space Agency (ESA).
The aim is to ensure science and research organisations can continue to carry out data capture, processing, analysis and archiving via information and communication technologies (ICT) applications. As the need for these services in the science world continues to grow, cloud-based services can offer greater efficiency, agility and innovation in delivery of services through economies of scale, multiple tenancy of irregularly-used resources and more sophisticated approaches to resource management.
The first results from the project's ongoing proof-of-concept (PoC) phase now show that CERN, EMBL and ESA have all succeeded in deploying challenging scientific applications that each involve tens of thousands of jobs running at data centres operated by Atos, CloudSigma and T-Systems.
At CERN, for example, the recent announcement related to the Higgs boson search was aided significantly by the fact that the ATLAS experiment's flagship application was quickly deployed, meaning CERN could run simulations that built the case for the announcement. ATLAS is a particle physics experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The ATLAS detector is searching for new discoveries in the head-on collisions of protons of extraordinarily high energy.
Frédéric Hemmer, Head of CERN's IT Department, comments: '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.'
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, explains: '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.'
The ESA has successfully tested large-scale data processing and dissemination from its radar satellites (European Remote Sensing (ERS) and Envisat) using different cloud provider infrastructures.
'The results have demonstrated that these applications can run on multiple providers, despite using different technologies,' says Volker Liebig, Director for ESA Earth Observation Programmes. '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.'
Principal Solutions Architect from Atos Michael Symonds comments on the challenges involved in setting up cloud computing resources for research organisations: '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.'
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European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN):
Category: Project results
Data Source Provider: European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)
Document Reference: Based on information from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)
Subject Index: Coordination, Cooperation; Information and communication technology applications ; Innovation, Technology Transfer; Scientific Research; Social Aspects