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Facilitating the migration to cloud-based applications

The EU-funded STORM CLOUDS project is helping public authorities shift their services to the cloud. This will enable them to make available the tools to create Smart Cities.
Facilitating the migration to cloud-based applications
Smart cities might be high on the EU’s political agenda, but putting in place necessary applications to deal with complex urban life has proved challenging. One answer to this is to facilitate the uptake of smart city strategies through the development of application repositories, which encourage the reuse of software that has already been developed and tested by other cities.

These repositories are hosted via the cloud, allowing public authorities and public service providers to select and deploy a large number of applications dedicated to different city functions. The EU-funded STORM CLOUDS project facilitates this shift to a cloud-based paradigm for the provision of public services by creating a set of relevant guidelines and best practices based on direct testing in several European cities.

‘Cloud computing has gained significant attention by public authorities and policy makers due to their size and scope of services,’ says project manager Agustín González-Quel. ‘Our aim is to define useful guidelines on how to address the process in order to accelerate it.’

According to Agustín González-Quel, public sector service organisations are particularly well-positioned to benefit from cloud computing due to their complex nature, many departments, rigid organisational structure and significant funding restrictions. Furthermore, they tend to encompass services in diverse technological domains based on monolithic architectural models that are difficult to reuse.

The STORM CLOUDS system has been tested in four European cities: Agueda (Portugal), Manchester (UK), Valladolid (Spain) and Thesaloniki (Greece). ‘We didn’t attempt to define the architecture or to implement the cloud itself, but instead studied and analysed the migration process in order to better understand what works – and doesn’t – and to share our conclusions with potential users,’ explains Agustín González-Quel. ‘The architecture, cloud and applications used in this project are simply the means to reaching this end.’

Open source-based cloud infrastructures

Within these experiments, the project implemented two similar open source-based cloud infrastructures. Both infrastructures were based on leading open-source products, namely OpenStack and CloudFoundry, and leading edge container technologies. One cloud was used for testing and fine tuning, while the other was used for production purposes. In addition, scripts for automatic migration between both infrastructures were created.

‘This arrangement allowed us to evaluate the importance of basing a cloud infrastructure on standard products, as doing so makes the potential migration to another provider much easier,’ says Agustín González-Quel. ‘This also protects the municipality’s investment – if there’s a problem with the current cloud provider they can easily change to another one.’

Guidelines and best practices

Based on these city experiments, the project developed a methodology – including guidelines and best practices – to help municipalities and public authorities migrate their IT to a cloud infrastructure. ‘One particularly popular feature for users is the identification of common barriers and practical solutions for overcoming them,’ says Agustín González-Quel. Other outcomes include the development of a cloud infrastructure based on open source products to support ongoing experimentation and testing, a set of scripts to automate some of the more technical tasks involved in a migration, and a catalogue of freely available applications that municipalities can use to evaluate the use of cloud-based services.

However, Agustín González-Quel notes that it’s not only European cities that will benefit from the project’s findings. ‘Our industrial partners – including Hewlett Packard Enterprises, European Dynamics and Urenio-AUTH – already have plans to commercialise the results and offer consulting support on cloud migration,’ he says. ‘Also, plans to commercialise the project’s infrastructure are being considered, so one can expect that cities of all sizes will soon be migrating to the cloud.’

Related information

Keywords

STORM CLOUDS, cloud computing, open source, public administration, public services, cloud infrastructure
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