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Blue-Cloud: Piloting innovative services for Marine Research & the Blue Economy

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Blue Cloud (Blue-Cloud: Piloting innovative services for Marine Research & the Blue Economy)

Reporting period: 2021-04-01 to 2023-03-31

Blue-Cloud addresses the need to build and demonstrate the Pilot Blue Cloud as an EOSC to support research to understand and manage the many aspects of ocean sustainability, through a set of five pilot demonstrators. It seeks to capitalise on what exists already and to develop and deploy, through a pragmatic work plan, the Pilot Blue-Cloud as a cyber platform bringing together and providing access to: 1) multidisciplinary data from observations and models, 2) analytical tools, & 3) computing facilities essential for key blue science use cases.
The Blue-Cloud platform consists of two major components: the Virtual Research Environment (VRE) and the Data Discovery & Access Service (DD&AS), federating key European data management infrastructures to facilitate users in finding & retrieving multi-disciplinary datasets from multiple repositories.

The Blue-Cloud Virtual Labs (VLab) have specific analytical workflows to serve as Demonstrators showcasing the potential of open science in the marine domain, that can be adopted and adapted for other inputs and analyses to advance knowledge and innovation across diverse marine disciplines.

The Strategic Roadmap to 2030 is a policy document providing the basis for the future strategic development of Blue-Cloud.
During the project lifetime, Blue-Cloud aimed to (1) build and demonstrate a Pilot by combining distributed marine data resources, computing platforms and analytical services; (2) develop services for supporting research to understand better & manage the many aspects of ocean sustainability; (3) develop and validate several demonstrators of relevance for marine societal challenges; (4) formulate a roadmap for expansion and sustainability of the Blue Cloud infrastructure and services.

The Blue-Cloud Open Science platform introduced a federation taking place at 3 levels: the data, the computing resources and the analytical services. For each of them Blue-Cloud orchestrated mechanisms that successfully established interoperability and resulted in a DD&AS, the VRE and 5 VLabs providing access to 15 services.

The Blue-Cloud VRE and DD&AS are both considered as Key Exploitable Results (KERs) of the project, together with VLabs.

The Blue-Cloud VRE provides a cloud-based analytical & publishing framework as a federation and orchestration of computing platforms and analytical services for constructing, hosting and operating VLabs for specific applications, driven by the needs and requirements of selected demonstrators. As of M41, the Blue-Cloud VRE hosts 1519 aggregated users, with accesses from 84 countries, achieving the expected targets of 1.000 users from 25 countries.

The DD&AS is a one-stop-shop with a common interface to data sets and data products from many leading Blue Data Infrastructures, which has potential for further expansion. It facilitates discovery and retrieval of data sets and data products for external users in stand-alone mode, and for users of the VRE through connectivity. These data sets are managed in the blue data infrastructures that are connected to the Blue-Cloud service to serve federated discovery and access.

Blue-Cloud is a front runner of Data federation in practice, given its success in bringing together 9 data providers covering 10M datasets from the marine domain and making them available via the DD&AS and the VRE to users.

9 Blue-Cloud VLabs were created and operated in the 1st period, while an additional 5 Blue-Cloud VLabs were created and operated in the second reporting period, from M17 (February 2021) to M35 (September 2022), bringing the total on 14 operational VLabs. Two VLabs of the 2nd reporting period are specifically conceived to support the developments of the Blue-Cloud Demonstrators: (i) The Plankton Genomics VLab has been developed in the context of the Demonstrator #2, and (ii) The Marine Environmental Indicators VLab has been developed in the context of the Demonstrator #3 - Marine Environmental Indicators. To support the Blue-Cloud Hackathon held in February 2022 the (iii) Blue-Cloud Hackathon VLab has been developed. Finally, in the framework of the Blue-Cloud synergies programme two additional VLabs were developed as pilots to support the work of (iv) the JERICO-CORE multi-platform research infrastructure dedicated to a holistic appraisal of coastal marine system changes, and (v) the JONAS project, addressing the issue of underwater noise in the Atlantic Seas.

During the 2nd reporting period the final version of the Roadmap was released. The drafting of the Roadmap required close & regular dialogue with key stakeholder communities. The Roadmap, initiated by the Blue-Cloud consortium, has been co-designed with the wider marine and ICT community via extensive stakeholder consultations. With some iterations during the project lifetime, its final version was presented at the Blue-Cloud Final Conference that took place in Brussels on 8 December 2022.

Thanks to effective outreach and dissemination campaigns, consistent dialogue with stakeholders and relevant initiatives & presence at key events, Blue-Cloud went on to become one of the most advanced projects in the EOSC community under H2020, consolidating interactions and collaborations across the board. The follow-up project Blue-Cloud 2026 under Horizon Europe is part of an exciting new round of INFRAEOSC projects, which will contribute to further develop and promote EOSC in scientific communities. Through its synergies and the visibility achieved through its lifetime, Blue-Cloud has also become a relevant actor in the new Digital Twin Ocean ecosystem.
Over the last 42 months the Blue-Cloud consortium projected the original pilot platform to a strategic component of EOSC, a best practice for Data federation in Europe, a needed infrastructure for the nascent European Digital Twin of the Oceans framework & a scientific playground for the EC Mission: Restore our Ocean and Waters by 2030.

The effectiveness of Blue-Cloud was proven by 5 demonstrators that can actively contribute to the UN SDGs, whose services and datasets have been used and integrated in products now part of the offer of long-term Blue Data Infrastructures.

The Hackathon applications have shown the replicability and market potential of Blue-Cloud datasets and services for the Blue Economy.

The architecture of the Blue-Cloud VRE proved to be scalable and sustainable, being fit for connecting additional e-infrastructures, implementing and integrating more and advanced blue analytical services, configuring VLabs, & targeting broader (groups of) users.

The Blue-Cloud 2026 follow up initiative will introduce new ways for adopting additional cloud storage, cloud computing, deep learning and neural networks for supporting big data processes for validation, extraction, interpolation and products generation. Several WorkBenches for selected Essential Ocean Variables will be developed and validated. Data scientists will be empowered with new classes of algorithms for execution in the collaborative cloud environment offered by the Blue-Cloud VRE. The final aim of evolving the service offer and enlarging the number and type of users, giving additional value to the impact of Blue-Cloud.