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Scientific Large-scale Infrastructure for Computing/Communication Experimental Studies - Design Study

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SLICES-DS (Scientific Large-scale Infrastructure for Computing/Communication Experimental Studies - Design Study)

Reporting period: 2021-09-01 to 2022-08-31

Digital Infrastructures as the future Internet, constitute the cornerstone of the digital transformation of our society. As such, innovation in this domain represents an industrial need, a sovereignty concern, and a security threat. Without highly sophisticated and diverse Digital Infrastructures, none of the advanced services envisaged for our society is feasible. Their design, deployment, and operation are critical. In order to research and master Digital infrastructures, the research community needs to address significant challenges regarding their efficiency, trust, availability, reliability, range, end-to-end latency, security, and privacy. The stringent need for a scientific instrument to support the research in this domain is an urgent concern. SLICES ambitions to provide a European-wide test platform, providing advanced compute, storage, and network components, interconnected by dedicated high-speed links. This will be the main experimental collaborative instrument for researchers at the European level, to explore and push further, the envelope of the future digital infrastructures.
The main objective of SLICES-DS was to successfully engage in the design phase of SLICES-RI in order to fulfill the minimum key requirements to enter the Preparation phase. Our primary goal is to develop all the components necessary to design SLICES-RI, organized into five main objectives that structure the overall work plan:
1. To adequately design SLICES in order to capture the demand and strengthen the research excellence and innovation capacity of European scientists in Digital Infrastructures;
2. To accomplish preparatory work and planning of the new Research Infrastructure;
3. To define governance, management, and human resources of the new Research Infrastructure;
4. To define models for the financing of the new Research Infrastructure;
5. To define stakeholder and engagement strategy in community-based research.
SLICES-RI has produced three major outcomes during its journey: SLICES-RI was selected to join the ESFRI Roadmap on Dec. 2021, the SLICES-SC project was selected and started on Mar. 2021 to foster the community, and the SLICES-PP project was selected to carry out the next phase of Preparation of the ESFRI lifecycle and has just started at the end of the SLICES-DS project, on Sept. 2022.
The overarching objective of the SLICES-DS project has been reached, as we have tackled all the key questions necessary to prepare the SLICES Research Infrastructure. Indeed, we have reached the design of the new infrastructure, including technical, financial, legal, governance, and operation details, ready for the next steps in the cycle of pan-European research infrastructures. In particular, SLICES-RI is now widely known and started also to liaise with relevant initiatives worldwide as a community responsibility.
We have collected and analysed the demand from the research community in order to identify and monitor key technologies, research questions, and scientific challenges. This led to the work on the reference architecture. We believe that the softwarisation of the infrastructures as well as the progress of open-source software components will enable us to start a continuous deployment and integration (exp. start for implementation: early 2024).
The community has also onboarded the ESFRI best practices and governance principles. The structure of the final governance is approved by the partners on the principles of a centralized governance and distributed RI, a user-centered RI, and the commitment to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the meantime, an appropriate and efficient decision process has been established; we are in the signing phase of the MoU2 that setup the governance during the intermediary phase until the legal structure is installed.
The Data aspects have been also thoroughly covered, in particular the data protection policies, FAIR data, liaison with EOSC, and how this reflects on the organization of the SLICES governance and operation bodies. We produced a consistent view and technical recommendations on the interoperability and integration with EOSC and external RIs, as well as the adoption of the FAIR data principles in the SLICES-RI. This activity was supported by the active involvement of the project partners in EOSC and other related European and international initiatives.
Dissemination also developed well, branding SLICES as a scientific instrument, engaging the various stakeholders, and organizing various events in order to mobilize the partners and reach out to diverse target groups. SLICES has broadened its community and also disseminated towards appropriate target groups from academia, industry, and government organizations. SLICES is now well established and identified in Europe, the US, and Asia.
The sustainability of SLICES is of utmost importance and is being discussed since its inception. Sustainability is based on a strong identity, a legal framework, and a business model. The legal framework has been defined and is progressing well, allowing an efficient and transparent steering of the instrument, together with a fair decision process. The costs have been studied carefully and all detailed in the cost book with a continuous update. Stakeholder engagement is progressing as we observe that some nodes start also to benefit from national funds, in addition to European funding. We are proud to be now associated with the ESFRI events and discussions that will help us to grow.
The main expected result of the project was the release of the SLICES conceptual design report, at the end of the project. This document confirms the technical and conceptual feasibility and gathers the results and conclusions of the different project activities as well as the recommendations for the next RI preparation phase (SLICES-PP).
At a global level, the project targeted and reached the following impacts:
• Identify the relevant stakeholders of the proposed RI, and include SLICES-RI in the national and ESFRI road mapping activities;
• Define the strategies for engagement with the road mapping activities and the wider RI landscape;
• Reach the decision and policymakers, user communities, and all relevant stakeholders to allow policy bodies to establish the future roadmaps of RIs;
• Secure SLICES funding with a detailed description of the current business model in the Cost book.
• Contribute to the key scientific challenges for the European Research Area, considering aspects such as an experimentally driven approach and data-driven, mandatory for educating future talents, scientific and industrial competitiveness.
• Promote and/or favor any action that could contribute to improving the environmental impact of the RI and also to work towards the objectives of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals;
Last but not least, the consortium understands the importance of the impact assessment of SLICES, within ESFRI. In addition to the impact of the research dimension, it is of utmost importance nowadays to introduce upfront the socio-economic dimension, industrial impact, and dialogue with society. This fits particularly well with the focus of SLICES as the impact of digital infrastructures (Internet, 5G, Cloud, IoT) in the economy and society at large.
The work done in SLICES-DS allows us to fulfill the expectations for entering the preparatory phase and matching its minimal key requirements.
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