Cloud computing is expected to play a key role in building European competitiveness not just in the world of business but also in science circles by presenting opportunities to try out new ideas and seed discovery quickly and at a relatively low cost. The true extent of how the cloud will transform science remains to be seen, but testing cloud infrastructures across a broad set of application areas is crucial to understanding its strategic and operational advantages for end-user communities. A number of scientific distributed computing infrastructures are capitalizing on investments made by the European Commission with industry support to test and validate infrastructure- and platform-as-a-service solutions for user communities across Europe. StratusLab (http://stratuslab.eu/doku.php/start) and VENUS-C (www.venus-c.eu) are both good examples of how peer initiatives have embraced the cloud.
StratusLab is developing a complete, open-source cloud distribution that allows grid and non-grid resource centres to offer and to exploit an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud, while VENUS-C has adopted a user-centric approach to develop a robust, industry-quality cloud infrastructure running on an interoperable application environment. Cooperation between these peer initiatives is now playing an increasingly important role in working towards standards implementation by drawing on commonalities to create close synergies on both technical and standards work. This approach is part of a ‘win-win’ strategy to support their joint goal to deploy cloud computing services for European engineering and eScience user communities.
The VENUS-C deployment plan includes the assessment and installation of OpenNebula as an IaaS offering. OpenNebula is a core component in StratusLab. "Signing the agreement formalizes an already productive collaboration between StratusLab and VENUS-C. Further work will help clarify interactions between IaaS and PaaS cloud infrastructures, help improve both projects' software, and ultimately, cloud services for researchers throughout Europe" said Charles Loomis, StratusLab Project Director. VENUS-C is also providing a data management solution with the Cloud Data Management Interface (CDMI) standard developed by the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), which nicely complements the Open Cloud Computing Interface (OCCI) standard developed by OGF. Having the infrastructures of both projects interoperable on the interface level would allow the StratusLab infrastructure to get more application scenarios and provide VENUS-C users with access to more back-ends. "Signed in September 2011, this agreement is very timely as VENUS-C steps into top gear for the second year of the project. Our close synergy with StratusLab will pave the way for enhanced Cloud services for Europe's research community by sharing insights and new know-how from both projects. We welcome this opportunity to work with old and new friends in an evolving landscape", said Andrea Manieri.
The synergy between VENUS and EDGI (European Desktop Grid Initiative, www.edgi-project.eu) extends cloud adoption, complementing desktop grids, which provide computing resources for scientists and citizens across the globe to contribute to scientific research. VENUS-C is providing support and access to its cloud IaaS and PaaS technology offerings for selected EDGI pilots that have received seed funds for experimentation with the ultimate goal of improving the Quality of Service (QoS) of the EDGI production infrastructure. In exchange, EDGI is assisting VENUS-C in deploying in the Cloud images of OpenNebula with BOINC client applications. BOINC enables scientists to plug their own projects into the software, so volunteers can easily download and run applications on their computer. Peter Kacsuk, EDGI Project Coordinator, sees the collaboration as an important opportunity to boost the project’s assets: "The partner agreement with VENUS-C is key for bringing the Desktop Grid infrastructure into the Cloud. In this way, both projects will deliver best efforts to reinforce and integrate the European Cloud and Desktop Grid infrastructures". “We are very excited about creating closer links with EDGI as part of a 'win-win' strategy that will generate new know-how by sharing experiences gained on both sides", said Andrea Manieri, VENUS-C Project Director.
It is unlikely, however, that cloud computing will play a part in every facet of scientific research that requires some form of distributed computing. Cooperation across the six European Distributed Computing Infrastructures is thus vital in defining the interplay of cloud and grid computing in eScience contexts and the value-add of an open standards approach seen as core DCI assets. EGI.eu, which coordinates the EGI-InSPIRE project, acts as an umbrella organisation in coordinating on-going joint cooperation with all six DCIs, spanning European Middleware Initiative (EMI), the Initiative for Globus Europe (IGE) and the projects already cited. Collaborative work focuses on shared priorities to ensure activities are steered towards achieving tangible results integrated into a meaningful concerted effort.
Another mechanism that has recently been put in place is a cross-project agreement to define sustainable assets and capabilities. This agreement, which is coordinated by EGI.eu, fosters an effective dialogue between all the DCIs supported by the Commission’s GÉANT and e-Infrastructures Unit. Collaborative work builds on the sustainability studies driven by individual initiatives with the aim of capitalizing on European investments, now and in the future. “Sustainability has always been a key issue for all of these DCI projects. Understanding the value that each project brings to the ecosystem through its assets is the first phase in working out how they can be sustained. For instance, some assets may be used to build a federated virtualised infrastructure currently being explored by the EGI Federated Cloud Task Force, while other assets will contribute to the platforms that user communities deploy into this virtualised infrastructure”, said Steven Newhouse, Director of the EGI-InSPIRE project.
Cooperation with SIENA (Standards and Interoperability for eInfrastructure Implementation Initiative), whose goal is to deliver a European Roadmap for cloud and grid standards, is another common denominator between the six initiatives. By working in tandem with standards bodies and the six projects, SIENA aims to craft a common vision that brings together the different agendas of stakeholders from eResearch, government and enterprise so that Europe is well positioned to uncover and seize new opportunities over a 1-, 3- and 5-year time-frame. By establishing a close synergy with the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and its own roadmapping for government cloud adoption, SIENA has provided an initial mapping between the NIST technical use cases and cloud usage scenarios being developed by the eInfrastructures for eScience. Integrating standards will ensure a level playing field that supports innovation, interoperability and open interfaces, while also raising the awareness of policy and decision makers and providing guidance to chief information officers as key players on the adoption front
Together with grids, supercomputers and desktop grids, cloud computing is a valuable complement to Europe’s distributed computing landscape, where the ultimate goal is to work towards reinforced e-Infrastructures and develop innovation clusters to boost world-class excellence in research. This objective is inextricably bound up with the Digital Agenda for Europe, which sets out a strategy for sustainable economic and social benefits from a single market based on both fast and ultra-fast internet coupled with interoperable applications. A world-class eco-system of Distributed Computing Infrastructures is expected to empower researchers to generate knowledge that can lead to new and more innovative services as we move towards the EU2020 strategic agenda by enhancing distributed computing infrastructures such as the European Grid Infrastructure(EGI, www.egi.eu/).