Thursday, February 23, 2012

On the road to cloud interoperability – Cloudscape IV, Brussels

Today the e-ScienceTalk team is in Brussels for SIENA’s 4th Cloudscape meeting. Joined by bloggers from EGI and Venus-C, we are here to discover the conclusions of the SIENA European Roadmap on Distributed Computing Infrastructure for e-science in Europe. The event was kicked off by Mario Campolargo, Director of the DG INFSO Emerging Technologies and Infrastructures Unit at the European Commission. He outlined the Commission’s aim to support the Digital Agenda by making Europe both cloud active and cloud friendly. Strengthening European cloud service providers will not just mean that we use cloud services more, but will also help to drive the development of these services for our own benefit.

The EC’s strategy has 3 pillars: legal issues, such as security; technical and commercial, including research, security, reliability; and the market, for example looking at deployment and public procurement policies. The strategy tackles these issues individually, but also tracks their interdependencies. Cost reduction is also a driver, but as Andy Powell of Eduserv pointed out, this should not be the only factor – clouds should also provide new services to do new things in new ways.

The EC is looking to SIENA to drive forward the development and adoption of interoperability and standards. The Roadmap demonstrates that Europe has a huge potential for innovation. Campolargo advised the delegates to pay attention to the Roadmap, to discuss it and take note of the recommendations – he’s looking forward to the impetus that the delegates can collectively bring to clouds in Europe.

Jan Duffy of EMEA, the European Medicines Agency, put this work into context for us. The digital universe will grow to 2.7 ZB in 2012, up 48% from 2011, with an increase to 8 ZB expected by 2015. That’s why they call it ‘Big Science’ - 6.5 billion Euros will be spent on cloud services this year.

Martin Walker, the SIENA Roadmap Editorial Board Chair, outlined the road that brought us the Roadmap. The Editorial Board needed to assess the situation, identify challenges and make recommendations. The ultimate aim is to provide transnational access to data and services in the European Research Area. Currently, cloud computing is immature and does not meet all needs of all people. Standardising is complex – on the way, they encountered no less than 39 institutions involved in developing cloud standards.

However, Europe has several strengths at its disposal, including the EC funding framework and the world’s largest, most powerful, most comprehensive distribution computing infrastructure – the European Grid Infrastructure, EGI. Dawn Leaf, Senior Advisor in the National Institute of Standards and Technology also talked about applying the lessons of grid to cloud in the US.

With this in mind, the Roadmap has a range of short and long term recommendations. You can download the full story at, but some of the highlights are: choosing the right technology for the job eg grid, cloud, supercomputing, federating across multiple cloud service providers, identifying business models and establishing an e-infrastructure implementation advisory group. Interestingly, they also call for multinational funding programmes, for example partnerships between the EC and National Science Foundation – with several US colleagues lined up to speak, it will be interesting to hear the reactions to this idea. As Dawn Leaf pointed out, the top ten requirements for cloud in the US are similar to those in Europe – concerns about security, the need for standards, interoperability, portability of data between clouds and clear design goals. However, as Dawn said, “Collaboration is a messy business – not a clear top down, or bottom up process.” No doubt the delegates will be keen to roll up their sleeves and get started!But maybe a coffee first...

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