At the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, the clouds are full of data: The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's largest machine, performs more than two million tasks per day in its search for dark matter, producing more than 25 petabytes of data annually. (For comparison: 1 petabyte corresponds to a thousand times the amount of a terabyte, i.e. a standard hard disk size today). One of the current projects at CERN is CLOUD, but this is only indirectly related to cloud computing. The acronym stands for “Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets” and serves to explore the possible connection of cosmic rays and earthly cloud formations. CERN scientists hope the project will provide insights into the atmosphere and climate. The cloud is nevertheless represented in the project: as an IT infrastructure for processing and evaluating project data.
The huge amount of data generated by the LHC and the climate research project requires a powerful cloud environment. In order to create such an environment, a European initiative led by CERN and with partners such as the German DESY or the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has launched the Helix Nebula Science Cloud (HNSciCloud). One of the contractors of the science initiative is A1 Digital, which has been counting the cloud platform Exoscale among its products since August 2017. Unlike commercial cloud providers, which are not widely used in publicly funded science, the HNSciCloud initiative connects cloud partners with research institutions. They can offer their services at a manageable cost with the necessary security for infrastructure and data.
The trusted cloud providers must meet the following criteria, among others:
- Performance and data storage must be able to handle petabyte data sets.
- Cloud solutions must support container technologies for the development and distribution of software solutions.
- Network connectivity and identity management
- Provide service and support
- Present payment models that are of interest to the scientific community.
In April 2017, a total of three consortia were formed to develop and deploy the prototype of the science cloud. As a member of one of the consortia, A1 Digital contributes 10,000 CPU cores with Exoscale and additional storage space for one petabyte of raw scientific data. The orchestration of the syndicated cloud solution led by the Belgian Rhea Group is carried out by its subsidiary SixSq. All scientific groups connected to HNSciCloud have access to the data to test their applications and collaborate with other research institutions on long-term science projects. With its openness and interdisciplinary approach, the science cloud is a major step towards research and innovation on a large networked level.
The initiative to create HNSciCloud led to the creation of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) of the European Union (EU) in April 2018. The aim of the open cloud is to provide the 1.7 million scientists and more than 70 million science and technology workers in Europe with a virtual environment for storing, managing, analysing and re-using research data across national borders and research disciplines. To this end, the EU Initiative and HNSciCloud bring together public research institutions and their internal IT organisations with commercial cloud providers to offer Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) to scientific institutions for the cost-effective use of cloud services.
A1 Digital's Exoscale cloud solution offers businesses of all sizes access to state-of-the-art cloud infrastructure: highly available servers, redundant data storage, GPU servers for demanding IT tasks. The servers are located in European data centres that meet the high requirements of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Exoscale provides cloud hosting with a focus on simplicity, scalability, and security for SaaS businesses and web applications. Thanks to a simple and intuitive web administration interface, coupled with a transparent pricing model, Exoscale makes complex infrastructure concepts easy to implement. Exoscale relies on fast and flexible self-service solutions for customers.