CERN Embraces Huge Cloud For Scientific Community

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

The CERN laboratory in Switzerland, home of the Large Hadron Collider, is piloting the world’s largest cloud computing environment for scientific research

The CERN nuclear physics laboratory is building a massive cloud computing environment that will allow scientists across the world to collaborate on their research projects.

CERN is best known for its construction of the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which was restarted last month after more than a year of repairs. And now the Swiss lab is exploring cloud computing, and has selected infrastructure from Canadian vendor Platform Computing, to help it build it.

CERN already operates Platform’s LSF grid, a workload management solution for high performance computing (HPC) environments. But now it has installed Platform’s private cloud software and HPC cloud-enabling software solutions, coupled with a Platform ISF and Platform ISF Adaptive Cluster. It says it is looking to create a cloud project which will deliver increased computing performance, as well as better infrastructure services to its 10,000 researchers from 85 countries.

CERN also said the particle physics scientists are working to explain fundamental mysteries of the universe such as why particles have mass and the nature of all the “missing mass” in the universe.

“For CERN’s cloud computing initiative, we needed an infrastructure that would support our existing grid in a heterogeneous environment that could manage both the VMs and physical machines necessary for our researchers to run projects smoothly since their computing needs change constantly as the data is processed,” said Tony Cass, Group Leader, Fabric Infrastructure and Operations, CERN, explaining the reasons for choosing Platform.

According to CERN, its cloud must be able to process massive amounts of scientific data (more than 15 petabytes of data per year) and make sure it is distributed to researchers in near real time. It must also allow scientists to manage workloads themselves, as opposed to a centralised IT management department at CERN’s laboratory near Geneva.