EIROforum Launches Helix Nebula European Science Cloud

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The public-private partnership hopes to solve the greatest scientific challenges of our time

A new cloud computing platform that will provide services for a number of major European scientific organisations has been presented at the Cloudscape IV conference.

The platform, named after a large planetary nebula in the Aquarius constellation, will form part of the wider Digital Agenda for Europe.

In the name of science

Helix Nebula was conceived last year by the European Space Agency (ESA) to provide cloud services to space exploration and scientific organisations in Europe. It was later joined by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and other members of the EIROforum research organisation.

Helix Nebula aims to establish a sustainable multi-tenant cloud computing infrastructure in Europe, based on the needs of scientific community. It will bring together commercial services from multiple IT industry providers, and promises to adhere to the highest quality standards. The scheme will become part of the Digital Agenda for Europe, which will be presented by European Commissioner Neelie Kroes this summer.

All participating supply-side providers and demand-side organisations will become part of Consortium with free membership, governed by strict confidentiality agreements, as it is expected that Helix Nebula use cases will include data that is personal, of economic value or of national importance.

Commercial service providers which have confirmed their participation in the public-private partnership include Atos, SAP, Logica, T-Systems, Sixsq, CloudSigma, Interoute and Telefonica. More supply-side members could be added following the Proof of Concept stage sometime in 2012.

The Helix Nebula project will start with three high-profile “flagship use” cases. Firstly, CERN will use the cloud to crunch data from the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator and secondly, EMBL will study genomic assembly using the resources of the cloud. Finally, ESA and other space agencies will launch SuperSites Exploitation platform that aims to advance the scientific understanding of the physical processes controlling earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

It is hoped that the unified scientific cloud will make cross-discipline collaboration and research easier and in the future help tackle problems as climate change, water and food shortages, and the aging of the world population. The programme entered its pilot phase this year, and could become a full-scale cloud market by 2014.

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