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Hurry up, EU: CERN boffins need clouds to hunt Higgs boson

Interview with Bob Jones, The Register, 14 June 2012

Physics boffinry centre extraordinaire CERN would love to be processing its reams of research data in the cloud, if only Europe would hurry up with a regulatory framework. Bob Jones, head of openlab at CERN, said that not having standards and a legal framework in place that applies across Europe is holding up its move to the cloud.

CERN has 20 members, all European countries, and its data sits in 130 data centres across the world. The Large Hadron Collider and its attached experiments generate information in mind-boggling quantities, which all has to be processed so boffins can make their findings public. The four major experiments at LHC – Atlas, LHCb, ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) and Compact Muon Solenoid – generate 1 petabyte of raw data per second...

CERN has to move with the times and see what cloud can do to handle its big data. The research body is currently in its first year of a two-year pilot phase testing European cloud computing platform Helix Nebula - aka "The Science Cloud". CERN, the European Space Agency and the European Molecular Biology Lab are working together to use Helix Nebula as a cloudy testing ground. “At the moment, we’re looking more at infrastructure as a service,” Jones said, “starting at the bottom and working our way up.” At the moment, all of CERN’s data centres are publically funded, so it wants to see if it can start using commercial data centres for additional capacity. The pilot phase will run until the end of 2014 and it will be trying to assess a whole host of issues that moving science into the cloud could cause.

“We will be looking at security, reliability, data privacy, scalability, network performance, integration, vendor lock-in, legal concerns and transparency,” Jones said.

“If that works, we want people to tender at the end of the pilot phase.”

View the full interview.

 

HELIX NEBULA PARTNERSHIP

Helix Nebula is a new, pioneering partnership between leading IT providers and four of Europe’s biggest research centres, CERN, EMBL, ESA and PIC, charting a course towards sustainable cloud services for the research communities - the Science Cloud.