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PICSE & Helix Nebula

The idea of PICSE came about & matured with the experience of the Helix Nebula initiative in which all the three partners forming the PICSE consortium (CERN, Coordinator, CSA, Trust-IT Services) are involved.

The work performed during the Helix Nebula initiative during its two years pilot phase has shown that cloud services are suitable for scientific workloads performed by public research organisations and they are now prepared to consider procuring commercial cloud services on a significant scale.

Within the Helix Nebula consortium, a number of public research organisations have made written commitments to the initiative on the understanding that the services will be made available on a commercial basis. These public research organisations will be one of the key groups of the PICSE Procurers’ Network and include:

Public research organisations, representing both international and national research agencies, have prior experience of cross-border procurements. The international research organisations have selected three flagship use cases, which are being used to assess, evaluate and benchmark their respective ICT service needs. This will provide the initial data for the procurement model and ensure that the model has a European-wide dimension.

  • The CERN - ATLAS8 use case evaluates the use of cloud technologies for the ATLAS data processing, integrates cloud computing resources with the existing ATLAS distributed grid based computing software and services, and implements the ATLAS cloud computing model within its distributed data management, production and analysis system, as well as related tools and services.
  • EMBL9 is broadening the scope of large-scale genomic analysis while limiting capital investments in computing infrastructure. The necessity here is to provide data storage coupled with processing of a complex workflow, which is elastic enough to meet the growing demand for computing power.
  • Through its SuperSites Exploitation Platform use case (SSEP), ESA10 is building an open source, unified ecosystem with improved data products for solid earth data research, providing secure sharing of data, and enabling international collaboration within a larger user base to improve understanding of the phenomena.

The sponsors of these use cases, as public organisations, are subject to divergent jurisdictions and independent procurement processes. In the framework of Helix Nebula, research on existing procurement rules vis-à-vis the requirements and nature of the demand-side organisations led to the identification of two business models, on which PICSE intends to build:

  • Generic Cloud Computing for European Science as a starting point
  • Information-as-a-Service as a long-term goal

The cloud service suppliers, in collaboration with the research organisations deploying these flagship use-case applications within Helix Nebula, have developed a set of draft contractual agreements for an initial procurement of IaaS services with multiple suppliers via a broker-based model over a period of one to two years. The procurement and legal groups within the research organisations are working to ensure that the draft contract agreements conform to their independent procurement processes. The Case Studies will investigate the feasibility and facilitate the concrete preparation of a crossborder PCP or PPI for at least one shared common procurement need.