Monday, June 27, 2011

R&E network JANET to broker cloud services for research at UK universities

[I am pleased to see that JANET and SURFnet are once again at the forefront of some very innovative new services such as national wireless and now brokering cloud services.
R&E networks are at their best when they undertake disruptive innovation by first introducing services that benefit initially the higher ed sector but eventually also transform society. The classic example is the introduction of the Internet, which at first was dismissed by the incumbents as an “academic toy”. But other examples include deployment of dark fiber, open lightpath exchanges, federated identity, eduraom and user controlled networks.
Today’s announcement by JANET to provide brokered cloud services is a great example of the important ongoing role that R&E networks in disruptive innovation. In today’s global environment of drastic budget cuts, R&E networks need to find solutions that help their client institutions reduce costs and yet at the same time enhance research and education while providing sustainable income for the network itself. As the eminent computer scientist Dan Reed noted in his recent blog  “the need to continue to democratize access to HPC, targeted the "excluded middle," those potential and actual technical computing users who need more computing than available on desktops but who find traditional HPC too difficult to use. They are the majority of scientists and engineers.” Some estimates suggest that 85% of research computing is of this category as opposed to traditional high end HPC.
As we have seen in UK and The Netherlands this is great opportunity for R&E networks to act as brokers between commercial cloud providers and researchers who need these types of computing. Not only does this provide a new revenue source for the R&E networks I have long argued it can be largely paid for by the energy savings alone by eliminating the thousands of small clusters scattered across our campuses. The trick in doing this is transferring the energy savings from the facilities or estates department to the researchers themselves. Many electrical utilities also offer special incentive programs to help institutions reduce their energy consumption of research computing. Again R&E networks can help broker the terms and conditions between the utilities and the institutions to earn these valuable credits. For example as part of the CANARIE funded Greenstar program, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) is developing a Green IT standard that will help quantify the energy savings of using clouds and how to document the savings are real and permanent. R&E networks can also partner with companies like Enomaly which specializes in cloud brokering to help scale up their service to reach universities, schools and other institutions and tap into the growing of many companies offering free cloud services for research computing. Some pointers - BSA

HEFCE and JISC to Deliver Cloud-Based Services for UK Research
Dan Reed: HPC in the Clouds
Overview of Energy savings and Clouds for Research
SURFnet: Community Cloud Models and the Role of the R&E network as a broker for cloud services

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