Helix Nebula white paper, BDEC Workshop, Fukuoka – 28 February 2014
The last decade has seen a tremendous growth in e-infrastructure and related activity in a number of research communities as a result of funding by the European Commission in the 7th (and earlier) Framework Programmes and by corresponding national investments. Consequent to this investment in capacity, research communities are presented with several individually excellent, but independent – cross-layer initiatives which present researchers with sometimes inconsistent technical approaches and disjointed managerial structures to achieving a production quality infrastructure. It is being widely recognised that this fragmented landscape has increased the complexity and reduced the willingness of research communities in their adoption of these e-Infrastructure services. Recently, a vision has emerged that addresses this fragmentation by proposing an ‘e-Infrastructure Commons’1, an open environment where researchers can flexibly discover and chose the services and service providers from either the public and private sector that they feel will best meet their needs.
Until recently, accessing research services has been a relatively closed static system with researchers applying to single local, national or European compute and storage service providers, usually through review process to receive (if successful) an allocation of resources on the designated systems. The advent of publicly available commercial cloud services has provided an alternative approach for researchers and research communities. This approach has been further developed within the Helix Nebula initiative through the initial engagement of European Intergovernmental Research Organisations (EIROs), seeing it as a tool to perform generic data transformation processes. The Helix Nebula Science Cloud also brings unique data / knowledge / tools in a cross-domain market place catalysing science data to be seen in a different (un-known) context. Today science communities (earth, life, physics, etc.) want access and integration of many data sets regardless of location in order to address societal grand challenges.