Science

The ESA & CERN launch massive, Europe-wide, cloud computing platform

The Helix Nebula, Wikimedia via NASA/ESA
The Helix Nebula, Wikimedia via NASA/ESA
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Three of Europe’s largest scientific bodies have joined together to launch a massive continent-wide cloud computing platform for scientific research.

The platform will be accessible to academia and industries across Europe in a few years but before then The European Space Agency; CERN, the home of the Large Hadron Collider; and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) will be the first to use it.

It will be called the Helix Nebula (@HelixNebulaSC | Facebook ), sharing its name with one of the closest planetary nebulae to Earth.

The Helix Nebula, Wikimedia via NASA/ESA
The Helix Nebula, Wikimedia via NASA/ESA

Although the data farm will be tested by the three organizations over two years they will really be putting it through its paces.

Helix Nebula - The Science CloudCERN plans to use the additional computing power to process data from the Large Hadron Collider, to aid in the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle.  The EMBL will be conducting massive biomedical genomic analyses, specifically looking at mammalian genomic research and evolution.  The European Space Agency says it plans to work with French, German and Italian aerospace and research centres to establish an Earth observation system which will monitor earthquakes and volcanoes.

Frédéric Hemmer, head of CERN’s IT department, said;

“CERN’s computing capacity needs to keep-up with the enormous amount of data coming from the Large Hadron Collider and we see Helix Nebula- the Science Cloud as a great way of working with industry to meet this challenge.”

The ESA’s Director for its Earth observation programmes, Volker Liebig, said that the Helix Nebula will give a greater number of organisations access to the space agency’s data,

“Helix Nebula- the Science Cloud is a partnership with the potential to support an utmost exploitation of ESA satellite data, as well as to bring other communities on board to better understand the geophysical phenomena of our planet.”

The initial stages of the Helix Nebula won’t just be a scientific affair, CERN reports that 16 companies will be involved in the system’s development;  these include; Atos, Capgemini, CloudSigma, Interoute, Logica, Orange Business Services, SAP, SixSq, Telefonica, Terradue, Thales, The Server Labs and T-Systems, along with the Cloud Security Alliance, the OpenNebula Project and EGI.eu.

Cnet’s Smartplanet reports that “connections to American services will remain severed” leaving the Helix Nebula platform only available within Europe.  The site says that the cloud platform’s developers are concerned that Helix Nebula data could be subject to the US’s Patriot Act which would allow for private data to be handed over to US authorities.

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Piers Dillon Scott
Piers Dillon-Scott is co-editor of The Sociable and writes about stuff he finds. He likes technology, media, and using the Oxford comma (because it just makes sense).