Helix Nebula project passes proof-of-concept

Now half way through its pilot phase, the Helix Nebula project is moving ahead with new organizations coming on board


A longer version of the article first appeared on International Science Grid This Week.

Last week, the Helix Nebula consortium held an event at the European Space Agency’s ESRIN facility in Frascati, Italy, to review the success of the project’s proof-of-concept phase. Helix Nebula aims to pave the way for the development and exploitation of a Europe-wide cloud-computing infrastructure. While this is initially based on the needs of IT-intense scientific research organizations in Europe, such as CERN, Helix Nebula intends to also serve governmental organizations and industry.

“Helix Nebula is a partnership that was born out of a vision,” says Maryline Lengert, a senior advisor in the IT department of the European Space Agency (ESA), a founding partner of the initiative. “We want to operate as an ecosystem. Today, the market is fragmented, but we want to bring it together and by doing so we will benefit from the stability of diversity.”

Hans Georg Mockel, who is director of human resources, facility management and informatics at the ESA, says the proof-of-concept phase has demonstrated the feasibility of the Helix Nebula strategy. "Now we're starting the next phase," he says.

The ATLAS experiment at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) forms one of Helix Nebula’s three flagship projects during its two-year pilot phase. At the event in Frascati, Ramon Medrano Llamas of the Experiment Support group in CERN's IT department presented findings from CERN-ATLAS flagship use-case, which has seen the organization gain access to more computing power to perform simulations for the ATLAS detector. This has allowed CERN the possibility to dynamically acquire additional resources when needed. “The proof-of-concept deployment has been very successful,” says Llamas. “Processing in the cloud clearly works.”

Over the longer term, it is also hoped that use of commercial cloud resources could become a useful addition to very large data centres owned and managed by the scientific community.

Read more: "The future for science in Europe is bright – and full of clouds!" – International Science Grid This Week