The bottom line is that coordinating and maintaining a quality infrastructure costs time and money. The EGI ecosystem is a complex web of many different actors, from EGI.eu as a coordinating body across its resource infrastructure providers, technology providers and user communities. These actors undertake the provision or consumption of human, infrastructure and technical services within the EGI ecosystem. As a result, sustainability of these services becomes the biggest factor not only from a technical perspective for the users that use them, but most importantly, from a financial perspective so that these services continue to thrive.
The European Commission has invested heavily in e-Infrastructures over the past decade, which is now being exceeded by national investments. The importance of these e-Infrastructures to the communities that use them have grown to the point where they are now essential for their daily work. It is therefore necessary that the discussions started in the EGI_DS project that motivated the establishment of EGI continue in order that all the stakeholders within this ecosystem can collectively ensure its existence for years to come.
To ensure sustainability, NGIs, institutions and/or users will eventually need to pay in some form or another for the resources and services they currently may use for ‘free’. As the community shifts to a more service oriented model, the pressure on the providers to ensure that the services offer ‘value for money’ will certainly increase, as will the community’s ability to compare running costs of resources centers versus buying them from commercial providers and evaluate the economic value that e-Infrastructures provide. The revenue gained from charging for service use will make it easier for those services to be maintained sustainably, and for user communities to focus on research rather than being involved in running the services they use.
As a result, we have recently produced an EGI Sustainability Plan (http://go.egi.eu/313) providing a comprehensive list of the wide range of services that EGI provides and outlined a taxonomy of potential business models in order to sustain these services for future discussion and exploration. The number of business models identified defines sources of revenue and support through fixed fee-based and usage-based models, free to use models, in-kind effort sources and public funding.
As a preliminary assessment, we have started to match the defined business models to the services provided within the ecosystem, which includes initial feedback from the EGI Council, and outlined a set of recommendations for accounting and billing development moving forward. The report provides a means to structure and direct discussions, which will take place through consultative workshops amongst the stakeholders and start to assess the true viability of the different services to different business models.
Due to the interdependencies within the EGI ecosystem, this new direction offers a unique opportunity for creativity and flexibility to keep effort flowing between the EGI community, who could serve as both consumers and providers!
So just leaves one question…what do you think?