The EGI Federation started in 2004 and has been growing ever since. The EGI Federated Cloud was launched in 2014 and is now the largest research cloud federation in Europe, providing distributed access to data and offering scientific tools that facilitate data computing.
A popular computing platform, the EGI Federated Cloud has seen its use doubled in 2020 and 2021. A constantly growing number of providers participates by providing service provisioning agreements with research communities. Joining the federation allows these providers to easily support international research communities in their distributed data processing and data analytics tasks, while keeping complete control of the allocation of their cloud services and resources.
The EGI Cloud federation builds on a standard-based software stack capable of interoperating with a wide range of cloud-native tools and platforms, including Kubernetes for container execution and IaaS orchestrators (e.g. Infrastructure Manager and Terraform), to deploy and run their applications with minimal or no modifications. Besides the common IaaS features for managing computing resources as virtual machines, EGI cloud enables portability with features such as resource discovery to programmatically locate the best provider for the execution of users workloads, and a central Virtual Machine catalogue. The automated distribution of images so users can find their custom software ready to be used at the providers without worrying about the low level details.
Federation initiatives have successfully demonstrated that data sharing in distributed research infrastructures produces great benefits for the members of the federation. These initiatives facilitate collaboration, from development of networks and communities of practice, to creating technology platforms and formal business agreements. Among all, EOSC and GAIA-X have been emerging as important new federated initiatives respectively targeting the research and industrial community. In recent years, discussion has turned to the opportunities and challenges associated with exchanging data between collaborating parties.
In the recently published article ‘Governance, Architectures and Business Models for Data and Cloud Federations: the EOSC and GAIA-X Case Studies’ (https://zenodo.org/record/4929021) we compare the technical architecture and organizational models of these initiatives and propose the following recommendations to maximize collaboration and effective data sharing across sectors:
These three recommendations are meant to improve collaboration across organizational boundaries, countries and continents. These are essential to innovation, productivity and discovery. Collaboration in research has been encouraged for decades, and international collaboration is the hallmark of key scientific efforts.
Likewise, collaboration in business has been identified as critical to superior business performance and sustainability, offsetting natural incentives to compete. Collaboration and integration in sectors such as mobility, energy, health, agriculture, finance, and sustainable development have been identified by the European Commission as essential to enabling improved efficiency and effectiveness in those sectors while also enabling achievement of the EU’s policies on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and increased resource sustainability.