Exploring the landscape of the global e-infrastructures

Gergely Sipos highlights the main outcomes of the RISCAPE report

The RISCAPE project lasted for 2 years, from 2017 to 2019 and had a mission to map the international landscape of research and digital infrastructures, in particular with respect to the major European infrastructures.

The project’s final report – the “International Research Infrastructure Landscape 2019” was published in December last year and covers a comprehensive overview of research infrastructures from the fields of astronomy, social sciences and physics to environmental, health & food and more.

One section of the report features a description of the European e-infrastructures, and an extensive review of the global e-infrastructure landscape. Here are some highlights of this chapter and its main take-aways:

What are digital infrastructures?

E-infrastructures empower researchers with easy and secure online access to facilities and resources and enable them to deliver reusable and reproducible research and innovation outputs. They are the virtual backbone of research and a vital driver for innovation. Without them there would be no sharing of data, no exchange of know-how and no collaboration.

Existing European e-infrastructures and EGI’s role

The report reveals four types of e-infrastructures: network (connectivity), high performance computing (supercomputers), grids & clouds (clusters, grids and IaaS-PaaS-SaaS compute services) and data (storage and data management infrastructures). GÉANT and its NRENs, PRACE and its HPC facilities, the EGI Federation and its NGIs, EOSC, RDA, EUDAT, OpenAIRE, CoreTrustSeal are all introduced within these four areas. PLAN-E, RDA, HPC Centre of Excellences and EOSC-hub Competence Centres are also described to complement the European e-infrastructure landscape with related initiatives.

For example, The EGI Federation stands tall in the grids & clouds section. EGI’s services have been evolving during the years and allowed the Federation to grow outside Europe and establish agreements in Africa-Arabia, Asia-Pacific, China, Canada, Latin America and more.

The global e-infrastructure perspective

The e-infrastructure landscape was prepared by Gergely Sipos on behalf of EGI, and in collaboration with PRACE, GEANT, OpenAIRE – the other European e-infrastructures who best know their domain.

On a global level, NRENs are a large and diverse family, spread across the globe in several regions in Africa, Asia-Pacific and the US. Each NREN organisation reflects the specific local environment, with country-specific peculiarities such as the political situation, the history of the organisation or the national research status.

Regarding HPC efforts, we can see that China’s dominance significantly increased, while the USA’s dominance decreased, and Japan’s and Europe’s have remained constant. Europe requires a unified effort, such as the EuroHPC initiative, to be a considerable player in the race towards the exascale.

The grids & clouds landscape is changing rapidly, with cloud sites starting to dominate over grid clusters and new scientific projects planning their compute infrastructures on clouds. Grid compute clusters are nowadays often hosted inside Infrastructure-as-a-Service clouds, and are often complemented by cloud compute services to absorb peak CPU demands from the grid sites.

Take-away messages and recommendations

In general, the e-infrastructure landscape is quite well connected between the EU and the rest of the world. GÉANT, PRACE, EGI and OpenAIRE have active collaborations worldwide.

E-infrastructure facilities/capabilities are well developed and organised in the US, Canada, Australia and Japan, but the way they relate to one another is often subject to change.

The grids, clouds and data areas are more diverse and dynamic than networking and HPC. Therefore, these areas need stronger ‘human support’ for user uptake, i.e. consultancy, information sharing and training Europe should strengthen support in these domains, especially because human support is one of the most important distinguishing feature of academic solutions over commercial offerings (e.g. over commercial clouds).

Have a look at the full report to find out more about the European and global landscape of digital and research infrastructures.

Gergely Sipos

Gergely Sipos is Head of Services, Solutions and Support at the EGI Foundation.

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