Back in 2013, the EGI Council endorsed a thought experiment on how a pay-for-use model could be implemented and users could be billed for their usage of EGI resources. Since then, evolution has gone from running a proof of concept involving 30 providers from 12 countries, investigating legal and policies issues and defining pricing to adapting tools such as the accounting portal and drafting agreements and relevant documentation.
One of the biggest questions at the time was that, even if we were able to define and implement such as system, were there use cases within the research community?
Over the last several years, there has been a shift in the way the physical resources are being funded that has presented some challenges for the federation. At the same time, this has led to opportunities from a pay-for-use perspective, as providers have needed to change what they need from the federation from “bringing users” to “bringing funding”.
For the last two years, EGI has been maturing its processes via an EC H2020 project, NextGEOSS, where a dedicated budget was allocated to the EGI Foundation to ensure support for a number of pilots with yet unknown technical requirements. This meant that the EGI Foundation would need to serve as a broker, identifying the relevant providers during the project and managing all finance and administration aspects. This model also had a positive impact on the providers as they would need to be able to associate costs of those services and be able to invoice EGI Foundation.
There are pros and cons to such a model as from the provider perspective – being formally included as a project consortium member offers more visibility and recognition from local authorities, however, is not always favoured by coordinators that by needing the EGI Federation services, it comes with a list of multiple providers that increases administration overhead.
By having a formal redistribution method of funding, providers can be reimbursed for the services they offer, with the flexibility for project coordination. This approach has since been reused with the EOSC-hub project as a mechanism to reimburse service providers for supporting additional use case requests that come during the project i.e. industry pilots via the EOSC Digital Innovation Hub.
What has not changed is that any pay-for-use model will still only complement the current practice of researchers accessing resources that are free at point of use (sponsored access), which were paid upfront by funding agencies. Resource providers have the flexibility to ‘opt-in’ for those who are able and willing to participate in the pay-for-use model.
Future activities are planned to expand the provider pool beyond only the handful of providers that are taking advantage and better understand any blocking issues; reduce overhead between initial contact and service delivery; increase transparency through clear price listings, better defined procedures, guidelines and selection criteria; evolve accounting systems; and conduct a study on the potential of setting up a commercial arm of EGI.
If you are interested in participating in the EGI Pay-for-Use Working Group or have any questions, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org