Cern first in line for new “Helix Nebula” cloud

European consortium establishes cloud computing system

Cern's computing storage needs were huge even before the LHC in 2008 began to require the data storage equivalent of a stack of CDs 20 km tall, per year. To handle this amount of data, Cern developed the Grid, allowing processing power to be shared between computer centres around the world. The time has come for Helix Nebula, the next step in storage space solutions.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Three major European science organizations are joining forces to build a heavy-duty cloud computing systems that will bear the weight of their scientific research data, Cern in Geneva announced 1 March.

Cern (European Centre for Nuclear Research) will be the first to use it, to have more computing power to process data from its international Atlas experiment at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider).

“Helix Nebula”, or the science cloud, “will support the massive IT requirements of European scientists, and become available to governmental organizations and industry after an initial pilot phase”, says Cern.

Two-year pilot projecct

Helix Nebula will be deployed and tested during two years, based on three flagship projects proposed by Cern, EMBL  (European Molecular Biology Laboratory) and ESA (European Space Agency): to accelerate the search for the elusive Higgs particle, to boost large-scale genomic analyses in biomedical research and to support research into natural disasters.

The partnership is looking to establish a sustainable European cloud computing infrastructure. Industry will be called on to support it in order to provide “stable computing capacities and services that elastically meet demand”, but the names and commitments of these partners were not revealed Thursday.

From Higgs to genomes to earthquakes, all in the cloud

The EMBL is setting up a new service to simplify the analysis of large genomes, such as those from mammals. “The quantities of genomic sequence data are vast and the needs for high performance computing infrastructures and bioinformatics expertise to analyse these data pose a challenge for many laboratories,” says Rupert Lueck, head of IT services at the EMBL. Its cloud-based whole-genome-assembly and annotation pipeline relies on expertise from the Genomics Core facility in Germany, the EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute, and its Heidelberg’s IT Services.

The ESA is partnering with the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) in France, and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) is collaborating with the National Research Council (CNR) in Italy, to create an Earth observation platform focusing on earthquake and volcano research.