The INDIGO-DataCloud project, with the objective of developing a new CLOUD software platform for the scientific community, has been approved by the European Commission within the scope of Horizon 2020. 26 institutions and major companies from 11 different European countries, coordinated at the European level by the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN), are participating in the project.

The INDIGO-DataCloud project, which will finance with 11 million euros in 30 months the development of a Cloud software platform for scientific research, has been approved within the scope of the Horizon 2020 programme. With INDIGO, which will be coordinated by the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN), for the first time 22 leading scientific institutions and 4 major companies from the 11 countries involved have joined forces, linking the major European developers and providers to create a Cloud platform that meets the specific needs of researchers in a wide spectrum of disciplines. The world of European research has in reality been working for many years to build a distributed and shared computing infrastructure, the European Grid Infrastructure - EGI, which interconnects hundreds of supercomputing centres across Europe via Grid SuperComputing technologies and which was created to store, distribute and analyse, among others, the hundreds of millions of gigabytes of scientific data produced by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN.

The new initiative, which is however based on the Cloud supercomputing model, will constitute a decisive step forward towards the implementation of a more flexible supercomputing infrastructure at the European level, able to better meet the needs of a much larger number of different research areas. The construction of the Grid had in fact as its primary objective the sharing of computing resources, with a view to an extremely complex task, such as the analysis of the LHC data.

“With this project - explains Davide Salomoni of INFN-CNAF in Bologna and Principal Investigator of INDIGO - our efforts will focus on building a software platform which will be completely free of charge and open source, able to operate on both public as well as private network infrastructures. We will thus be able to respond at the same time to the calculation, processing or data storage needs of researchers from very different disciplines, without having to rewrite the software from scratch each time, through the use of common functionalities provided by the INDIGO platform.” In essence, researchers will have a tool at their disposal for easy access to computing resources and shared storage and thus be able to complete the most complex calculations and processing that they would not be able carry out with only a few computers or the computer centre of their laboratory or institution. For example, leading-edge research groups in the biomedical field studying protein structures with applications in the diagnosis of diseases or synthesis of new drugs are participating in the project with great expectations. The INDIGO platform can also be very useful for managing the large data archives of museum works or library catalogues. And, in the future, it could allow laboratories and computer centres to integrate their resources with those of external providers, thereby optimising the use of resources and decreasing costs. These cases will pose new problems in data security and privacy for which ad hoc solutions will be developed, given the importance of these issues for basic research, of even greater relevance in the biological and medical field.

“In any case, our goal - concludes Salomoni - is to provide the European research community with a tool that can increase its possibilities of access to distributed IT infrastructures. And in this way increase the ability of European scientists from all fields to solve problems and make new discoveries."

INDIGO has as industrial partners four major European ICT companies: Italy's Santer Reply, Germany's T-Systems, the multinational Atos and Spain's Indra. In the project are involved Research Institutions and University from Italy, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Poland, United Kingdom, Czech Republic and Croatia. Among the others participating in INDIGO are CERN (European Organization For Nuclear Research), DESY (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron) in Germany, CNRS (Centre National De La Recherche Scientifique) in France and STFC (Science & Technology Facilities Council) in United Kingdom.

Within the scope of Horizon 2020, there is another major European project recently approved by the European Commission, EGI - Engage, which aims to broaden and strengthen the existing European research computing infrastructure.

The European initiative in this field will also be presented to the media and the US research world within the scope of the annual conference of the American Association for Advancement in Science (AAAS) in San Jose, California, in February 2015.