Blog Post

Clouds and nebulas: How the European Space Agency is using the cloud for research

European research agencies like the European Space Agency and the CERN Hadron Collider have the kind of massive data-crunching needs that require a cloud environment, but until recently there wasn’t much of a cloud-provider market in Europe — so the agencies decided to try and jumpstart the process with a project called Helix Nebula, ESA senior advisor Maryline Lengert told attendees at the Structure:Europe conference in London on Thursday.

Lengert said that Helix Nebula started with a pilot that included the European Space Agency, the CERN nuclear research lab and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. The pilot was made up of three separate research projects: The space agency was focused on research into volcanoes and their impact on earthquakes and the molecular biology lab was doing DNA-related research, while CERN was crunching some of the numbers coming out of the Hadron Collider.

The idea was to see whether information could be exchanged across those different projects and platforms in a federated data environment, Lengert said.

The pilot project worked, so the three agencies decided to open up Helix Nebula to outside projects, and eventually selected three of them: one related to large-scale weather forecasting, one involving oceanic research and another doing neuroimaging for medical research so that “researchers can have the results before the doctor forgets the question,” Lengert said.

The federation of this data across multiple projects was successful, and so Helix Nebula is being expanded even further and now has more than 35 public- and private-sector partners.

Check out the rest of our Structure:Europe 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:

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A transcription of the video follows on the next page