Building a bridge between SURF’s Research Cloud and the Google Cloud Platform
Collaboration is of the utmost importance in almost everything we do in our daily lives. And this is also the case for any scientific progress made in today’s society. Head of the High Performance Compute Cloud team at ICT cooperation SURF, Ivar Janmaat, aims to optimize collaboration efforts between researchers throughout the Netherlands and beyond. “Scientists just want to conduct their research without having to worry about underlying IT processes.”
SURF is the national cooperation of the Netherlands that among other things supports open science between researchers. The cooperation offers a wide range of services to its members. Janmaat explains: “Our members consist of universities, universities of applied sciences, research institutions and university medical centres. Besides facilitating research, we also support (IT) education, offer network infrastructures and we host the national supercomputer.”
According to Janmaat, you can easily compare SURF to a candy store. “We have a lot of sweet services to offer, but it is up to our members to find out which service fits their needs best. Our research advisors, with experience on how to set up a research environment, can help to select the right components for the workspace.”
Janmaat himself is among other things responsible for the Cloud Management Portal in order for research to be conducted. The portal is a central environment in which you can manage all your research workspaces, also referred to as virtual machines. “We call deployed workspaces a virtual research environment, VRE in short. It is the researcher’s workplace, where the researcher can integrate their data and related software”, Janmaat explains.
High security standards and efficiency
These virtual research environments are built to support virtual collaboration between researchers from different institutions. For SURF, the next step in supporting open science was to make sure these workspaces run on multiple public clouds. “To make this happen, we wanted to connect our VREs with the highly scalable Google Cloud infrastructure. As we wanted to automate most of the IT processes and meet high security standards while doing so, we turned to Omnigen.”
Omnigen was up for the task to build a bridge between these workplaces and the Google Cloud Platform. Certified engineers created a Google Cloud landing zone to connect the Google Cloud Platform with SURF its Research Cloud. As a result, researchers are able to set up their own workspaces in an efficient manner, while also allowing data sharing and workload migration.
Data security and efficiency were the two crucial pillars in this project. “For us, the aim was the creation of workplaces that meet high security standards where researchers do not have to worry about any of the technological aspects”, Janmaat says. “A researcher is not an IT specialist. Researchers just simply want to conduct their research to move society forward.”
These two pillars are also for Omnigen of high importance. “Omnigen had the right expertise to pull this off. Their employees have a lot of knowledge that they easily can translate into practical solutions. The overall collaboration was very pleasant”, Janmaat points out. Berry Kriesels, founder and CEO of Omnigen, agrees. “Omnigen and SURF have a shared ideology. And that is to facilitate high-quality academic research. Because of this shared ideology in mind, our collaboration went and is still going very well.”
And what does the future hold? “We have yet to find out”, Janmaat says. “What we do know, however, is that more research can take place, since the IT has been automated by Omnigen. We can bring different scientific fields together in order to form a community with a variety of datasets. Proving once more that collaboration is key.”