On 9 and 10 May 2023, the first All-Hands meeting of the GÉANT GN5-1 Work Package (WP4) focusing on Above-the-Net services took place in the charming neighbourhood of Charlottenburg, in Berlin. Project participants, representing NRENs from all across Europe, came together to introduce their activities, discuss their plans, and identify synergies across the different tasks.
Organised by WP4 and hosted by the German NREN DFN, the meeting kicked off with an opening address by Work Package leaders Jakob Tendel (DFN) and Maria Ristkok (EENet), who presented the overall context of the GN5-1 project and its core action areas, together with the specific objectives and timeline of WP4.
Following initial warm-up activities, different task leaders took turns to introduce their tasks, starting from the user-facing delivery chain task (T1) led by Eva Nestorovska (MARnet), which provides horizontal support to the entire work package by taking care of communications, training and capacity building, and by organising the bi-weekly Cloud Forums with Cloud Service Delivery Managers (CSDMs) in the GÉANT community.
Commercial cloud procurement: unlocking the potential of clouds for European R&E
Delivered in 2020 by the OCRE (Open Clouds for Research Environments) project, the 2020 IaaS+ Framework is the flagship initiative of the GÉANT Cloud team, enabling more than 10,000 Research & Education institutions across Europe to easily access a broad and varied catalogue of cloud services, at reduced costs.
Following the successful completion of OCRE in December 2022, the support to the current framework is now continuing via the GN5-1 project. Task 2 vendor-facing delivery chain, presented at the all-hands meeting by Garvan McFeeley (HEAnet), will have a key role in that, by taking care of vendor engagement and contract management, operating the service desk, collecting data and producing reports on the framework usage and consumption.
A central topic of discussion in Berlin was the re-procurement of the flagship IaaS+ Framework, one of the main high-level objectives of WP4 over the course of GN5-1. Monique Pellinkhof (GÉANT), leading the task in charge of Infrastructure Cloud procurement (T3) addressed the participants:
“As we prepare the procurement of the next framework, we are now entering into a critical phase. It will be of fundamental importance at this stage to correctly spell out and reflect the requirements of the different NRENs, and understand the needs of our community. Defining WHAT we will procure – what type of services – and for WHO exactly – which NRENs and organisations – will then determine HOW we will run the procurement and its effectiveness in the near future”.
Above-the-net development: spinning-out successful services and pulling-in innovative ideas
In parallel with its procurement activities, the GÉANT Cloud Team will also continue the work on the development of “Above-the-Net” services, while at the same time introducing new aspects in the selection, development and lifecycle of these services.
In this regard, a new sub-task (T5.1) presented at the meeting by Dave Heyns (GÉANT) aims to implement an incubator dedicated to fostering innovation in our community by supporting the development of new community services. Next, Bartek Idzikowski (PSNC) introduced the ongoing work in sub-task 5.2 to support the spin-out of the open-source, web-based videoconferencing platform eduMEET from the GÉANT project environment into a wider community-financed model – a process that will serve as a proof of concept for similar future service transitions.
Towards stronger cloud collaboration: a new Cloud Strategy Forum
As GÉANT’s activities in the public procurement of infrastructure cloud services on behalf of the European R&E community expand in scope and significance, a need for more substantial involvement of NREN stakeholders in the procurement process and for deeper strategic community collaboration on infrastructure cloud is gradually emerging.
Furthermore, the two aforementioned main streams of work within the work package – the procurement of commercial cloud services and the development of community cloud solutions – have historically operated in parallel in the GÉANT community, with some NRENs tending more towards one area or the other.
Probably no place more than Berlin – a city historically split in two and then reunified – was better suited to host discussions on the new Cloud Strategy Forum, which aims to establish a continuous dialogue across NRENs on unifying these two approaches in a coherent community strategy, as well as on the development of an holistic strategy for sourcing infrastructure-cloud services.
Led by Jan Meijer (Sikt) as part of the WP4 Strategic Planning task (T4), the Forum is now initiating its activities and aiming at full involvement of the community of European NRENs.