Session 3: Collaboration opportunities for the economic viability of FIRE facilities and services

Evolution of FIRE: Facilities, Services and Collaboration Strategies for Sustainability, Session 3: Collaboration opportunities for the economic viability of FIRE facilities and services, 18 March 2014, FIA2014, Athens

Milon Gupta, Eurescom and CI-FIRE coordinator, moderated this session on collaboration opportunities to help drive the economic viability of FIRE facilities and services. This multi-faceted session looked at opportunities not only for closer collaboration within Europe but also in the U.S., highlighting the need to push the boundaries and chart a course towards concrete actions. Chief among these actions is defining business models for sustainability, where EIT ICT Labs can play a key role in supporting new pathways.

Serge Fdida, UPMC Sorbonne University & CNRS, gave an enlightening talk titled ‘an Internet of Test Beds’. Test beds have traditionally targeted the research community and to a lesser extent the business community. While there are some important success stories, many test beds have failed to survive beyond the funding cycle. Why? There is no lack of valuable resources. What's more, test beds in Europe offer a rich set of original, cutting-edge and diverse technologies. The problem is that test beds work in silos. They cannot share tools and services. This isolation is one of the main barriers to sustainability. In order to change this, we need to drive forward a federation for an internet of test beds to develop an ecoystem of facilities and services based on openness (at the architecture level). Federation will enable the running of services and tests using resources from autonomous networks to create a playground for the future internet.

The focus on ICT developments by EIT ICT Labs and the ability to help define the right business model are among the main drivers for collaboration, encouraging EIT ICT Labs to explore FIRE test beds as a business component, as we need to ensure operations continue after funding. This role cannot come from universities because it is not part of their mission.

FanTaaStic is aimed at filling current gaps that make test beds attractive to businesses, from new and micro companies to large corporations. FanTaaStic has started with two complementary facilities: the FUSECO Playground and OneLab. The intention is not to target research through EIT ICT Labs but other stakeholders who can help bridge the gap, that is, services for businesses (large and small) and services for education.

Virtualisation and open source are the two key technology accelerators. Virtualisation enables “synthetic polymorphism”, which means diversity of technologies. It can also create policy and security boundaries that are not the same as physical boundaries. Open source can enable a network of test beds are affordable to all. We need to look for ways to make it sustainable, which we can achieve technically with a thin layer that abstracts the underlying layer (e.g. the SFA, a de facto standard). A minimum set of functionalities must expose the resources to users and provide control to the experiment. Peering should be the basis of the business model with no single point of control. Synergies can help drive and support sustainability of test beds.

Serge wrapped up by highlighting the 1st CI-FIRE Workshop with FanTaaStic and EIT ICT Labs on 27 June 2014 in Paris. It will be an opportunity to promote FIRE facilities and further explore pathways to sustainability.

Mauro Campanella from the Italian national research and education network, GARR, focused on perspectives for collaboration between FIRE and GÉANT. GÉANT is the pan-European network that interconnects Europe’s national research and education networks (NRENs). It connects over 50 million users at 10,000 institutions across Europe supporting research in areas such as energy, the environment, space and medicine. It is the network backbone in Europe with a community of 40 NRENs. GÉANT as a community offers core services such as capacity, multi-domain services between countries and campus services, such as Eduroam. The GÉANT backbone connects other countries in the world (65 countries) and it is at the heart of global research in networking. It participates in a series of European projects that are strategic to its development.

Innovation takes place in many areas, more recently in upper layer services. Its advanced service portfolio supports connectivity across Europe, IPv4 and IPv6, monitoring, authenticated and authorised identity, cloud computing, videoconference system. DANTE, TERENA and EU NRENs have a rich expertise that can contribute to FIRE (see e.g. eduPERT for debugging network performance problems). One thing to note though is that the use of GÉANT depends on a project’s specific requirements. Connectivity is always through the local NREN. The access policy of GÉANT does not allow for commercial traffic but pre-commercial research is accepted for specific purposes buts collaboration ends once the research phase is complete.

There are several possible collaborations between GÉANT and FIRE, including FIRE project support. GÉANT has a long experience in managing a production environment, such as solution scability testing, which is important for commercial organisations. GÉANT will also support requirements in FIRE+ (Horizon 2020) through signed agreements (commonly referred to as (a Memorandum of Understanding - MoU).

Mauro wrapped up by highlighting that the sustainability of the software, planning for maintenance and dedicated efforts for modifications and upgrades are very important from a GÉANT perspective.

Wim Vandenberghe, iMinds and Fed4FIRE looked at collaboration between Europe’s FIRE and GENI (Global Environment for Network Innovations) in the U.S., based on an initial joint FIRE/GENI workshop (October 2013) that identified several areas of common interest. When it comes to defining policies supporting FIRE/GENI experimentation, we need a pragmatic approach; ideally a general umbrella policy but perhaps also case-by-case policies. Focusing on policy technologies needed for federated identity management and authorisation could be one way of making experiments easier. There are many benefits of federation, such as enabling experiments across different test beds, a wider geographical area and very large-scale experiments. Inherent challenges of federation include the different interfaces and types of test beds, which impact on APIs (application programming interfaces), as well as supporting users with different expertise, and issues of trust, authorisation and usage policies.

When it comes to education, it is important to facilitate instructors with the right level of support and information services, including lab content. Suggested tools include content + platform (FORGE, GENI Cinema), a lab environment (RAVE, LabWiki), and experimental design (Design Expert, Minitab). The approach should focus on reproducible experiments and best practices for lab resource management.

Discussions to date have also helped build consensus on the need to drive semantically rich descriptive mechanisms. Another pre-requisite is finding an evolution path that works for most of the stakeholders. Other areas of common interest are merging application-programming interfaces (APIs), e.g. OpenSFA and GENI efforts/documents, and conformance testing, such as cross-testing (US-EU), leveraging on common test plans. But perhaps the most important area for co-operation is on tool/interface-driven design to evaluate usability with user experience being critical for successful mainstream adoption. There are enough users to drive this usability analysis, making it a priority moving forward.