It seems everyone today is rushing to build yet another infrastructure, yet another Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud. We all think we are a snow flake more special than all the others but at some point, we need to take a good look around and come to terms with reality. We are not going to be able to build a better, more efficient IaaS infrastructure than AWS. We will not be able to compete in a market space where prices are on a race to the bottom.
We are not going to bend the trend of inevitable consolidation which represents the market clearly signaling that there is no need for many cloud providers. If a company like HP, with its significant financial resources waffles between becoming an IaaS or not, research infrastructures should definitely not employ tax payer money for yet another OpenStack deployment. There is no argument that can stand to justify such course of action. Period.
What makes an IaaS successful? Big upstart pockets, an exquisite implementation of DevOps, an ecosystem of people, organizations and companies developing cool new capabilities and services and yes, some technological innovation that will provide temporary (key word “temporary”) differentiation. If we look at research infrastructures, we hardly have experience in either of these key areas except maybe technological innovation however, even that is limited. The technological innovation needed here comes from experience with operating large infrastructures and not from putting together platforms that support specific scientific projects. This is not to mention that we bet on one cloud automation and then had to change course to where all the industry is going: OpenStack.
Let us step back from the coolness of building our own little cloud and think about our customer: the scientist, the researcher, the student, the innovator. These people and their projects are very similar to startups, what they need is a platform, not another IaaS. In today’s World where you can get modules for virtually every function you need and all you have to do is stitch them up into the service or functionality you need, who wants to deal with yet another IaaS? The research community would be much better served by a platform that leverages the many IaaS options available, that brokers between the researchers and the cloud providers out there who know the infrastructure business very well.
We already have a great asset, the backbone that can deliver access to these various resources. That asset is called GEANT. We already have a unique expertise, the knowhow of managing a federated environment. The European Research Space has the resources and experience to become a Cloud broker for all it constituents. Lets invest smartly in what our customers, the researchers, the academics and students need: Services, Tools, Applications. The alternative is a tax payer money black hole that cannot be justified by any of the fast arguments we are bound to hear: security, performance, customization. All of those are already covered and delivered at much less costs than could be built by the community from the ground up. Moreover, as a broker, as a large community, this platform can drive the IaaS providers and can influence them in the pursuit of specific capabilities and services.
The fastest growing market segments for SaaS adoption are the education and the health sectors. There are plenty of reasons why SaaS is chosen and not IaaS. The facts speak for themselves, let us focus on the more important challenges at higher level of the stack. Let us focus on the users of Scientific infrastructures and their true needs.