by Daniel Field (invited article)
One of FP6’s largest projects recently came to a successful conclusion. Over the last four years the On-Demand IT services sector has transformed beyond recognition, both in commercial and research spheres. Here’s how BEinGRID’s legacy lives on in today’s cloud environment.
Back in 2005 it was clear that the prevailing Grid technology paradigm was maturing along numerous technical lines. Efforts were seen to incorporate aspects of SOA, multiagent systems, and semantics. We saw nontechnical aspects such as Grid economics being developed and improvements to the core technologies. However, despite the enormous potential of this technology, real case studies seemed scant. When delivering a pitch for a Grid implementation the same sticking point would appear again and again: “it looks and sounds great, but who else in my business has done it successfully?”
It was the BEinGRID Project that strove to resolve this deadlock. This was a research project with an innovative twist: what if instead of developing new technology and testing it a pilot trial, with the inevitable result that it would never be a perfect match for a second implementation, one started with the existing technology and implemented it in multiple pilots, developing only the missing bits and drawing conclusions for future implementations? What if the project was agnostic to the exact technologies applied? What if what really mattered was the business outcome?
As a consequence, 98 organisations from all across Europe united in what was the FP6’s largest Grid project. Grouped into 25 different pilots, each with an end-user, Grid provider and specialist, they focused on the real business problems faced by the end user and built a solution around them. Each was highly autonomous in their solutions: some used GRIA, others Globus, Glite or Unicore. Some were open source, others proprietary. Some were to be delivered as SaaS, others used in-house. Some were highly successful and others, inevitably, less so.
However, the success or failure of any one pilot was arbitrary to the main goals of the project: the project sought to understand the requirements for commercial uptake; to validate the adoption of the technologies by business; and most of all to develop a critical mass of Grid-enabled pilots, across a broad spectrum of economic sectors.
To this end, a core group of organisations led by international IT services company Atos Origin,, established two groups of consultants, one technical, one business, to work with the pilots, nurturing and advising them during their set up, working with them to develop generic components used across the pilots, as well as ensuring a focus on the business requirements and the steady development of a business plan. As the project progressed the mentors took a step back: what had worked and what hadn’t? What were the rules of thumb for applying the technology? Which tendencies were the business-led pilots showing that would impact the future of the research agenda?
Indeed the very trends that were soon to shake up the sector were observed in the pilots from day one: applications had to have simplicity, to be delivered over the network, to be pay-as you-go, and it had to be affordable. In return the businesses were willing to relinquish some of the tight control they had traditionally enjoyed, indeed in some cases they didn’t even want to know what was going on ‘under the hood’.
Of course it wasn’t long before these characteristics came to define the cloud computing phenomenon that swept through the IT industry like a hurricane. By the end, many of the pilots were basing their future plans firmly in the cloud. However the legacy of BEinGRID was not the cloudification of isolated companies, but an entire body of knowledge on the requirements, business drivers, technical hurdles (with solutions), preliminary results and business potential for the migration of a conventional business solution to the cloud computing paradigm.
These results are available to the public in a variety of formats. Three main books have been authored by the project: a short book, “Approaching the Cloud: Better Business Using Grid Solutions” is available for download from the projects website www.beingrid.eu, and the full length books "Service Oriented Infrastructures and Cloud Service Platforms for the Enterprise - A selection of common capabilities validated in real-life business trials by the BEinGRID consortium" and "Grid and Cloud Computing - A Business Perspective on Technology and Applications" are available for purchase from Springer.
Furthermore, BeinGRID collected and published the results, augmenting them with numerous other articles and software from other initiatives through the portal www.it-tude.com. IT-Tude quickly became a reference point for the cloud community. It continues to be developed, supported by the organisations Atos Origin, CETIC, EPCC and NTUA. Highly recommended is the case study library, with close to 100 case studies.
Four professional demonstration kits were developed comprising videos, software, live demonstrations and other material. Proponents of cloud technologies can freely use these to demonstrate to potential clients how the technologies have been applied and the business value that has been derived from them.
Figure 1: Organisation of the IT-Tude project.
The legacy of the project is larger too than just the results gathered whilst the project was active. Many of the partners have gone on to further develop cloud solutions based on their experiences, as is the case for Atos origin, which has launched the commercial cloud Atos Sphere, and numerous lessons have been learned by all the participants. One of these experiences is the management of a large consortium and the success of the open call method to attract top notch end users. Based on the success of this open call system, it is being rolled out across the entire Future Internet Research and Experimentation programme, being developed as part of the Future Internet Assembly. Incidentally, one of these projects, the BonFIRE project, which is coordinated by BEinGRID coordinator Atos Origin, will soon issue an open call for researchers from the cloud computing community who wish to experiment on their generic cloud testbed.
And thus the results, experiences and conclusions of BEinGRID live on. Both software and know-how continues to be applied in the commercial and research activities of its participants, the project’s published results are available and used by third parties, and we see the application of intangible experience and working practices to future initiatives.
Figure 2: Computational Fluid Dynamics - one of the end user market sectors.
"Service Oriented Infrastructures and Cloud Service Platforms for the Enterprise - A selection of common capabilities validated in real-life business trials by the BEinGRID consortium". Dimitrakos, Theo; Martrat, Josep; Wesner, Stefan (Eds.). 2010, XV, 210 p., Hardcover. Springer - ISBN: 978-3-642-04085-6
"Grid and Cloud Computing - A Business Perspective on Technology and Applications" Stanoevska-Slabeva, Katarina; Wozniak, Thomas; Ristol, Santi (Eds.). 2010, X, 274 p., Hardcover. Springer - ISBN: 978-3-642-05192-0