Location: Cisco Systems, 601 Pennsylvania Ave NW, 9th Floor, Washington, DC 20004
Openness to the sharing of research data and outcomes lies at the heart of the academy. It is a cultural ethic dating back centuries when researchers and scholars would find their way to remote regions or major libraries that housed and maintained critically important content. Such institutions act to preserve and maintain the data and research outcomes entrusted to their care — often with a unique approach and culture, in unfamiliar formats and languages that needed to be deciphered and learned.
By mutual agreement, libraries opened their doors to all, perhaps with some qualified limitations, but always with support and guidance on how to best access and utilize their library resources. For their part, researchers and scholars recognized that to gain access, they needed to demonstrate their bona-fides and demonstrate respect for the rules and culture of those places they choose to visit. For all that has changed in this era of cloud, big-data, massive cloud and fog computing capabilities, with data being gathered from sensors everywhere — at the core the problem of supporting remains the same. We must ensure meaningful access to data and research outcomes to all researchers, in all domains, wherever they may be.
The Open Research Cloud Alliance (ORCA) is a collaboration of the international community supporting scientific research computing aimed at identifying and working collectively to mitigate and resolve those impediments, whether driven by technology choice, regulatory obligations or historical practices that interfere in the ability of globally dispersed researchers to effectively gain access to research data and resources. We believe that if left unaddressed, such obstacles will have unfortunate and negative consequences for research and innovation in an era of rapidly growing data and from highly distributed and diverse sources.
In an effort to address these emerging challenges, ORCA was formed and held its inaugural meeting in Boston, MA on May 11th an 12th, 2017, with the ambition of bringing practitioners together to identify and discuss those areas of greatest concern and to then signpost, in the form of a declaration, guidance to technology creators, operators, and vendors on how they may design or temper their cloud products and services to support federating capability of clouds used by researchers globally.
A Cloud and Technology Agnostic Approach
It is recognized that to be successful, ORCA must be about federating all sorts of clouds – inclusive of all private/public open/proprietary cloud technologies. To achieve its goals, ORCA must find opportunities to convene cloud providers supporting researchers to identify and catalogue issues, to engage in constructive dialogue and to reach consensus on the pathway forward to begin actively working towards the establishment of a global, federated scientific research cloud.
Broadly stated, the focus is on the federation of data, identity, security, shared compute and storage; and an interoperable cloud services management platform. During early planning sessions the working group identified a range of issues that warranted further and more detailed exploration. These include: relative focus on policy vs. technical capabilities; dealing with the concerns about the loss of control and lock-in; data ownership/sovereignty and security; federation of identity management and protocols for access and authorized use (across multiple political jurisdictions); shared use, interoperability, mobility and provisioning; and addressing the combination of cultural and technical barriers to effective collaboration.
The first congress and subsequent ones in Europe and Asia/Pacific and North America provide an opportunity for the sharing of both experiences with federation, lessons learned and the identification of best practices that might form the basis of an articulation of principles as the foundations for a document of “confederation”, agreed-to-conventions and the formation of enabling services.
Once in final form, these documents will be shared broadly with the global scientific research community and those institutions, organizations and commercial entities encouraged to adopt and support the conventions and guidance articulated by the community.