Clouds Featured In Focus Magazine

Cloud Services: An Eye on the Future

Words: GÉANT Clouds Team

To identify and deploy above-the-net services, including those suitable for inclusion into the EOSC Exchange marketplace, continues to be a top priority for the EC, to remove geographical obstacles to innovation and bridge the digital divide.

The GÉANT community has already achieved great success in doing some heavy lifting for public procurement of commercial services on behalf of the R&E community. This resulted in existing framework contracts that are used by more than 900 institutions in 26 countries and have delivered greater regulatory security for cloud consumption since 2017. Dependable renewal of these procurements is now of paramount importance to the European R&E community. Based on converging interests, the project partnership between GÉANT and the EC aims to support and accelerate efforts in these areas, and the GÉANT cloud team is focused on ensuring an optimal follow-up on the flagship joint procurement of commercial infrastructure-cloud services on behalf of the European R&E community.

These efforts recognise the need to improve the process of involving NREN stakeholders in the joint procurement, alongside the need to develop a holistic strategy for sourcing infrastructure-cloud services that encompass what is commonly known as “community and commercial cloud” services that address digital sovereignty, data protection, and procurement practices.

A specialised Cloud Strategy Forum was established to address these two needs by orchestrating a collective NREN-community dialogue on sourcing strategy and how best to deploy and manage the optimal mix of community clouds and commercial cloud services. The knowledge gained in the forum will be distilled into strategy guidance to best serve the interests of the entire European R&E community.

The Cloud Strategy Forum convened this past spring to kick off these efforts, opening opportunities for NRENs to provide actionable input for the joint procurement team already preparing for the next round of the pan-European procurement tender.

Representatives of over a dozen NRENs came together with the overarching goal of developing a framework for an optimal mixture of community/commercial portfolio of services and develop best practices to manage this portfolio with appropriate and sustainable acceptance and exit criteria.

Collaboration and consensus

First and foremost, participants welcomed the initiative and the opportunity it offers to improve our collective infrastructure-cloud efforts together, over time, whether they are commercially sourced or developed by the community.

In its first meetings, the forum focussed on the upcoming re-procurement of the joint infrastructure-cloud framework agreements. This offers a great opening to improve the organisation and quality of our demand aggregation required for the next iterations of joint procurement, as the stakes are rising both at institutions, NRENs and suppliers. A more transparent tender process that involves formally appointed representatives from NRENs that understand needs and potential obstacles is crucial to further develop our joint procurement capability. This means building a better understanding of the specific needs and procurement-legal requirements for each country, how to incorporate non-EU/EEA countries and ultimately ensuring as many GÉANT members as possible can benefit from the fruits of the labour: good procurement-compliant deals with commercial infrastructure cloud suppliers. The aim is to not let the strategic NREN involvement end there. Once new framework agreements are in place the involvement can be leveraged to potentially great benefit toward ongoing high-level dialogue between the NREN community, representing R&E institutions, and major cloud providers – with the aim of securing better services for users.

During the summer the focus of the forum will turn more towards a framework for sourcing strategies for infrastructure-cloud. There are good reasons why institutions work with on-premise infrastructure, and why they use public cloud services. In some countries there is a prevalence for one or the other. To get to the stage where the sum is greater than its parts it is particularly important to reach a strong understanding of these different positions in the community and to develop a common vocabulary with which to discuss the challenges surrounding the various ways for provisioning of infrastructure cloud. Only then will it become possible to identify potential collective targets on the horizon which we may want to aim for.

The road ahead

“We’re taking the first steps on a journey through a complex landscape, to systematically investigate if, and how, to deepen our collaboration on infrastructure-cloud to begin with, and general above-the-net services as a next step,”

says Jan Meijer (SIKT), who heads the forum.

“The objective is to identify what we as a collective can and cannot do together in this strategically important area, and that’s what this forum is committed to figuring out.”

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