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New Framework Expands Google Cloud Access Globally

As part of our commitment to supporting pioneering research globally, Google Cloud is proud to announce that its services are now available to participants in the OCRE (Open Clouds for Research Environment) framework. Co-founded in January 2019 by GÉANT, the leading technology organization for higher education and research institutions in Europe, the OCRE framework facilitates access to cloud computing for more than 50 million users across thousands of research institutions in 40 European countries. In January 2021, OCRE also announced over €1M in funding for fifteen innovative research projects in astrophysics, healthcare imaging and drug delivery, climate research, machine learning, and AI.

OCRE’s Cloud Catalogue lists all the compliant digital services providers for every participating EU nation, as well as contacts at local National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) to fast-track cloud adoption. As part of the OCRE framework, ComputasRevolgyTelefonica, and Sparkle, a division of Telecom Italia, have been chosen as partners to distribute Google Cloud solutions to GÉANT’s member institutions in their move to the cloud. Sparkle, for example, offers procurement consulting, technical support, and training to regional customers in 27 EU countries.

Cloud computing offers compelling advantages to researchers—from accelerating the speed of processing massive datasets to improving collaboration through shared tools and data storage. But it also presents some administrative hurdles in a complex legal and regulatory environment. The OCRE framework aims to encourage adoption of cloud services and ease the transition to the cloud with benefits like:

  • Streamlined procurement process with ready-made agreements that can be tailored to each institution’s needs
  • Up-to-date compliance requirements and built-in data protections
  • Special discount pricing and funding opportunities

Google Cloud services are already helping to accelerate significant research across Europe. The Biomedical Informatics (BMI) Group run by Dr. Gunnar Rätsch at ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) draws on huge datasets of genomic information to answer key questions about molecular processes and diseases like cancer. Now the BMI Group team uses Google Cloud Storage to manage sequencing data and Compute Engine’s Virtual Machine (VM) instances to process them. Their flexible solution, called the Metagraph Project, is able to process four petabytes of genomic data, making it the largest DNA search engine ever built.

A team at Rostlab in the Technical University of Munich (TUM) developed ProtTrans, an innovative way to use machine learning to analyze protein sequences. By expanding access to critical resources, ProtTrans makes protein sequencing easier and faster despite the challenges of working during the pandemic. Ahmed Elnaggar, an AI specialist and a Ph.D. candidate in deep learning, points out that “this work couldn’t have been done two years ago. Without the combination of today’s bioinformatics data, new AI algorithms, and the computing power from GPUs and TPUs, it couldn’t be done.” 

Faced with a rapidly-changing research climate, these research teams found creative ways to rethink their workflows with the flexible, powerful resources of cloud computing. “IT procurement in universities is often optimised for long research projects,” says André Kahles, Senior Postdoc in the BMI group. “You’re locked into infrastructure for four to five years, without much flexibility to adapt in fast-paced projects. Google Cloud lets us constantly readjust the setup to our needs, creating new opportunities and preventing us from spending money on infrastructure we can’t use optimally.”

To join the OCRE community and take advantage of special cloud access, discount pricing, and funding opportunities it offers, visit the ComputasRevolgyTelefonica, and Sparkle websites depending on your country. To find out more about Google Cloud programs and initiatives for Higher Education and Research, including our Cloud Research Credits program, click here.

By Emma Fish(Google for Education Head of Business Development)
Source: Google Cloud Blog

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