CESSDA asks ten questions to Tiziana Ferrari
Tiziana Ferrari is Director of the EGI Foundation, the coordinating body of EGI, a federated e-Infrastructure set up to provide advanced computing services for research and innovation.
Tiziana is also project coordinator of EOSC-Hub, an EC-funded project which provides resources for advanced data-driven research to European researchers and innovators.
CESSDA asked Tiziana Ferrari to answer a few questions.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
I typically start with some physical activity. I love running and it is easy to do when I am travelling, so I try to make time for this. I find that it helps me maintain focus and balance during my working day. I usually spend long hours in my office at the EGI Foundation at the Science Park, Amsterdam, where I enjoy teamwork. I also have a home office in my hometown in Italy, Gonzaga, a rural village in the province of Mantova, Lombardy.
If you are wondering about Mantova, this is the town mentioned in Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet, where Romeo gets locked in because of the quarantine meant to stop a Black Death pandemic. This sadly reminds me of our present times and the high death toll in my region due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
You are based in Amsterdam. How do you get to work (by foot, by bike, by public transport, by car)?
I go by bike and cycling is part of the lifestyle when living Amsterdam. I cycle past Flevo Park, a heaven for wild birds.
What is the biggest challenge to fulfilling the EGI mission and “federating digital capabilities, resources and expertise between communities and across national boundaries”?
The EGI Federation has been running for 15 years now. It was the first large-scale computing infrastructure demonstrating the technical viability of high-performance data sharing and processing across data centres in Europe, USA and the Asia Pacific region. Thanks to the development and deployment of high-quality middleware, the availability of large capacity network infrastructures, and the pooling of data centres across national boundaries, today we can proudly state that the EGI Federation is the largest computing infrastructure for research in the world.
With our partners in the Asia Pacific region, Africa, China, the US, Canada and South America, we have reached an unprecedented scale. The biggest challenge today is ensuring high availability with our daily operations, while innovating services to meet new requirements from our research communities.
Who are your main users and what are your most popular services?
Many research communities benefit from the advanced data analytics and simulation tools supported by the EGI Federation to scale up their in-house ICT facilities. The largest user community of EGI is made up of 15,000 users and it provides simulation tools for structural biology.
EGI also provides tools for federated authentication, authorisation, accounting, monitoring, and support. These federating services provide a single access channel to distributed heterogeneous compute and storage facilities.
For example, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiments at CERN use the EGI Federation tools to support their world-wide computing grid, LHC is currently the research community with the most demanding data-intensive processing requirements in the EGI Federation and Europe in general.
On an annual basis, the EGI Federation accounts for more than 5 billion computing tasks. Federated Cloud Compute is a novel platform that brings together major research clouds in Europe. It was launched in 2014 and is the service in highest demand in our service catalogue.
Getting researchers from all disciplines to collaborate cannot be an easy task. How do you do it?
Thanks to the pan-European scale of EGI, we work with experts from many international research initiatives. This gives them the opportunity to reuse successfully deployed, robust technical solutions. The engagement with researchers allows us to improve and customise technical solutions to address new requirements and innovate our service portfolio.
Many research communities are an integral part of the EGI Federation, they are funding members of the EGI Foundation, and through their participation in the EGI Council, the communities have the power to determine the EGI Federation strategy and implement it.
In addition to this, we have many collaborations in place. We work on the co-design and innovation of services through Competence Centres, which bring together community experts, service providers and technology providers to develop and prototype new products, or extend existing technical solutions adopted by the EGI Federation.
Competence Centres involve different technical areas, including federated AAI, federated data management and compute management. They give the opportunity to share and extend technical solutions across different scientific disciplines and are a way to ensure cross-pollination.
For policy matters, all communities that are active users of the EGI Federation participate in the User Community Board, where strategy and policy matters are discussed. Workshops and annual conference events are also very important for us, as they are the meeting place for different research communities to come together and discuss new collaborations.
EGI is publicly funded and comprises hundreds of data centres and cloud providers spread across Europe and worldwide. How does your governance system reflect this breadth of interests?
The EGI Foundation is a membership organisation, whose role is to be the federator, i.e. to provide coordination, deliver federation services, define and enforce federation-wide policies, and sustain the technical development of its solutions thanks to the annual fees of its members.
The federation’s members are the providers in charge of funding, procurement, deployment and delivery of the federated facilities. The EGI governance relies on a clear separation of roles and service management activities among its members. The strategic objectives of the members are harmonised by the EGI Council, which is responsible for the EGI strategy. The strategy 2020-2024 was recently released and can be consulted at http://go.egi.eu/strategy.
Can you tell us more about your ambitions for EGI involvement in the EOSC?
We believe that the compute infrastructure, federation services and expertise of the EGI are key assets for the EOSC, especially for the delivery of the Federating Core and the EOSC compute platform. We contribute by pooling facilities that are procured and delivered by the national and international organisations of the EGI Federation.
We will continue to provide services to the EOSC Core, with the technical development and delivery of the EOSC Portal, the EOSC Portal AAI – for secure access to the platform, the Marketplace, as well as federated monitoring and accounting. In addition, we are committed to contributing to the definition of future EOSC operations and the technical architecture.
EGI supports thematic services from research communities that respect the FAIR data principles and make sure that such tools, data and processing services available to accelerate science at an international scale.
The EOSC Digital Innovation Hub, coordinated by EGI, exists to help SMEs and industry develop innovative applications and adopt EOSC services.
Which are your top three use cases or research stories from 2019?
Given the current COVID-19 outbreak emergency, I would like to mention the joint support to structural biologists offered by WeNMR, EGI and the EOSC-Hub EC project through HADDOCK (High Ambiguity Driven protein-protein DOCKing). It is an integrative platform developed at Utrecht University for the modelling of biomolecular complexes. HADDOCK is also a thematic service in the European Open Science Cloud marketplace. The portal is heavily used with >15,500 registered users from >110 countries (see statistics).
2019 was a year full of discoveries in all scientific domains supported by the EGI Federation. I would like to highlight the scientific achievements of the LIGO-VIRGO collaboration which received the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics for decisive contributions to the observation of gravitational waves. In April 2019, the network of gravitational-wave detectors formed by the European Advanced Virgo, in Italy, and the two Advanced LIGO, in the US, detected a signal, named GW190425. It was the second observation of a gravitational-wave signal consistent with the merger of a binary-neutron-star system. Data processing was supported by the data centres of the EGI Federation in Italy, the Netherlands, France, the UK, and Spain, for a total of 1.5 million computational tasks.
More than 2,200 peer reviewed scientific publications were published in 2019 thanks to the federated capacity available in EGI, as reported by the OpenAIRE Monitor service. We are truly proud of this amazing result.
What are you most looking forward to achieving in 2020?
I look forward to supporting the EGI Federation achieve its vision, that all researchers have seamless access to services, resources and expertise to collaborate and conduct world-class research.
As a personal objective, I am looking forward to successfully completing the third and final year of EOSC-Hub, a project that I am supporting as coordinator. I am particularly proud of the EOSC Early Adopter Programme, started in 2019, as it has allowed us to gain insight into researchers’ needs. The programme aims to boost the adoption of EOSC services. Researchers are at the heart of the future architecture and technical developments of the EOSC.
If you were the President of the European Commission for one day, what would you decide?
I would invite all children and their grandparents to come to Brussels to talk about the great peace and solidarity project called the “European Union”.
The EGI Federated Cloud
The EGI Federated Cloud is a IaaS-type cloud, made of academic private clouds and virtualised resources and built around open standards. Its development is driven by requirements of the scientific community.
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