The BonFIRE project has pledged to continue giving researchers and SMEs free access to its multi-site cloud infrastructure in 2014, despite the fact it is no longer being funded by the EU.
BonFIRE provides access to large-scale virtualised compute, storage and networking resources using infrastructure across seven European sites (Edinburgh, Poznan, Ghent, Stuttgart, Sevilla, Bristol and Rennes).
Those behind the BonFIRE project claim that it enables developers to research new, faster, cheaper, or more flexible ways of running applications with new business models. SMEs and researchers can use BonFIRE to test a range of cloud scenarios, such as cloud bursting and hybrid clouds, across BonFIRE's five European sites.
Although EU investment of 7.2 million finished at the end of 2013, the infrastructure will continue to operate through the BonFIRE Foundation's core members, which include ATOS, HP and SAP and the Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre (EPCC).
The consortium said demand for BonFIRE's Open Access facility, which gives free use of the facilities to selected researchers and developers, far exceeded expectations.
Vegard Engen of The IT Innovation Centre at Southampton University, who led the Open Access initiative, said: "We've received applications from all over the world including companies, research centres and universities wanting to benefit from our offer.
"The experiments are really diverse, with developers exploiting clouds for applications in health, e-learning, multimedia, smart cities, as well as advancing core cloud/services technologies."
The facility has been used by two SMEs who needed to investigate how to deliver a smoother user experience with desktop-as-a-service, using virtual path slices to create a right of way across the internet without interference.
Other users have investigated automatic elastic scaling in a large and "bursty" anti-plagiarism application, and the provision of high-reliability home monitoring services using large data flows for video and other real-time data.
"By using BonFIRE we have cut the cost of developing applications and accelerated the launch of sleek, new services," said Usman Wajid, future internet researcher at Manchester University. "Because BonFIRE was built for testing and experimentation, it gave us total control and dedicated access to the specific physical machines where we run our experiments.
"We have been able to test various scenarios that reflect the real world, with the additional benefit of being able to observe in detail what happens in complex situations that we control. We have been able to adjust and investigate various cloud computing elements including network events, resource contention, elasticity, data storage using a simple web-based portal."
BonFIRE project director Josep Martrat said: "The lack of commercial cloud testing services used to limit the development of competitive applications. With BonFIRE that issue went away. As BonFIRE was designed and built by service providers for service providers, it provides just the environment testers and experimenters need without compromise and without loss of control and accountability.
The BonFIRE project has run over 30 major experiments to date, exceeding its original goals.
SMEs interested in using the BonFIRE facilities should click here.
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