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Request For Proposals: Exploring Clouds for Acceleration of Science (E-CAS)

Dec 13, 2018, by Howard Pfeffer
Tags: Amazon Web Services, Cloud Services & Applications, Frontpage News, Google Cloud Platform, Internet2 Network, National Science Foundation, Recent Posts, Research & Education Networks

Internet2 is pleased to announce a new project in partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF) entitled “Exploring Clouds for Acceleration of Science (E-CAS).”
 
The ECAS project is intended to accelerate scientific discoveries by leveraging advancements and novel technologies in commercial cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform to demonstrate their effectiveness in supporting a range of applications critical to growing academic and research computing and computational science communities. The project also aims at illustrating the viability of commercial cloud services as an option for leading-edge research across a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines.
 
ECAS will explore how scientific workflows can innovatively leverage advancements in real-time analytics, accelerated processing hardware such as graphical processing units (GPUs), and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and automation in deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications in order to provide digital research platforms to a wider range of scientific endeavors. ECAS intends to accelerate scientific discovery through the integration and optimization of commercial cloud service advancements with cyberinfrastructure resources. It also aims at identifying gaps between cloud provider capabilities and the potential for what they could provide to enhance academic research; and provide initial steps in documenting patterns and leading deployment practices to share with the community. 
 
ECAS recognizes the ways in which cloud computing has revolutionized enterprise computing over the past decade, and how it has become the backbone of the modern economy with commercial sector advances in scalability, elasticity, reliability, security, and sustainability.  The growing use of clouds to support academic and research computing has complemented more traditional research and academic computing environments and has allowed increasing architectural and technological convergence between cloud and traditional computing systems, as well as their service-based usage model. At the same time, the limitations of commercial cloud services in supporting campus-based scientific workloads and usage models, and the lack of adequate software ecosystems required by scientific applications have become more apparent.
 
The ECAS project is governed by an advisory board including academic researchers, cloud service representatives, Internet2 staff and NSF program staff. Proposals will be selected by the project advisory board based on recommendations from a panel of external ad-hoc peer reviewers from the community with proposal-specific expertise. 

Proposals will be reviewed on the extent to which they address one or both of the following two areas of focus:

  • Acceleration of Science (to achieve the best time-to-solution for scientific application/workflows using cloud) and
  • Innovation (to explore innovative use of heterogeneous hardware resources to support and extend application workflows.) 

These focus areas will extend throughout the project’s phases of activity: 
 
Phase I (including the submission, selection, and funding of up to six Phase I projects in which each recipient will have one year to perform an operations study, including partial staff or graduate student support for campus implementation and up to $100,000 in cloud support from a designated commercial provider) and
 
Phase II (including submission, review, and selection of up to two Phase II projects in which recipients will have one year to perform a project including development, including partial staff or graduate student support for campus operations and up to $500,000 in commercial cloud support). In both phases, proposals will be considered for both operations projects (to support efforts with a track record of prior research involving cloud resources) and development projects (to support efforts from applicants with less research experience involving cloud support).  Each phase will be followed by a community-led workshop to assess lessons learned and leading practices.
 
Deadlines and other evaluation criteria
 
The anticipated submission deadlines for Phase I and Phase II proposals will be the 1st of February 2019 and May 2020 respectively. Proposal submission will be electronic via the project website https://internet2.edu/ecas
 
Phase I proposals will need to identify the potential impact on science outcomes through accelerated access to resources, justify the requested resources and platforms, demonstrate feasibility and likelihood of success, illustrate benefit from on-demand commercial cloud resources beyond other options, require scalability and potential for large-scale resource usage, include an innovative use of technology, and argue that they are an appropriate match with resources provided by commercial cloud sources. Phase I proposals will include discussion of general project goals, previous work, methodology, justification of requested resources and usage plan, other computing support, project team qualifications, and campus and national compute environment description.  Phase II proposals will be limited to Phase I awardees and will include the above factors, in addition to discussion of the applicant’s Phase I project results, plans for sustainability and scalability, and future capacity of the Phase II project’s findings as a possible model for effective commercial cloud-supported academic research in other scientific areas.  An investigator may serve as PI, CoPI, or Senior Personnel on only one proposal submission in either phase.
 
Additional information, including FAQs and submission guidelines are available at https://internet2.edu/ecas and will be update periodically as more questions and information is available.
 
For any questions, please contact ecas@internet2.edu.
 
Internet2 looks forward to working with you and the community in this exciting project.