NSF-funded CloudBank Now Operational

The eScience Institute at the University of Washington; the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California San Diego; the Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society at UC Berkeley; and Strategic Blue have entered production operations of the CloudBank program, which aims to simplify the use of public clouds across computer science research and education.

CloudBank is the result of a mid-2019 $5 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to the partners to develop a suite of managed services that will simplify public cloud access. Over the past year, the CloudBank team has been working with public cloud providers, early users, project advisors and the broader computer science community to develop the processes, tools and outreach materials that address the plethora of pain points in making effective use of public clouds.

This initiative will explore developing a broad understanding of capabilities available from providers, determining cost estimates for inclusion in NSF proposals, and assisting researchers in accessing the cloud and carrying the full range of user management and usage tracking that is critical for successful research and education programs.

“This transition to production operations is an important milestone for the project and represents the culmination of a lot of hard work by all four partners this past year,” said Michael Norman, SDSC director and CloudBank’s principal investigator. “I’m excited about where we are now, and look forward to the benefits that this innovative public-private partnership will bring to the research and education community.”

There will be an informational webinar held on September 18th explaining what services and support CloudBank offers and how to request resources via CloudBank in NSF proposals. The webinar will include a demonstration of the CloudBank user portal, which is a centerpiece of the project. Learn more about the webinar here.

Join the introductory CloudBank webinar on Sept. 18th – register here!

CloudBank is structured to support specific NSF Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) solicitations that have an option for principal investigators to request public cloud resources as part of the proposal. Last year the first of these, Smart and Connected Communities, was released as CloudBank-eligible. CloudBank is now working with NSF to make the first award under this program.

Currently there are three additional open solicitations that can request cloud resources via CloudBank: Cyber-physical Systems, Cyberinfrastructure for Sustained Scientific Innovation, and the CISE Core Programs. CloudBank maintains a list of past and current NSF solicitations that are eligible under this program, which can be accessed here.

“CloudBank is a first-of-its-kind pilot for NSF to explore how to incorporate public cloud resources into NSF programs in a way that is scalable and cost-effective,” said Deep Medhi, Program Director in the Computer & Network Systems Division at the National Science Foundation. “We know that public cloud resources play an increasingly important role in computer science research and education. Through CloudBank, we will gain a deeper understanding of what is required to make public clouds an integral element of NSF programs.”

“Understanding what the cloud has to offer, and how to use it in the lab or classroom can be daunting,” said Ed Lazowska, co-principal investigator and a professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at UW. “The team has approached this by developing cloud-agnostic training materials, and working with providers to ensure we are making the best use of the extensive materials they have to offer. As we look ahead, our efforts will be focused on building the community of cloud practitioners with enhanced support, targeted training, and discussion forums where lessons learned can be shared.”

CloudBank has a mission to support multiple cloud providers, and while the user portal addresses this from the user perspective, there is significant complexity in working with providers in areas of contract negotiation, accounting, billing and cost management. Through an innovative partnership with Strategic Blue, CloudBank is able to work with a single entity rather than each provider individually. This results in both operational and cost efficiencies that can be passed along to researchers.

“CloudBank has been designed with efficient cloud financial operations at its core. Strategic Blue’s role is to stretch the NSF’s research dollar as far as possible in the public cloud,” said James Mitchell, CEO of Strategic Blue. “We are working behind the scenes to provide researchers with the technical and financial support they need to keep within their budget, while leveraging the on-demand scalability the public cloud offers to researchers.”

The CloudBank award is funded under NSF grant 1925001, and will run from August 1st, 2019 through July 2024 (estimated). An NSF press release regarding the award can be found here and a CloudBank FAQ is available here.


About the University of Washington eScience Institute
Established in 2008, the University of Washington eScience Institute was one of the first campus units nationally and internationally focused on advancing data-intensive scientific discovery through the close coupling of methodology and applications research and education.

About SDSC
The San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) is a leader and pioneer in high-performance and data-intensive computing, providing cyberinfrastructure resources, services, and expertise to the national research community, academia, and industry.

About the Berkeley’s Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society
Berkeley’s Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society connects computing, statistics, ethics, the humanities, and social and natural sciences to accelerate breakthrough education and research across scientific and technological frontiers.

About Strategic Blue
Strategic Blue offers financial cloud management services as a reseller of Amazon Web Services, Google Compute Platform, Microsoft Azure and other leading cloud vendors, helping institutions and researchers better understand and control their cloud costs.

Media Contacts:
James Urton, University of Washington News Office, (206) 543-2580 or jurton@uw.edu
Jan Zverina, SDSC Communications, 858 534-5111 or jzverina@sdsc.edu
Jon Bashor, UC Berkeley Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society,  jon.bashor@gmail.com

Related Links:
University of Washington eScience Institute: https://escience.washington.edu/
San Diego Supercomputer Center: https://www.sdsc.edu/
UC San Diego Information Technology Services: https://blink.ucsd.edu/sponsor/ITS/index.html
UC Berkeley Division of Computing, Data Science, and Society: https://data.berkeley.edu/
Strategic Blue: https://strategic-blue.com/
NSF Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering: https://www.nsf.gov/dir/index.jsp?org=CISE