Public cloud provider CloudSigma has a vision for a cloud-based “data discovery” model that will take Big Data generated around the world and beyond (yes, in space) and put it in the hands of users. The company is building ecosystems out of publicly available data, storing it and making it accessible for users to build services around. “Data has gravity, and that naturally draws computing into the cloud,” said Robert Jenkins, CEO, CloudSigma.
There are lots of data in the public domain, but the barriers to access and leverage it is high. The Zurich-based company is trying to address this problem of “elitism,” making the data available on-demand in its Big Data cloud so users can easily access and temporarily mount it on virtual machines to build services. There is a wealth of possibilities across industries and across disciplines.
“Even though it’s accessible, most people can’t use it,” Jenkins said. “What we're doing is storing this data for free and making money on the compute end of things, as users access it on an as-needed basis to build better systems and offerings.”
Inspired by European science cloud
The work was born out of the Helix Nebula Marketplace, launched to provide European scientists easy access to commercial cloud services. CloudSigma is one of the companies represented on the marketplace. Helix Nebula is a public-private collaboration launched to support massive IT and data requirements of European research organizations, including European Molecular Biology Laboratory, European Space Agency and European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), best known for its Large Hadron Collider.
The vision is a cloud-based discovery model. “Making public data extensible is a big movement, and there’s been huge progress,” said Jenkins. “It’s becoming yesterday’s problem. The problem now is the coordination problem. The challenge with Big Data is you can’t move it around. Cloud is in a unique position to solve this problem.”
“Say I’m a user that has an idea for a better climate model or trading algorithm, but the bar is too high to set up the proper resources,” he said. “We’ve been working on putting the data in public cloud so it’s much more useful. We dedupe the data, replace ownership with access. All you need is short access, next to on-demand, ad-hoc computing. We’re happy because you’re doing the computing, and we can give public institutions the free storage.”
From ash-cloud data to MRI scans
CloudSigma is already working with a number of institutions and has several agreements in place with organizations like the European Space Institute and an Iceland organization that maps ash cloud and volcanic activity.
It’s working with institutions that do neurological research as well. “We’re building a cloud backend for MRI scanners that sends it up to the cloud, renders and creates a much higher quality image,” said Jenkins. “They get a better quality service and it takes the computing out of the operating room.” Most general MRIs aren’t done in the highest resolution because of cost, but with cloud it has the processing power on-demand to produce better images, which helps with Alzheimer's research, as an example.
Many choose to donate their scans to science, and the company is aggregating publicly available scans from hundreds of hospitals in Europe and all over the world. It will allow neurological research to see time series of brain scans for research.
Jenkins also spoke of a satellite launched in Europe for world observation. It has magnetic field sensors, can track ground water movement and the movement of the Earth with down-penetrating radar. The satellite generates a terabyte of data a day, and Jenkins wants to put this data in people's hands as well.
More closed financial data product in the making
The possibilities are endless as there’s an increasing movement to make more publicly available data useful for the public.
CloudSigma’s data ecosystems also go beyond public data. Going forward, the company is also looking to provide a similar ecosystem for financial data “We’re looking into the financial services industry and seeing how we can expose it securely to service providers,” said Jenkins. This kind of data is of course more proprietary and sensitive, so the company is building a secure service for it.