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Researching the Origins of the Universe, CERN Joins Forces with Rackspace on Hybrid Cloud

July 12, 2013 No Comments

To put it mildly, it’s a pretty big universe out there, one that has challenged, perplexed and, every so often when things go just right and the cosmic tumblers finally click into place, revealed itself to some of the greatest minds in history.

Sometimes, to help those big-picture questions produce big-time answers, organizations rely on not only the genius and diligence of researchers — they rely on the latest advances in technology, such as cloud computing.

CERN, the European organization of physicists and other learned researchers who have pledged their careers to unlocking the mysteries of the universe, is teaming up with cloud vendor Rackspace to build a cloud where enormous amounts of data can be stored and analyzed.

Rackspace announced a deal to build CERN a hybrid cloud, which consists of a mix of servers and storage accessed over the Internet and software installed locally in CERN’s data centers, according to an article on

CERN projects such as the Large Hadron Collider, a $10 billion, 17-mile underground circular tunnel where physicists last July uncovered the “God particle,” generate tons of data — nearly25 petabytes annually.

CERN already has two data centers assigned to the Large Hadron Collider, and the servers there run OpenStack, an open-source cloud operating system that’s used by Rackspace, HP, IBM, Red Hat and many other vendors.

Now CERN will use Rackspace’s OpenStack-based “private cloud” software on the in-house servers it uses for production physics experiments, Jim Curry, vice president and general manager of Rackspace’s private cloud business, said in a blog post.

“This is awesome because it gives us the opportunity to work closely with CERN to help fuel new, potentially ground-breaking research and particle physics innovation,” Curry said.

CERN already uses Rackspace’s “public cloud” when it has extra-large workloads that need more capacity than its in-house servers can handle. With the deal, CERN will be able to move workloads back and forth between its OpenStack powered private cloud and Rackspace’s OpenStack powered public cloud.

“Research is not something we’ve targeted as a company yet — we were more focused on pure commercial customers but with CERN doubling down on OpenStack and bringing us in gives us a big test bed and venue,” John Engates, Rackspace CTO, said.

OpenStack was launched by Rackspace and NASA in 2010, using tech built at NASA.

It’s not the first time that Rackspace has worked with CERN. Previously, the company helped the lab with a system that allowed certain computing workloads to “burst” into the Rackspace public cloud as needed.

This time around, they’re going to collaborate around the idea of tying up Rackspace’s public and private cloud services with other OpenStack-based cloud systems that CERN already operates in its own data centers, the point being to get them working pretty seamlessly, and making the whole thing easier and less expensive to manage.

Patrick Burke

Patrick Burke is a writer and editor based in the greater New York area and occasionally blogs for Rackspace Hosting

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