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Research Department of Genetics
University Medical Center Groningen

Enlighten Your Research Global Award: Virtual Machine Images for Life Science Research

29 November 2013

Denver (USA), 18 November 2013 – One of the four prestigious "Enlighten Your Research Global" awards has been given to an idea developed by an ELIXIR working group for the sharing of virtual machines over research and education networks. The concept, which was developed from an ELIXIR pilot action, makes it much easier for scientists in many different countries to find meaning in massive volumes of biomedical data in a secure manner, such as 1000 Genomes, Genome of the Netherlands, and GWAS/epidemiological data in the BBMRI biobank network.

The working group is a collaboration of institutions involved in the ICT infrastructure for biomedical research: the University Medical Centre Groningen (Genomics Coordination Centre, UMCG), the Centre for Information Technology – University of Groningen (CIT-RUG), and SURFsara Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Cambridge University and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory-European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), UK, and CSC - IT Centre for Science, Finland. Life science and health research is being accelerated with this European global research network incorporating dynamic light paths up to 10 gigabits/second.

Software pipelines that biomedical researchers use to analyse big datasets (such as human genomes) are very complex and constantly evolving. Because scientists in many disciplines are interested in analysing this type of data, there is an increasing demand for simple software solutions that address both updates and the management of big datasets. Cloud computing is an obvious place to look for storage solutions, and web-based 'virtual machines' have come to replace locally installed software packages. Drawing on these technological developments, ELIXIR members have created a federated cloud service for biomedicine, in which different cloud services such as the Helix Nebula (used by CERN, EMBL, ESA and EGI) offer virtual machines that can be used to study many different data types. CIT contributes the HPC Target infrastructure and SURFsara contributes the HPC Cloud facility to this project and will closely collaborate with researchers in the development of virtual machine images.

The Enlighten Your Research Global Award is an initiative of five research networks: SURFnet (NL), Janet (UK), Funet (Finland), ESnet (USA) and Internet2 (USA). The prize covers the cost of building the network infrastructure and the project’s operational costs for using the network for the first year.

For more information, please contact David van Enckevort‎, Email

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Last modified:18 December 2023 08.30 a.m.

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