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Science Cloud: Atom-Smashing Lab Joins New Computing Initiative

A new cloud-computing project called the "Science Cloud" has just been launched by some of Europe's biggest research powerhouses along with European IT companies.

The European Space Agency (ESA), along with the CERN physics lab (home of the world's largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC) and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), hope to use the Science Cloud to carry out large complicated calculations probing some of the biggest mysteries of the universe.

Officially called "Helix Nebula — the Science Cloud," the new tool will allow European research organizations to access additional cloud-computing power to analyze huge sets of data.

For example, CERN, in Geneva, Switzerland, plans to use the Science Cloud to sift through the reams of data being generated by particle collisions inside its ATLAS experiment on the LHC, which is searching for new particles never seen before, such as the rumored Higgs boson thought to give other particles mass.

"CERN's computing capacity needs to keep up with the enormous amount of data coming from the Large Hadron Collider and we see Helix Nebula— the Science Cloud as a great way of working with industry to meet this challenge,"Frédéric Hemmer, head of CERN's IT department, said in a statement.

The European Space Agency (headquartered in Paris) plans to use the extra computing power to create a system that analyzes satellite observations of Earth to study earthquakes and volcanoes. ESA will collaborate with other science institutions on the project.

And the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, based in Heidelberg, Germany, aims to utilize the cloud to analyze large genomes, such as those of mammals, to study evolution and biodiversity.

The Science Cloud will be tested by these three organizations during a two-year pilot phase, but welcomes other scientific organizations and industry partners to join the collaboration.

The project's commercial partners include Atos, Capgemini, CloudSigma, Interoute, Logica, Orange Business Services, SAP, SixSq, Telefonica, Terradue, Thales, The Server Labs and T Systems, along with the Cloud Security Alliance, the OpenNebula Project and the European Grid Infrastructure.

You can follow LiveScience senior writer Clara Moskowitz on Twitter @ClaraMoskowitz. For more science news, follow LiveScience on twitter @livescience.

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