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CloudBank Expands to Accelerate and Broaden Access to Public Cloud Resources

Published May 17, 2022

Eligibility to CloudBank, the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded program that provides access to and managed services for public cloud resources for research and education, has dramatically expanded—making it easier for users to gain access to its resources.

In a recently released Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), the NSF announced the expansion of the CloudBank program to any active awardee funded by the Computer Science and Engineering (CISE) Directorate. NSF also streamlined the process for cloud requests. Following are key elements of the updated program:

  • Eligibility for any active CISE-funded Principal Investigator (PI);
  • Direct requests for resources made directly to CloudBank (akin to other NSF programs, such as XSEDE, where PIs request resources directly through those programs). No NSF proposal is required;
  • Cloud awards do not count against future, supplemental funding requests to an existing award;
  • Simpler proposal process—requires only a completed short form, accessible on the Cloudbank website (PIs can expect a decision within two weeks);
  • Continuous acceptance of requests, with no submission deadlines;
  • PIs may specify a multi-year program. Resources are awarded on an annual basis, with the potential for renewal;
  • Resources are managed via the CloudBank portal, a gateway to account creation, usage monitoring, education resources and expertise. The CloudBank portal allows awardees to use their cloud resources on any of the partner providers (AWS, GCP, Azure and IBM), even if the request was not explicitly for that provider.

A webinar is scheduled for May 25 to provide an overview of CloudBank and how to request resources via this DCL (nsf22087). Registration is available here.

CloudBank serves as an integrated service provider to the research community through a comprehensive set of user-facing and business operations functions. These services span the spectrum from novice to advanced cloud users, including front-line user support, cloud solution consulting, training and assistance in preparing proposals that include cloud resources.

CloudBank provides innovative financial engineering options that give researchers more flexible cloud terms tailored for their needs and contribute to the sustainability of CloudBank operations.

CloudBank founding partners include UC San Diego, University of Washington (UW), UC Berkeley and Strategic Blue, a private sector partner that specializes in multi-cloud contracting and financial operations.

“CloudBank was launched as a pilot in 2020, and over the last two years, we have worked closely with the NSF community to develop CloudBank services and support, and work to lower the barriers to cloud adoption,” said CloudBank PI Mike Norman, distinguished professor in UC San Diego’s Department of Physics and former director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center. “This DCL brings structurally significant changes that will make it much easier to access public cloud.”

CloudBank works closely with NSF to ensure that the benefits of public cloud reach all those who might benefit from it.

“From the NSF perspective, we want to be sure that all researchers and institutions have the ability to access the potential of public cloud,” said Deep Medhi, NSF program officer for CloudBank. “With this DCL, we have eliminated one of the major barriers to cloud access by removing the requirement for a formal NSF proposal. Now any active CISE awardee can request cloud resources and expect to hear back in weeks, not months.”

Over the past two years CloudBank has made awards across a wide range of research and education areas including public transit, agricultural automation, cybersecurity, deep learning for medical image analysis and more, but as UW’s CloudBank Co-PI Ed Lazowska noted, “Success in cloud computing is not a given. At CloudBank we are especially focused on the early stages of on-ramping and helping researchers become familiar with public cloud resources.”

UW leads outreach and training outreach efforts for CloudBank in partnership with UC Berkeley, which provides its cloud-based, scalable Data8 software on behalf of data science courses.

CloudBank is supported by the NSF (award no. 1925001).

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. Located on the UC San Diego campus, SDSC supports hundreds of multidisciplinary programs spanning a wide variety of domains, from astrophysics and earth sciences to disease research and drug discovery.

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 UC 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. Berkeley’s Data Science Education Program pioneered the use of the cloud at scale, providing thousands of students with easy access to computational resources and serving as a model for universities across the world.

About Strategic Blue

Strategic Blue offers tailored cloud financial management services as a reseller of Amazon Web Services, Google Compute Platform and other leading cloud vendors, and helps organizations better understand and control their cloud costs to allow the best use of their budgets. For more information, please visit www.strategic-blue.com.