Goodbye BonFIRE project; hello BonFIRE facility

Author: Kostas Kavoussanakis
Posted: 16 Dec 2013 | 09:57

The BonFIRE project created a multi-cloud facility to foster experimentation and testing of cloud and distributed applications. Just last week BonFIRE had its final, successful review. The project was rated Excellent, a true reflection of the effort contributed by the partners and the results that we achieved.


When we started BonFIRE three and a half years ago, we had nothing tangible, only promising people and some ideas. By Month 2 we had the first set of requirements; by Month 4 the first Architecture, including a definition of the BonFIRE offering and the BonFIRE Principles; and by Month 12, the first facility for our partner-experimenters to use. By that time we were a team.

Spurred by the reviewers' comments on the first review and fuelled by the first Open Call experimenters, we went on to produce another release, and then we did it again and again. We issued nine BonFIRE releases on the Production infrastructure, almost twice as many as originally planned. That's because we listened to our experimenters, we adopted and adapted, so as to get where we are at: over 75% of the collected requirements have been fulfilled. While we were at it, we built important links, in interconnection with FEDERICA through NOVI and piloting the GÉANT AutoBAHN service.

EPCC led the technical work on BonFIRE, so I am justifiably proud of what we have achieved. In the last Future Internet Assembly I was approached by a colleague who admitted that when he first heard about BonFIRE he could not see what it would offer that a combination of a private facility and public clouds would not achieve; he was convinced after the discussion. What we have achieved has a clear identity: BonFIRE is Control, Observability, Advanced Cloud Features and Ease of Use for Services Experimentation. These are the key reasons why the BonFIRE facility has a life of its own, even after the project ends. 

The four pillars of BonFIRE.


While the progression of the software was incorporated in the description of work, no such provisions had been made for infrastructure. The initial picture of BonFIRE had five sites (one at EPCC) offering in total 188 cores; after consecutive upgrades we are now up to over 1,000, with an extra two sites, one of which is a commercial Cloud provider. Most of these upgrades have been funded by the partners, not the project, demonstrating our commitment. The EPCC site, for example, benefitted from School funding to dedicate the original, 36-core infrastructure to the BonFIRE internal Integration and Qualification infrastructures, and offer a modern, 176-core facility to our users.  But this commitment is even more evident by the fact that 5 sites and 80% of the capacity continue to operate as BonFIRE, even after the end of the project.

BonFIRE Production Infrastructure.

Impact and sustainability

Although an infrastructure project, BonFIRE’s users have already delivered impact:

  • On Virtual Clusters on Federated Sites, the Galician supercomputing centre CESGA tested that its radiotherapy cancer treatment service copes well with loss of a compute cluster.
  • TurboCloud used the BonFIRE Virtual Wall emulated network facility to validate the video streaming solution of Irish SMEs RedZinc and Cloudium Systems. The users combined RedZinc’s proprietary virtual path slice technology with Cloudium’s proprietary server-based desktop virtualisation technology and validated their hypothesis that this combination greatly improves user experience, especially on multimedia applications.
  • KOPI used BonFIRE to investigate the costs and effects of various scaling operations and their possible combinations in an elasticity strategy. The end-goal of Hungarian Research Centre MTA SZTAKI was to stabilize the end-to-end quality of experience while keeping resource usage at a minimum, for their nationwide plagiarism service.

BonFIRE has always looked ahead to the post-project era. I do not recall being involved in another project that put technical requirements aside and focussed on what the sustainability plan required. I certainly cannot remember another project with a complete business model, a believable cost model and a realistic, achievable exploitation agreement that is almost universally accepted and acted on by the project partners: BonFIRE is available after the end of the project, and anyone can apply to use it free of charge throughout 2014.


Even if one looks at it from only the EPCC perspective, BonFIRE has been very successful already. This was our first foray into FIRE, the EC Unit that funds BonFIRE, and we have already quadrupled our presence with Fed4FIRE, ECO2Clouds and CityFlow. Sure, there is monetary success here, but the real benefit is the opportunity to work on new subjects, with brilliant new colleagues, from leading organisations across Europe. We hope that this continues into Horizon 2020 (The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation), but we also foresee tremendous potential, through Supercomputing Scotland and EPCC’s local links with industry and academia.

The demand for BonFIRE

BonFIRE is more than an ordinary, successful project. BonFIRE is desirable. Our Open Calls were subscribed six times over what we could fund. Our Open Access scheme, which we pioneered on FIRE, has quadrupled our ever-increasing user-base. We have people coming back to BonFIRE for more experimentation that they fund themselves. ECO2Clouds is adding to the value of BonFIRE, with unique, live eco-metrics (energy consumption, energy source which implies CO2 profile and Power Usage Efficiency of our facilities) available to all BonFIRE users. The proposals of the first Open Call of Fed4FIRE, the project that federates BonFIRE's sister facilities, had one testbed clearly at the top of the most wanted list, and that was BonFIRE; more than half of the successful projects will use BonFIRE. 

Some of the BonFIRE users as of December 2013.

For the first time in my 15 years of involvement in European projects, I felt the need, the desire to write about my work and talk to people about it. And that’s because I feel that people want to know. Many of the people I have pestered applied to the BonFIRE Open Access or Fed4FIRE. Unpaid users write to us about how easy it is to come on board and use the facility. At the CloudCom conference last week, one of our Open Access users summarised it very well: "It's what I needed. So far we have worked on a small private Cloud that we own, but we just could not do what we wanted."

Access is free

Please use BonFIRE free of charge for your Cloud and distributed-services research. Apply for free Open Access throughout 2014.

BonFIRE has received funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreements n° 257386 and 287938.


Kostas Kavoussanakis, EPCC

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