Monday, 5 November 2012

EU Opens BonFIRE to Free 12-Month Access



One of the most exciting things in recent datacentre news comes by way of the October 31, 2012 announcement that the EU’s BonFIRE infrastructure would be opened up November 1 with free access for the next 12 months. The announcement means organisations can access BonFIRE's six European cloud sites for purposes of testing and development.

Bonfire was set up by the European Union in 2010 as a means of providing a testing platform to help drive cloud computing in Europe. The testing platform allows developers to test drive cutting technologies in virtualisation, managed services, and web-based applications. It also gives them incentive to design and build systems that will drive the cloud of the future.

The types of things developers might be using BonFIRE to test include hybrid clouds, resource hungry applications, and dense computing environments with high power needs. What makes the platform different is that resources are unlimited. Where private sector companies sometimes offer free cloud space to testers for a limited time, the resource dedicated to that free space are usually limited. For the next 12 months BonFIRE is giving testers full access with unlimited resources.

According to the EU press release the BonFIRE test bed is the perfect environment for pre-production testing of new applications. Developers and testers can openly collaborate in real-time and in a real cloud environment rather than a local simulation. The European Union hopes such open collaboration will accelerate the growth of the EU cloud.

The only catch here is the fact that BonFIRE won't simply grant free access sight-unseen. Every organization that wants to avail themselves of it must present their plans to the organization for approval. BonFIRE administrators will review each request on a case-by-case basis to determine accessibility. They will be looking at things like infrastructure use, potential business impact, and product quality.

A Vital Boost for the EU

It's no secret Europe is aggressively pursuing new cloud technologies as a means of catching up to the adoption of the cloud in the United States. But testing can be prohibitively expensive for some organizations, especially start-ups and not-for-profits. The most important thing to take away from the BonFIRE announcement is the fact that organizations with limited finances will be able to compete more effectively if they are approved for access.

Among the concerns are worries that 12-month access won't be nearly enough to make a real impact. For example, let's say a start-up plans to use BonFIRE to test a suite of applications and managed services yet they're not ready to go for another four to five months. Their test time is then reduced to seven or eight months. That may be enough for a long-established position, but it could be a challenge for a start up.

Making BonFIRE freely available for the next 12 months is a step in the right direction. We'll have to wait to see how many organizations take advantage of it, and whether or not it provides tangible benefits.

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