Globus Online is a non-profit serving non-profits

November 16, 2012   |  Vas Vasiliadis

Earlier this week at the SC12 conference we announced a set of new services that we plan to launch early in 2013, including a simple, fast way to share big data directly from your own storage (without moving it to a cloud storage provider). We also announced that some of these future services will have a monthly fee associated with them, in keeping with our objective to make Globus Online a self-sustaining effort. We've received positive feedback on our development plans, as well as many questions, and I'd like to further expand on our announcement.

Our mission is to serve the data management needs of researchers at academic and non-profit institutions. In order for us to do this effectively, we must be able to sustain our operations—a task that is not easy to do within the traditional research funding environment. Federal agencies continue to support our core research through grants, but these grants are not intended to fund operating costs for things like cloud hosting resources, user support staff, and helpdesk software, among others. Our goal is to charge a modest fee to those researchers and projects who receive substantial value from our service, not so that we can make money, but so that we can sustain Globus Online over the long term.

The University of Chicago is the non-profit provider of the Globus Online service. We are comparable to services like HubZero (housed at Purdue University) and DuraCloud (sponsored by multiple universities and foundations), that started out as research projects and are now charging a fee to sustain their operations and to continue providing high quality services to other researchers and non-profit institutions. Another example is Internet2, which is a non-profit consortium supported by universities to provide network services.

In the two years since we launched the service, almost 7,000 users have registered and transferred over 8 petabytes of data. Dozens of institutions have created endpoints, including many of the largest HPC resource providers in the U.S. We have successfully resolved over 500 support requests this year alone, and received praise from users for both the robustness of our service and the responsiveness of our support team. Judging by this level of interest we believe that Globus Online is providing a valuable service, and hope that the community recognizes we can only maintain this level of quality with sufficient funding.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic and get your feedback, so please weigh in!