01 Feb 2021

The Blue-Cloud project is federating distributed marine data resources, computing platforms, and analytical services to better understand & manage the many aspects of ocean sustainability. In order to do so, a “Blue-Cloud technical framework” has been set-up, where leading marine data management infrastructures are federated with horizontal e-infrastructures to maximise the exploitation of data resources available from different sources

The Blue-Cloud framework consists of two major technical components: a Blue-Cloud Data Discovery and Access service to serve federated discovery and access to blue data infrastructures, and a series of Blue-Cloud Virtual Research Environments (VRE) to provide computing platforms and analytical services facilitating the collaboration between researchers.

The Blue-Cloud Virtual Research Environments

Each Blue-Cloud VRE includes services that facilitate collaboration between users, services supporting the execution of analytical tasks embedded in a distributed computing infrastructure, as well as services enabling the co-creation of entire Virtual Laboratories, aimed at realising open science-friendly working environments. 

So far nine Blue-Cloud VREs have been set-up, developed by the Italian National Research Council (CNR), built on the D4Science infrastructure and the gCube open source technology, and offered via the Blue-Cloud Gateway which makes the services and Virtual Laboratories available. Thanks to Blue-Cloud, scientists and practitioners are able not only to easily access different sets of marine data but also to process and experiment with them via the analytical and visual tools made available by each demonstrator.

Each Blue-Cloud VRE Collaborative Framework features a set of useful services and components, enabling users to collaborate on an activity by sharing materials and communicating in smart and flexible ways.

  • The Workspace allows users to organise and share digital materials (datasets, notebooks, codes, etc.) via an interface resembling a standard file system with items organised in folders.
  • Via the Social Networking function, users can have discussions and exchange information through common social networking approaches and practices such as posts, hashtags, mentions, likes.

Thanks to the Blue-Cloud VREs, users are able to further exploit the data collected and accessed via the Blue-Cloud Data Discovery and Access Service following a FAIR data (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) approach.

"These collaborative services support all the phases of typical research lifecycles and transparently inject practices aimed at making the entire process more transparent and repeatable without posing additional requirements for scientists, leading to a certain version of a research artefact." Massimiliano Assante (CNR)

The number of total users across Blue-Cloud VREs has constantly increased since the beginning of the project in October 2019, and its use has evolved as the project entered its more advanced stages. Today more than 300 users from the Blue-Cloud consortium and beyond have access to these services, and we expect this figure to increase as more and more VREs are open to external users.

"The Blue-Cloud VREs can target a wide range of end-users from coders to policy officers, as well as researchers, data analysts, environmental protection agencies, thanks to the various user-friendly ways to broadcast the results, such as code, notebooks, maps, or indicators." Cécile Nys (OceanScope/Ifremer - ODATIS)

Eight VREs being used by five top-level marine demonstrators

Each one of the five Blue-Cloud demonstrators is developing VREs for the benefit of the wider community, in order to demonstrate Blue-Cloud’s potential in different fields of marine research, ranging from biodiversity to environmental science, as well as fisheries and aquaculture. As of today, eight Virtual Labs are being used in the framework of the Blue-Cloud demonstrators:

  • Blue-Cloud Lab - Where researchers can contribute, find, try, and use Blue-Cloud methods as integrated into the infrastructure by scientists across multiple disciplines.
  • Alien Invasive Species - An operational environment providing models and workflows to combine environmental data with species observations in their habitats to predict their future spread.
  • Healthy Ocean Lab - To support the liaison between the REV Ocean team and the Blue-Cloud team regarding several initiatives including the Ocean Data Platform.
  • Zoo & Phytoplankton EOV - The implementation of the Zoo & Phytoplankton EOV Products demonstrator. It provides its users with access to blue multidisciplinary data for exploring the methodology and data used in the products.
  • Marine Environmental Indicators - The implementation of the Marine Environmental Indicators demonstrator, providing a web service for Environmental Agencies and researchers.
  • Fisheries Atlas - Users can search reliable and fact-checked content through the interactive Fisheries Atlas powered by Blue-Cloud. Explore all oceans and regions of the world with this in-depth resource, with features ranging from global fisheries maps, popup statistics and overviews, high-resolution bathymetry, aggregate maps about major world fisheries.
  • Global Record of Stocks and Fisheries (GRSF) - The GRSF is also used to validate records enrichment within the Blue-CLoud activities (e.g. oceanographic data).
  • Aquaculture Atlas - The implementation of the Aquaculture Monitor demonstrator. The Aquaculture Atlas Production System (AAPS) uses CLS provided software and the Blue-Cloud infrastructure to analyse Earth Observation (Bing and Copernicus) datasets. The VRE is used to produce maps that can be used in external sites.

Several of these VREs have started operating for testing in different moments of 2020, while all of them will be officially launched in the course of 2021, welcoming marine researchers and stakeholders to test them and interact with the many functionalities and existing datasets made available via the Blue-Cloud framework through a single login.

“Thanks to the Rstudio component offered by the Blue-Cloud VRE, I was able to reduce the computing time from hours to minutes when running the model that quantifies the relative contributions of the drivers in phytoplankton dynamics, as part of the Zoo and Phytoplankton EOV Demonstrator”.  Viviana Otero (Flanders Marine Institute - VLIZ)

The evolution of Blue-Cloud’s VREs

Presence on the VREs began to grow since the summer of 2020, and especially in December when testing activities on the Marine Environmental Indicators, Zoo & Phytoplankton EOV Products demonstrator, and the Fisheries Atlas demonstrator started to intensify.

In 2021, we expect more and more researchers and other end-users to discover the expanding environment of Blue-Cloud, encouraging a collaborative effort for the FAIRisation of marine research data and the continuous improvement of these frameworks.

Discover the Blue-Cloud VREs on D4Science


For more information on the technical development of the Blue-Cloud VRE, please read Deliverable 4.2 “Blue-Cloud VRE Common Facilities” 

For more information on how to use the different VREs, read the Blue-Cloud Demonstrator User Handbook