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IU wins $300K NSF award to build an open-source ecosystem around heavily used cloud tool

Exosphere project aims to improve a user-friendly web interface for OpenStack-based cloud computing services

News and events Nov 22, 2022

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana University received a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) of almost $300K for Exosphere, openly-developed software that delivers a user-friendly web interface for OpenStack-based cloud computing services. OpenStack provides an open-source operating system and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for cloud systems. It is widely deployed by a variety of companies, such as Blizzard to host their games, and CERN to support projects like the Large Hadron Collider.   

Exosphere is a simplified web-based interface for creating and managing cloud-based resources. It is the most widely used interface for Jetstream2, a high-performance cloud based at IU and available at no charge to U.S.-based science and engineering researchers and educators. Jetstream2 serves smaller academic communities with limited access to computational resources, while simultaneously providing a uniquely flexible environment for taking advantage of the latest cloud-native approaches.

Exosphere seeks to close the accessibility gap and make advanced systems easier for researchers to use

The award from NSF’s Pathways to Enable Open-Source Ecosystems (POSE) funds work to discover and understand the needs of potential Exosphere adopters, evaluate and select an open governance model, and develop a user and contributor engagement plan.  

“This work will help Exosphere achieve greater and sustained relevance for the communities it serves at IU and worldwide,” said Chris Martin, systems engineer at IU and a co-founder of the Exosphere project. “This will also strengthen the value proposition of clouds like Jetstream2 and enable educational efforts that use Exosphere to increase computational literacy.”  

Exosphere is the first interface for non-proprietary cloud systems that is both easy to use and easy to integrate with new clouds. According to Martin, Exosphere seeks to close the accessibility gap and make advanced systems easier for researchers to use, allowing them to focus more on their research and less on learning complex technology.  

“Scientists are increasingly using community or commercial clouds for their research. It is a barrier for scientists to use these systems,” Beth Plale, executive director of the IU Pervasive Technology Institute said. “Exosphere is a tool that removes these barriers. This award allows the team to grow the user and contributor ecosystem for Exosphere, which will help ensure that it stays relevant and useful for the community.”

About the Pervasive Technology Institute at Indiana University  

The Pervasive Technology Institute (PTI) is both engine and hub for use-inspired basic research and education in compute- and data-driven challenge areas. Drawing together teams of academic researchers, educators, and technical professionals, the projects shaped within its centers and labs go on to find immediate utility in science and engineering research and education in the state of Indiana and the nation. PTI was established in 1999 by a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment. PTI is part of the Office of the Vice President for IT and Chief Information Officer for Indiana University. 

About University Information Technology Services  

University Information Technology Services is part of the Office of the Vice President for IT and Chief Information Officer for Indiana University. It provides services across all IU campuses to support the mission of Indiana University. 

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