From Clouds to Commons

Robert L. Grossman Director, Open Commons Consortium (OCC)

The Open Cloud Consortium began operations seven years ago in 2008, which is a long time in technology.

Our mission has remained the same -- to provide research infrastructure to facilitate discoveries and insights over large datasets.

In 2008, the use of cloud computing to support discovery over large research datasets was new, as was technology for data intensive computing, as distinguished from compute intensive computing used by the high performance computing community. Support by NSF for big data was still 3 to 4 years in the future.

The Open Science Data Cloud (OSDC) that began operations in 2010 is today still one of the largest scale science clouds in operations. The OSDC has provided millions of core hours to hundreds of investigators who have made discoveries in science, medicine, health care and the enironment.

Today, the term cloud computing has lost most of its technical meaning and is simply a marketing term that assaults you when walking through airports or flipping through professional publications.

For this reason, we are changing the name of our consortium to the Open Commons Consortium. The initials are still OCC, but the web site is now

We view a data commons as an infrastructure that colocates data, storage resources, compute resources, core services, and software applications and tools that support discovery and insights over data. Data commons are especially important as the size of the data grows.

The OCC has been involved in data commons since it started. Two recent OCC projects are worth mentioning:

The OCC NOAA Data Commons is a data commons that provides NOAA data to the research community though OCC's participation in the NOAA Data Alliance.

The Biomedical Data Commons (BDC) is a data commons for biomedical data that spans multiple medical research centers.

Both will be launched in 2016.

As always, OCC welcomes participation by the community. To get involved in one of our working groups, just contact us at info at

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