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SURF in a new cooperative structure provides members with e-Infrastructure and IT services

During the SURFsara Super D Event, recently held at Felix Meritis in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, we had the opportunity to talk with Anwar Osseyran from the SURFsara supercomputing centre, about the new legal structure for Dutch e-Infrastructures. Anwar Osseyran is Member of the Board of SURF, a Dutch national organisation. SURF is a cooperative in which all the research and education institutions in the Netherlands are collaborating with each other in order to offer common IT services and HPC services. Anwar Osseyran is also the director of SURFsara, one of the companies of SURF, that is focusing on providing high performance computing services for all members of SURF. At the same time Anwar Osseyran is a part-time professor at the University of Amsterdam with a portfolio of data analytics and computer science.

SARA is existing for almost 45 years and SURFnet is also existing for a long period. SARA has merged with SURF. SARA became SURFsara. SURF has changed its status and organisation. SURF is now a cooperative (Coƶperatie SURF U.A.) which has various members, consisting of all the academic institutions and all the technical highschools in The Netherlands. They all collaborate with each other in order to offer IT services to researchers but also to people in the education field.

The SURF cooperative has a Board of four Directors. Anwar Osseyran is one of them as the Director of SURFsara. Next to him, there is the Director of SURFnet, the Director of SURFmarket and the Director of SURF Holding. All four form the Executive Board of SURF. There is also a Board of Trustees and a Board of Members. The members are the owners of SURF and the Board of Directors are the executives who are in charge of running the organisation. The Board of Trustees has a supervisory role on the organisation.

This structure helps to take ownership of what we are doing, Anwar Osseyran explained and he added: "We are from and for the members."

The business model within SURF is a complex issue and one is still working on it, as Anwar Osseyran stated in the interview. There are services for which people are paying but there are also certain services that can not be paid by the users. In fact, you do not want them to pay for those because you want to encourage them to make use of them. When you talk about high performance computing and the huge investments that are involved - and those huge investments are needed because you want to make sure that The Netherlands are on top of the list of countries that are using high-value or high-quality infrastructure - there has to be a topdown approach where the resources are made available to the researchers. On the other side, you have to put a limit to what people are using in terms of computing capacity or storage.

When you are talking about commodity ICT that is also provided by the market, you have two options: either SURF provides the services by itself or you try to find them on the marketplace but at the same time SURF tries to make a feedback loop with regard to the user of resources. In many cases, people are paying for those resources. In the case of high performance computing, Anwar Osseyran said: "We try to see whether The Netherlands is in the same league of countries where The Netherlands should be in." In that sense, you can budget on beforehand how much money you should reserve for those resources.