In late 2013 IMT and the Confederation of Schools for Economics and Statistics (GENES) received confirmation of funding from the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, allowing them to pursue their scheduled investments in a new digital services platform dedicated to research, innovation and education projects in the field of big data. A beneficiary of the BigData 2012 call for projects, part of the national Future Investments scheme, this platform has been christened TeraLab, and received its official inauguration on Tuesday 4th February. Through the TeraLab initiative, these two institutional partners aim to provide the national research community, and of course businesses, with an environment conducive to research and experimentation focused on innovative applications and industrial prototypes.
Big Data processing: an economic and societal challenge
In recent years the ever-expanding use of digital technologies by people, businesses and machines (from computers to mobile telephones), not least the proliferation of cameras, miniaturized sensors and other connected objects, has stimulated an exponential rise in the volume of data generated.
The use and transformation of these masses of data poses a significant economic and societal challenge, with consequences for a great number and variety of fields: sciences, sustainable development, marketing, customer service, transport, healthcare and education, to name just a few. This sector has the potential to create a significant number of jobs.
Thanks to recent scientific advances in the field of computer systems infrastructure (parallel systems, storage, new database architecture models), processing this huge wealth of data, previously an unthinkable task, is now a possibility.
TeraLab: supporting research and innovation
In creating a dedicated Big Data services platform, IMT and GENES (in collaboration with the INSEE) are committed to providing an immediate response to the needs of the various research, innovation and teaching projects which have been launched in this important field.
The platform will be equipped with considerable physical resources, including a substantial processing capacity with several teraoctets of RAM, huge databases and various cutting-edge applications and tools. These resources are backed up with a raft of specialist services, provided by trained experts.
The platform will operate on an SAAS/PAAS model, with a catalogue of services and applications provided by a rigorously selected stable of innovative SMEs. The idea is to create an optimal environment in which big data project teams can dedicate themselves entirely to the business of processing and analyzing, stimulating the production of new research which has the potential to form the basis of innovations with major scientific implications.
TeraLab will be open to all SME, mid-caps and major firms outside of the commercial context, in the form of bilateral or collaborative projects aimed at developing innovative technological applications and testing industrial pilot projects.
TeraLab: state-of-the-art services
The infrastructure at TeraLab will include cutting-edge physical technologies, software and research solutions facilitating batch or real-time processing and storage of hundreds of teraoctets of data.
A huge corpus of data will be constituted using anonymous, publicly-available information (e.g. OpenStreetMap, Common Crawl), and open data. The database may also include private data which has been processed to render it anonymous, provided by professional sources. These resources will be made accessible via secure and ultra-secure systems using technology provided by the CASD (Centre for Secure Remote Access).
Users will have access to a whole host of tools and services devoted to statistical processing, data analysis and display, as well as the latest in high-tech user interfaces and collaborative tools.
The actual physical platform, hosted in France, will be constructed to an iterative design. The platform will go online in the first quarter of 2014, with a first round of pilot projects whose progress will be monitored in order to further refine and optimize TeraLab’s functional environment.
In 2015, and through till 2018, TeraLab will be open and accessible to researchers, academics and professionals participating in collaborative projects in the context of schemes such as FUI, Eureka, Horizon 2020, EIT ICT Labs, ITEA, ANR, etc.
“Building on our industrial partnerships such as ‘Personal information: values and policies’ and ‘Machine Learning for Big Data’, along with the specialized Master’s program ‘Big Data: management and analysis’ and the forthcoming CES diploma in Data Science offered at Télécom ParisTech, with the TeraLab IMT adds a new arm to its arsenal of research, teaching and innovation initiatives devoted to Big Data. This platform will allow us to substantially accelerate the practical implementation of innovative research developments,” explains Philippe Letellier, the Institute’s research director.
Antoine Frachot, managing director of GENES, shares this optimism: “We’re very enthusiastic about this new partnership with IMT, on a project which corresponds perfectly to the skills represented in the GENES group, from the specialist Big Data programs at ENSAE and ENSAI to the CREST research laboratories. Above all, TeraLab marks a new step forward in our work on improving data security, thanks to which more than 600 French researchers are now able to work in absolute security using individual, confidential data provided by government bodies.”