People of ACM - Fabrizio Gagliardi

September 25, 2014

Fabrizio Gagliardi is Distinguished Research Director at Polytechnic University of Catalonia, Spain, where he oversees the long-term international alliance strategy of the Barcelona Supercomputing Centre. He is founding member and Chair of the ACM Europe Council, and serves on the boards of Informatics Europe and several other technology groups. Previously, he was Director, Microsoft Research, External Research (Microsoft Research Connections) for Europe, Middle East and Africa from 2009 to 2013. A pioneer in developing and introducing Grid computing in Europe, he was Principal Investigator and Director of the EU-DataGrid and EGEE (Enabling Grids for E-sciencE) projects in Europe from 2000 to 2005.

Over his 30-year career at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), Gagliardi had responsibility for data acquisition and management. He also managed joint research and development projects between CERN and computing companies, managed CERN-IT computing support to the CMS experiment (one of two CERN experiments which discovered the Higgs particle), and directed the CERN School of Computing.

His research interests in HPC technology include design, development and operation of large distributed HPC computing infrastructures for science, research and industry, and management of large international projects.

In your role as main stakeholder and an originator of VENUS-C, the innovative, commercial cloud- based, user-centric cloud infrastructure for Europe, what would you identify as the key elements that made this initiative highly effective?

VENUS-C leveraged new emerging distributed computing techniques, as did the previous EU framework programme projects (EU-DataGrid, EGEE, etc.) which I had the honour of initiating and leading. First were cluster and grid technology, then the new emerging commercial offering of cloud computing, which has made it possible to virtualize the entire computing infrastructure stack. VENUS-C was conceived in 2010, and ran through mid-2012.

A key element of its success was the smooth integration of the Microsoft commercial cloud Azure into more specific technical and scientific community-developed tools and programming environments.

Another key element was to associate real and demanding user communities from the very beginning with the overall project architects and developers of the VENUS-C computing infrastructure. This is what today would be called co-design. Being associated with ACM has allowed me to be continuously well informed of the latest computer science developments and breakthroughs, and to reflect this knowledge in the project.

What are the most impactful achievements undertaken by the ACM Europe Council under your leadership since its inception five years ago to serve the European computing community?

ACM Europe has made considerable progress in amplifying the ACM footprint in Europe. Clearly the progress is slow, given that Europe is a relatively mature market for professional associations such as ACM, unlike India or China, where the impact of the regional ACM councils has been more dramatic.

Most notably, ACM Europe, with the establishment of a legal entity in Brussels, has increased visibility and obtained consideration by the European Commission (EC). The EC has participated in several ACM Europe events, and has begun regularly consulting with the leadership of ACM and ACM Europe. This interaction has led to our intention of forming a dedicated body (EUACM) to increase ACM's presence with the EU authorities in Brussels. EUACM's role will be analogous to USACM, the ACM Public Policy Council in Washington, DC.

Other achievements include the launch and successful ramping up of ACM-W Europe, which has started a successful series of conferences, and a new task force to promote and support the activity of the ACM chapters in Europe. Together with Informatics Europe, ACM Europe has also begun efforts to monitor and promote computer science education in Europe.

As director of the EGEE: Enabling Grids for E-sciencE project to extend CERN's computing power and data processing capability, what initiatives did you develop that have since been adopted by the European Commission for large projects of this kind?

EGEE, building on the previous success of projects such as EU-DataGrid and others, prototyped the establishment of a large, worldwide distributed computing infrastructure based on open software. It provides the best business model for provisioning the CERN computing power necessary to analyze and collect data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experimental programme. This effort has led to the recent discovery of the Higgs particle, which resulted in the Nobel Prize for Peter Higgs and his colleagues. In order to manage a project with more than 90 partners, I developed a new federated administrative scheme, since then adopted by the EU for its major funded projects.

As one of the EU's foremost technology leaders, what advice would you give to young people considering careers in computing?

Computing is an ever developing and evolving field. From more theoretical research work, to applied computing to major societal challenges, to engineering newer and more advanced technology solutions, computing pervades our entire life and society. In the past 20 years, with the advent of the internet, computing has changed the way we all live and think. I believe it is very exciting and motivating to be part of this major human adventure, and have the chance of influencing it.

From a more mundane viewpoint, the possibility of finding a good job in computing is probably as high now as it has ever been. The number of jobs generated by CS is expected to be enormous in the years to come.

My advice is to embrace a career in computing, choosing whatever part is most attractive for each individual. No matter what subfield is chosen, there will be excellent opportunities for a successful career and a comfortable life. Being associated with ACM as a student is a major asset, and I would encourage any young CS scientist or student to consider membership. It costs little and can provide a lot!


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