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Introduction and Objectives

The purpose of the Exploitation Platform Demonstrator for Soil Moisture (EP4SM) project is to design, develop, operate and demonstrate a vertical prototype of a cloud computing environment for Soil Moisture (SM) data processing, to be possibly deployed within Earth Observation (EO) Ground Segments.

The detailed objectives of this project are to:

  • Demonstrate the viability of a typical Science and Services Exploitation Platform (SSEP) application on the future European Science Cloud;
  • Popularize the use of the Science Cloud among members of an international scientific community;
  • Provide the chosen initial cloud provider, the Facility for Climate and Environmental Monitoring from Space (CEMS) at Harwell, UK, with an early test case of its offerings in a core area of its targeted scope of activities;
  • Study issues arising in connection with interoperability of a cloud application between different cloud providers;
  • Attempt to partially re-use existing ESA information systems in a cloud setting;
  • Deliver quick feedback on selected technical approaches in a representative but limited domain to facilitate full SSEP implementation by serving as an example for other domains; and
  • Define a platform for future exploitation of Soil Moisture and other EO data.

Expected Results

Following the analysis carried out in Phase 1, the project is currently addressing the implementation of the EP4SM demonstrator on cloud resources made available by ESA through Interoute. The final demonstrator will be then deployed on CEMS infrastructure at the end of the project.

The EP4SM shall be considered as a Platform as a Service (PaaS) cloud application, that will allow scientists to configure, build, deploy and run Soil Moisture related software in an easy and mostly automated way. EP4SM relies on an Open-Source Software stack that can be installed on top of the facilities offered by different Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers, thus avoiding a nowadays common problem in cloud computing the so called vendor lock-in. It can be installed in different configurations, ranging from a single server that hosts all platform components, to a full-fledged highly available distributed system.

The Logical View of EP4SM is decomposed in three different layers (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS), as reported in the figure below.


The Infrastructure as a Service layer (IaaS) takes care of servers, storage and networking. Services are offered within several sub layers:

  • The Hardware and Virtualization Layer, which includes physical servers, storage, network equipment, the virtualization software stack, provided with defined reliability under service level agreements
  • The Virtual Hardware Administration Layer, which offers access to the hardware and virtualization layer through a web- and an application programming interface;
  • The Cloud Orchestration Layer, which allows the deployment of virtual machines;
  • The Scaling Layer, which adds new virtual machines to the platform in case of high load situations;
  • The Storage Virtualization Layer, which offers storage space to users and applications;
  • The Virtual Machine Layer, which consists of virtual servers and workstations and their operating systems and represents the top layer of the infrastructure tier (this layer is shared between the IaaS and the PaaS layer).

The EP4SM platform administrator interacts with this layer and configures all necessary components that are required to set up a virtual data centre providing the underlying infrastructure of the platform. Developers have a limited view on the services offered in this layer. With the help of a web browser they are authorized to deploy, start, stop and remove virtual machines.

The Platform as a Service layer (PaaS) consists of three sub layers:

  • The Virtual Machine Layer, shared with the IaaS layer, which allows users to install software on the virtual machines through the help of the Application Store Layer;
  • The Platform Management and Supporting Services Layer, which offers a computing platform consisting of preconfigured virtual machines with pre-installed operating systems, programming language execution environments, applications, databases and webservers. It allows users to develop and run applications over the Internet with no need for knowledge of system administration.

Platform administrators access this layer in order to deploy new virtual machine images. Developers use this layer for their daily work.

The Software as a Service layer (SaaS) provides software applications to end-users. Developers use this layer to deploy applications that can be accessed by end-users through a web browser.

EP4SM components and their possible deployment are sketched in the next figure.


The External Services (EP4SM-EXT) component will provide a Domain Name System (DNS) server and an Apache web server, to allow users to access the platform.

The Back-End (EP4SM-BE) infrastructure will offer Virtual Private Network (VPN) services, file services to platform users, authentication services, the backend database (MySQL) and health monitoring system (Nagios). Furthermore, it will host the EP4SM main user interface (web application).

The House of Tools (EP4SM-HOT) component, which will offer all Soil Moisture related applications. It will allow users to connect to applications either through web interfaces or via direct Secure Shell or Remote Desktop connections. Both Windows and Linux virtual machines are offered to the users.

Project Schedule

KO15 Oct 2012HarwellKO
WS5-6 Dec 2012LaxenburgWS
M115 Jan 2013TeleconSRR
M215 Apr 2013EsrinPDR
M317 Sep 2013TeleconCDR
M421 Feb 2014HarwellAR
FP19 Sep 2014EsrinFP



Angewandte Wissenschaft Software und Technologie GmbH (AWST) is an Austrian limited liability company with main background in the field of geophysical monitoring, nuclear safeguards and Earth Observation.


IIASA is an international, scientific, non-governmental institute conducting policy-oriented research addressing problems such as climate change, which must be addressed in a global context and which can only be resolved by international cooperative action. IIASA also deals with problems of common concern to many countries that need to be solved at the national level.


The Institute of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (IPF) is one of the world’s leading research groups specialized in the retrieval and monitoring of land-surface hydrologic processes (soil moisture, wetlands, freeze/thaw status) from radar data. The IPF is part of Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) and is integrated within the University’s mathematics and geo-information faculty.

Project Deliverables

Contributors to this page: Michele Iapaolo
Johannes Strasser .

Page last modified on Friday 29 of April 2016 09:43:16 CEST by Michele Iapaolo.