Service provision

 

CSC is a reliable service provider and partner

CSC’s operation is based on good governance and transparency, compliance with data protection regulations as well as following the best security practices in service provision and internal functions. Since 2013, CSC has been issued with the esteemed international ISO/IEC 27001 Certificate for Information Security Management.

By this certificate based on reliable third-party verification, CSC can demonstrate its ability to manage, control and continually improve the information security of its services and operations. The certificate covers our datacenters, ICT platforms, digital preservation (DP), and IaaS cloud services. In compliance with the terms of their information security agreements, certain CSC customers have also commissioned third-party security audits on the services provided for them by CSC.

CSC’s management system covers such areas as general and HR management, communications, stakeholder relations, contractual matters, facilities, risks and incidents as well as resource and access management. CSC’s internal guidelines relating to data protection and transparency, in particular, include our administrator's guidelines, data protection guidelines, and email policy.  

We monitor service availability and service-related guidelines, responsibilities and classifications on the basis of our internal production catalogue. CSC's Management Group discusses any significant information security incidents at its meetings.
 

CSC’s information security actions have been integrated into the company's daily work. This way, we strive to ensure that our accountability is fulfilled across the organisation also in practical terms.
 

Responsibilities associated with services are agreed upon with the customer or supplier in the service contracts and the information security and data protection agreements associated with them. Service quality is monitored at regular quality conferences. Periodical customer satisfaction surveys are conducted to monitor not only service quality, expectations and customer experiences but also feedback on the security of the services.

CSC’s information security actions have been integrated into the company's daily work. This way, we strive to ensure that our accountability is fulfilled across the organisation also in practical terms. We have gone through our contracts and updated their data protection terms. To verify the fulfilment of accountability, metadata describing the processing of personal data have been implemented in the contract register. The record of processing activities has also been updated, and a process has been created for ensuring that the report is kept continuously up to date.

Cooperation between the information security and data protection organisations has been intensified by developing practices for processing data protection incidents. CSC has carried out crisis exercises relating to the organisation's internal cooperation and ability to function in situations where the information security or data protection of the services is at risk.  CSC has determined the roles and responsibilities of crisis communications and published new crisis communication instructions, improving our ability to operate in exceptional conditions.

CSC’s data protection organisation advises and instructs the staff actively, discusses topical data protection issues at CSC's management groups, and organises internal training for different target groups. Training on data protection in procurement was provided by a third-party supplier.

The implementation practices of CSC’s security and data protection instructions and operating policy are described in detail on the pages for information security, data protection and, for example, data policy.

High-impact services

CSC’s services are of national significance and relevant to most Finnish people. CSC participates in international cooperation networks with the aim of boosting Finnish competitiveness.  International cooperation also makes it possible to develop interoperable services, promoting international research cooperation and the usability of research data across borders.

CSC’s service offering is built around openness and system interoperability. The Fairdata service package, which supports the open science principles and sensible data management, was thus commissioned in production as a whole in 2019.

We seek to harness both the expertise we have acquired and the services we provide for our shareholders, including the higher education sector, within the framework of our special mandate more extensively to benefit public administration as a whole. In the contracts we sign, we seek to retain user rights to the solutions we implement so that they can be reused, thus increasing cost effectiveness and promoting interoperability.

In 2019, the volume of memory organisations’ digital data sets in the digital preservation services provided by CSC more than doubled, and the first research data sets were accepted for preservation. CSC also assumed a significantly larger role in public sector AI projects. In these projects, CSC facilitated AI deployment and offered its data analytics expertise to ministries and other public sector actors.

Enabling scientific breakthroughs

A significant proportion of Finnish research groups use CSC’s services to support their research. In 2019, we marked the 30th anniversary of the commissioning of Finland’s first supercomputer at CSC’s datacenter.

Renewal and expansion of support for national research and education

Services for research available through CSC are compatible with all branches of science. Support is offered in all phases of a research process. CSC’s resource allocation team grants customers computing and storage resources on application. Rather than actually evaluating the scientific quality of an application, CSC carries out a technical evaluation to ensure the effectiveness of the methods employed in the research. CSC also oversees responsible use of resources for the needs of either research or teaching. The resource allocation team follows national science policy and adheres to the priorities set by Finland’s science administration. Computing resources are primarily allocated to national research. Reports on allocated resources are made once a year to CSC’s Board of Directors and twice a year to the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Applications for so-called Grand Challenge research projects, which require significant computing or storage resources, and for international high-performance computing resources are assessed by the Scientific Customer Panel, which consists of Finnish research team leaders from a variety of scientific fields.

During the staged implementation of the National data management and computing development program 2021 (DL2021), two Grand Challenge pilot rounds were organised in 2019. The first pilot project was implemented in Puhti and Puhti-AI environments in the summer.  The pilot group consisted of 15 research groups in total, which represented different fields of science, and compared to previous rounds, this one also attracted major projects drawing on machine learning methods. A second pilot round was launched in late 2019 for supercomputer Mahti, which will become available in summer 2020. 

The Ministry of Education and Culture’s National data management and computing development programme 2021 (DL2021) will support the research and teaching activities of universities, universities of applied sciences and research institutes as well as national innovation activities, also securing the Finnish research community's international competitiveness in data-driven and computing intensive fields of research.

In 2019, the DL2021 project commissioned supercomputer Puhti and data management system Allas. Puhti supercomputer and Puhti-AI designed for AI research and applications as well as other GPU computing, more than doubled the computing capacity available to CSC. Allas, on the other hand, revolutionised scientific data management in Finland by making a versatile environment based on CEPH object storage technology available for the storage, sharing and analysis of big data. Rahti, a new cloud service based on container technology, was also launched.
 

Finland’s national computing and data management environment is being developed through long-term collaboration between the Ministry of Education and Culture and the research community.
 

Additionally, the my.csc.fi customer portal was launched. It replaced the earlier user interface for researchers, sui.csc.fi. The new portal serves different user groups in their needs related to supercomputers, software, cloud services and data storage.

Finland’s national computing and data management environment is being developed through long-term collaboration between the Ministry of Education and Culture and the research community. The acquired resources are scaled to meet the needs of Finnish science. If researchers are using software that will require an extremely high volume of computing resources, we perform scalability tests to ensure the efficient use of resources.

The computing and data management environment had an excellent level of accessibility throughout year 2019.

The usage rate of supercomputer Sisu was as high as 94% (2018: 75%) before it was decommissioned in August. Similarly, the usage rate of Taito server improved significantly to 88% (2018: 79%). Puhti environment, which was commissioned in September, was deployed efficiently to replace older servers, and its usage rate was high for the rest of the year, or 85% for Puhti and 59% even for Puhti-AI. The average server availability rate, on the other hand, was 99%.

Usage rates of computing and application servers

 

The highest numbers of active research projects in CSC’s server environments represented the fields of life sciences (318), computer and information sciences (210) and physics (204). In the use of the computer resources, research in the fields of physics (22.6%) and life sciences (22%), in particular, were leaders in the statistics.

The largest users of cPouta cloud resources were space science and astronomy (24%) as well as computing and information science (12.4%), whereas in the ePouta services, the greatest volumes of big data continued to come from life sciences (62.8% of billing unit use).

 

CSC’s datacenter is becoming one of the world’s largest actors in the field of high-performance computing.

 

EuroHPC and LUMI

CSC’s data center is becoming one of the world’s largest actors in the field of high-power computing. CSC continued to prepare for the EuroHPC tendering process in 2019 together with the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. The LUMI consortium consisting of nine countries was formed, and the requisite funding base was thus secured. The LUMI consortium’s application scored the highest points of all those submitted to the EuroHPC tendering process.

The happy news were released at a press conference in June 2019, as a joint venture between the EU Member States and the European Commission, EuroHPC Joint Undertaking, decided to place LUMI, an ultra-fast supercomputer European research use, at CSC’s Kajaani datacenter. EuroHPC decided to locate two other pre-exascale supercomputers in Barcelona, Spain, and Bologna, Italy.

EuroHPC continues European cooperation on high-performance computing, which has already benefited Finnish researchers significantly over the years.  

The contract was sealed in November 2019, as EuroHPC JU and CSC signed a Hosting Agreement on the LUMI computing environment in Strasbourg.

Finland will host one of world’s leading data management and computing ecosystems, which will significantly boost the competitiveness of research in Finland and across Europe, as scientists have access to more world-class computing resources. Computing power is needed for leading edge research in many fields of science, including medicine, climate sciences and artificial intelligence. Some of LUMI computing resources can also be ‘fast-tracked’, or allocated rapidly to critical modelling tasks, such as future research on different epidemics.

Large data processing resources also lay the foundation for research in fields that have previously been out of reach. This increases the possibilities for scientific breakthroughs in understanding such complex phenomena as climate change. An ultra-efficient data management and computing infrastructure will also open up new possibilities for developing data-driven business, including the platform economy and artificial intelligence. This investment will increase Finland’s attraction as a target for research infrastructures and datacenter investments.

Once the decision was made, CSC and the LUMI consortium started at once implementing the project plan to ensure that the supercomputer procurement process and, for example, datacenter construction and other areas of this fast-pace process can be brought to completion on schedule.

Construction work at CSC’s datacenter in Kajaani began in late 2019. The construction project will take over a year, and in addition to the main contractor, ten other contractors were selected for this significant building project.

From the datacenter’s design stage on, the goal has been to deliver carbon neutral high-performance computing for European research. Waste heat in this project will be used for heating buildings in the City of Kajaani, which will significantly reduce the need for our partner, Loiste, to produce district heat from fossil fuels. This is a good example of how CSC contributes to meeting the Finnish government’s climate targets concerning a carbon neutral Finland.

EuroHPC published the invitation to tender to supercomputer manufacturers in November 2019. The decisions on the manufacturer of LUMI supercomputer will be published in August 2020.

LUMI will be one of the best-known scientific computing instruments in the world during its life cycle between 2021 and 2026.  LUMI computing environment will become available for scientists in early 2021.

 

Enabling the processing of sensitive research data

In 2019, CSC participated actively in preparations for establishing the National Genome Center. This work consisted of determining the Genome Center’s functions, architecture and potential links to the process of updating the Biobank Act. The purpose of scientific research, in particular, was investigated as part of the Act on Secondary Use of Health and Social Data. On the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health's request, CSC also led the technical preparation of the joint European 1+ Million Genomes initiative (1+MG).

CSC further worked actively in the ELIXIR network in the international efforts to develop management services for research data sets in life sciences and medicine and exerted influence in the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health standardisation organisation to promote Finnish use cases. In these functions, CSC worked to ensure compatibility in data management of national and international sensitive data sets. 

The purpose of CSC’s future services is to expand the current secure ePouta cloud service to include the controlled intake and storage of sensitive data sets as well as secure management of data subject to permits by scientists in a new teleworking environment. Supported by international standards, it will be easier to transfer foreign data sets to CSC’s systems for analysis together with domestic data. CSC’s future services for sensitive data sets were piloted with such actors as the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s Biobank and the Universities of Helsinki and Oulu for the part of genome and bioimaging data sets. CSC also mapped the potential requirements of higher education institutions for the future services. 

FinData, the Health and Social Data Permit Authority established in May 2019, selected CSC as its partner for implementing the information systems needed by the authority for issuing permits for the secondary use of sensitive social and health data, the transfer of data from different controllers, and the analysis of data. The issuing of permits for the secondary use of health and social data relies on the REMS system developed by CSC. The Health and Social Data Permit Authority’s data request service was launched at the beginning of 2020.

Promoting open data and securing the availability of information

Looking after data sets produced by research and managing their life cycle are part of good scientific practice and in the interest of every research organisation.

The Fairdata service package, which is offered by the Ministry of Education and Culture and produced by CSC, helps promote open science and safeguards the life cycle management and long-term availability of research data. The Fairdata package ensures the secure storage and findability of research data sets and their metadata. The metadata of the data which are preserved in the service and, subject to agreement, downloaded from other sources are published on search service Etsin, in which the data sets have permanent identifiers and landing pages. The Fairdata package was published for research use on 1 July 2019 together with its upgraded and completely new services. IDA, a research data storage service which was renewed the year before, was joined by the upgraded research data search service Etsin and metadata warehouse Metax. At this time were also launched Qvain, a completely new service for describing the research data, as well as Qvain Light, a tool that is easier to use but more limited.

The purpose of the national research data warehouse developed by CSC is to make research data and experts easier to find and to promote the visibility and societal impact of Finnish research. In addition to CSC, Finnish research organisations, funding providers, and research administration networks in Finland across a broad front participated in developing the service, which is to be launched in 2020.
 

Digital preservation (PAS) ensures the preservation and availability of digital data for the needs of researchers and other users over decades or even centuries.

 

PAS services preserve data for future generations

Digital preservation (PAS) ensures the preservation and availability of digital data for the needs of researchers and other users over decades or even centuries.

The volume of cultural heritage data sets in digital preservation grew considerably in 2019. In total, the volume of preserved data exceeded 580 terabytes and grew 2.6 fold year-on-year. An important step forward was taken in the digital preservation of research data as the new Fairdata-PAS service produced by CSC was launched as part of the Fairdata services. The digital preservation of research data was initiated in concrete terms on 5 December 2019, as the first data package was accepted for preservation once the preparations were complete. 

The update of the PAS contract model, which was started in 2018, was completed in 2019. The need to update the contract model was underpinned by such factors as the conclusion of the KDK and ATT projects, reform of data protection legislation, and enabling of research data preservation. The updated PAS agreement between the Ministry of Education and Culture and CSC was signed in summer 2019, and the signing of service contracts between organisations using the service and CSC began in the autumn.  

As part of providing the PAS services, CSC also supports the service user organisations and, together with them, strives to promote understanding and expertise related to the management and storage of digital data. In this context, CSC organised three training events on digital preservation, which had a total of 70 participants and received positive feedback. CSC also continued organising the PAS cooperation network for the tenth year running. The network enables organisations using PAS services to participate in continuous improvement of the services and, for example, maintenance of the national PAS specifications.

In 2019, CSC also participated in developing a platform for the digital preservation of the central government’s document material together with the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Finance and the National Archives of Finland. The purpose of this cooperation was to specify an architecture which describes digital preservation as a whole and also examines platform development in proportion to the existing services. The platform development work was launched, and the first version of the platform will be commissioned in early 2020.


 

International service interoperability supports research impact

Careful documentation, preservation and sharing is a precondition for responsible management of research data. The interoperability of national and international data management services has played an important role in improving the reusability of data sets. The work carried out by CSC in 2019 in EOSC FAIRsFAIR, EOSC-hub and EOSC-Nordic projects, and the company’s key role in several international meetings organised in Finland (including the plenary of the Research Data Alliance in the autumn, where CSC was one of the organisers) promoted Finnish expertise in data management further. The FAIR principles of responsible data management were promoted together, for example in the Open science coordination working groups, by increasing the use of permanent identifiers and building up data management competence at workshops, webinars and other events while supporting the commissioning of Fairdata services. CSC also supported several research infrastructure and research projects in planning their data management.

The development of EUDAT services has provided CSC with opportunities for developing Finnish and international services with user orientation while supporting research organisations. The EUDAT services are a key part of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) strongly promoted by the European Commission with the aim of supporting public open scientific research. These services support research infrastructures and organisations in data management in different life cycle phases of the data. In particular, the EUDAT services aim to support international research cooperation and enhance impact by offering interoperable and customisable data management services. In addition to the EOSC projects listed above, EUDAT services are also developed in thematic EU projects, including ENVRI Plus and SeaDataCloud.
 

Services implemented and maintained by CSC help guide and develop the entire Finnish education system and build preconditions for lifelong learning.
 

Supporter of continuous learning

Almost all students at Finnish higher education institutions use services implemented by CSC. The joint use of these services is also expanding to vocational education and training and general education. Services implemented and maintained by CSC guide and develop the entire Finnish education system and build preconditions for lifewide learning.

CSC has played a strong role in developing enterprise resource planning and the preconditions for knowledge management at different levels of education in 2019. Among other things, service development has taken the form of deploying significant data warehouses and further development of ERP systems. Early Childhood Education Data Warehouse Varda was commissioned in 2019. Municipalities and joint municipal authorities, and as from 1 January 2020, private early childhood education and care providers can use Varda to store information on ECEC providers and units as well as children attending ECEC. In addition to the deployment, the use of Varda data for the needs of different authorities, public administration and citizens was planned and developed in 2019. This service is provided by the Ministry of Education and Culture.

CSC’s role as an expert in higher education institutions’ basic systems was highlighted in 2019. CSC promotes the digitalisation of the universities’ services by supporting the nine universities of the Oodi consortium in a transition from Oodi, a basic system for supporting teaching and studies, to Sisu system and Peppi service package. CSC facilitates cooperation on planning integrations between Peppi basic system and national services (OILI, Studyinfo, Virta, EXAM, Service for Cross-Institutional Studies). The Peppi consortium and its more than 30 HEI members were supported in large-scale development projects of the Peppi service package and testing process reform.


Education Management Information Service Arvo was used in 2019 to carry out the first national career monitoring exercise among the universities of applied sciences’ alumni. Among other things, the career monitoring data will be used to plan and develop education and to promote graduate employment. Arvo service supports queries concerning different levels of education and knowledge management. In 2019, the service was used by 183 education providers, and nearly 170,000 respondents in total provided feedback in surveys conducted by them using this service.

To support continuous learning, the Library of open learning materials, which is shared by all levels of education, was developed in 2019. The library will be launched in 2020 as a service for using and sharing open learning materials. The service is provided by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Finnish National Agency for Education. Its development took place in close cooperation with stakeholders, which provided a common forum for collaboration and networking between different levels of education focusing on open learning materials. The possibility of storing materials in the library was opened for piloting in December 2019. At this time, the first learning materials were shared in the library to support teachers’ expertise and develop learners’ competence, both in independent learning and as part of basic education and secondary and higher education studies.

The online examination system EXAM replaces conventional written exams and enables more diverse possibilities of sitting exams, also reducing the preparative work for teachers and student affairs administration. In 2019, EXAM was developed to support national HEI cooperation, and a new service was launched which allows students to sit their exams at any one of the participating institutions. The number of examinations sat using the EXAM system increased by 57% year on year (2019: 169,686, 2018: 108,415), and the number of individual rooms went up to a total of 803 rooms in the 27 higher education institutions of the EXAM consortium (2018: 630).

CSC supported higher education institutions in their joint efforts to update the architecture in the area of education in 2018 and 2019 with the aim creating a reference architecture which supports possibilities for continuous learning as well as individual and flexible study paths at higher education institutions. This reference architecture guides the HEIs’ own enterprise architectures and offers tools for developing support for studying and teaching at the HEIs. The updated architecture is already being used in the drafting of the higher education institutions’ DigiVision.

Information system and network specialist

Funet, a fast and reliable data network for Finnish higher education institutions, research and education, covers all Finnish HEIs irrespective of their administrative sector and serves over 375,000 end users across Finland.

In 2019, installation work related to a life cycle upgrade of the network continued in the Funet 2020 project. The new network was installed and commissioned across the country, excluding Northern Finland. The commissioning of the new network progressed successfully and on schedule. The upgrade will continue stepwise in 2020–2021. CSC also continued to participate in planning a life cycle upgrade of the joint Nordic NORDUnet network. In this work, special focus was on the needs of organisations using Funet.

Funet Tiimi web conference system and Funet Miitti video meeting services enable collaboration across organisational boundaries irrespective of time and place. These services are used by almost all higher education institutions. They are commonly used to organise online meetings, webinars and online teaching. In 2019, Funet Tiimi service was used for almost 600,000 hours in total, or in excess of 68 calendar years. Funet Miitti service was similarly used for approx. 350,000 hours, corresponding to around 40 calendar years, in 2019.  

Etuubi and Funet Video are video publishing systems operating in a hybrid cloud. Among other things, they are used to support teaching, communications and marketing, as well as for the streaming of events and as distribution platforms for presentation materials. These services can be used not only to publish existing videos but also to produce videos and enrich them, for example with learning materials in the form of questionnaires. Users spent approx. 47,500 hours, or around 5.4 calendar years, viewing the videos saved to the services.

Other significant customer implementations in 2019

CSC produces information system services tailored to special needs for a number of customer organisations. In 2019, customers with tailored services included the National Audiovisual Archive, Certia, the National Archives of Finland, the Finnish National Gallery, and the cooperation groups for higher education institution and special libraries, LUMIKKO and KOHA.

CSC participated in implementing the State Treasury’s new municipal finances information service in 2019, and the National Library of Finland and CSC worked together to implement a new library service, KOHA.    

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