To facilitate and standardise access to Earth Observation data, the European Commission established five cloud-based platforms. These platforms provide centralised access to Copernicus data and information, as well as to processing tools. These platforms are known as the DIAS: Data and Information Access Services.
The five online DIAS platforms allow users to find, manage, process and download Copernicus data and information. All DIAS platforms provide access to Copernicus Sentinel data, as well as to the information products from the six operational services of Copernicus, together with cloud-based tools, either on an open source basis or as pay-per-use.
Each of the five competitive platforms also provides access to additional commercial satellite or non-space data sets as well as premium offers in terms of support or priority. Thanks to a single access point for all Copernicus data and information, DIAS allows users to develop and host their own applications in the cloud, while removing the need to download bulky files from several access points and process them locally.
Why Copernicus DIAS?
In Baveno we are launching a new milestone for Copernicus – the Data and Information Access Services (DIAS). This is our way of supporting the growing user base of Copernicus data. It will make it easier and cheaper to start a business based on Copernicus data. Be creative, be innovative, share and use Copernicus data and information! With the DIAS the future is ours.Elżbieta Bieńkowska – EU Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs
Twenty years ago, in the early days of the Copernicus programme, there was no telling of the technological advances that would come. Space data was used only by government organisations and experts or scientists, satellite imagery was stored not in the relatively recently developed cloud, but physically, on magnetic tapes. The technological evolution, especially in terms of availability and accessibility, has made Copernicus the largest space data provider in the world, currently producing well over 12 terabytes per day.
With a growing user base, Earth Observation data is now reaching new stakeholders beyond just the government, such as businesses, entrepreneurs and citizens worldwide. The mass sharing and use of Copernicus (and earlier GMES) data and information started across a series of heterogeneous platforms, while the user carried the burden of download, processing and storage. To facilitate and standardise access to this data, the European Commission funded the creation of the five DIAS.
So, what are these DIAS and how do they differ? Let’s have a look at each of them in detail. Much of this comparison is based on a French study in 2020, that compared all five DIAS on many aspects. Below analysis is a translation of the original study by IDGeo and SomeWhere (in French), that was financed by French Space Agency CNES.
Mundi Web Services
The Mundi DIAS is run by the Mundi Consortium, that consists of Atos, T-Systems, Thales Alenia Space and Sinergise.
The following Copernicus Services are available in Mundi Web Services (according to EARSC): Land Management (CLMS) and Emergency Management (CEMS)
The French idGeo and SomeWhere study wrote about Mundi Web Services:
Mundi offers a high-performance platform, designed to be practical, with the aim of offering more than the minimum. This includes well-thought-out OGC services, the only platform to offer calculation services, calculated data, etc.
Hot volume was its weak point in 2019 but, with the reduction in hot volume across most platforms, this service is improving.
Its first weak point is its data catalog, which is less extensive than its competitors. Moreover, the less strong anchoring of Atos, pilot of the project, in the space world does not help to make them visible. Many of its users only test the platform and access data from time to time. Few projects use the platform. Without financial support from ESA, the volume of turnover will not allow the platform to be maintained after 2021.
ONDA is the name of the Serco Italia S.p.A. led consortium. Serco Italia S.p.A. has partnered with OVH for the delivery of scalable Cloud services, GAEL Systems for the provision of innovative solutions to support data access and Sinergise for the provision of web-based spatial data applications.
The following Copernicus Services are available in ONDA (according to EARSC): Land Management (CLMS), Marine Environment Monitoring (CMEMS) and Atmosphere Monitoring (CAMS)
The French idGeo and SomeWhere study wrote about ONDA:
ONDA is an overall well-designed and documented platform, despite unclear APIs at first glance, with excellent internal support and performance. While ONDA was offering the entire Copernicus catalogue in 2019, its hot/cold data management policy became a weak point, with only one month of hot data and an announced delay of ten minutes for older data. ONDA nevertheless specifies that it has implemented this data management policy in consultation with its customers.
Like the other platforms, its users are mainly from the academic and research world. 80% of users continue their contract after one year. 90% of paying customers are SMEs/start-ups, but these only represent 10% of revenues. 90% of revenues come from public contracts (calls for tenders over 3-5 years) won by ONDA.
ONDA seeks to become a satellite data “broker”, with the aim of simplifying/standardizing access to numerous platforms as well as the associated billing. The sustainability of the platform is guaranteed until the end of 2021, but then remains suspended from financial support from ESA.
CREODIAS is managed by a consortium led by Creotech Instruments S.A., including CloudFerro, Wroclaw Institute of Spatial Information and Artificial Intelligence (WIZIPISI), Geomatys, Eversis and Sinergise, under a contract with the European Space Agency (ESA).
CREODIAS claims to be a seamless environment that brings processing to Earth Observation data (EODATA – EO DATA Free Archive) . The online platform contains most of Copernicus Sentinel satellites data and Services, Envisat and ESA/Landsat data and other Earth Observation data. Its design allows third party users to prototype and build their own value-added services and products. Its set of pertinent tools guarantees simplicity, scalability and repeatability of any services’ value chain.
The following Copernicus Services are available in CREODIAS (according to EARSC): Land Management (CLMS), Marine Environment Monitoring (CMEMS), Emergency Management (CEMS) and Atmosphere Monitoring (CAMS)
The French idGeo and SomeWhere study wrote about CREODIAS:
Some very good points (volume, calculated data, etc.), but offering inefficient support to cloud experts who are unfamiliar with the CREODIAS platform. Internal data download performance is a bit disappointing.
CREODIAS relies mainly on the skills of the cloud provider CloudFerro, which also operates the WEKEO platform and pools resources between CREODIAS and WEKEO. CREODIAS claims around 3,000 users, mainly from the world of research. The projects carried out by these users have an average duration of one year. The future of the platform is suspended on financial support from ESA after the DIAS project ends in 2021.
The SOBLOO consortium is led by Airbus and Orange. Airbus is well positioned to support the development of the Earth Observation ecosystem. The cloud resources made available by Orange will enable scientists, businesses and entrepreneurs to harness the power of the cloud to thrive in building new business models and develop software and applications based on Earth Observation Data. The consortium further benefits from the high level of business expertise of CLS (a CNES subsidiary), Capgemini for its technical operations and VITO with its scientific community continuously providing innovative solutions.
The following Copernicus Services are available in SOBLOO (according to EARSC): Land Management (CLMS), Marine Environment Monitoring (CMEMS), Emergency Management (CEMS), Climate Change (C3S) and Atmosphere Monitoring (CAMS)
The French idGeo and SomeWhere study wrote about SOBLOO:
SOBLOO is a well-designed and documented platform, with effective support. It is differentiated by its types of data and the functional richness of the Orange cloud. Its performance is average. Its weak point is to confine itself to the minimum of the ESA specifications.
SOBLOO says it has difficulty convincing SMEs/start-ups to become customers. In addition, the cloud offer based on a fine and scalable pricing is not suitable for customers managing their budget for the year. SOBLOO is working on a pricing adapted to this clientele.
SOBLOO‘s economic equation is still very difficult without the financial support of ESA. Airbus launches convergence with One Atlas, with the aim of unifying authentication and storage of purchased data. Ultimately, a merger of the two platforms, or at least a very strong pooling of resources, seems preferred.
As key organisations in the Copernicus Programme, EUMETSAT, ECMWF, EEA and MERCATOR OCEAN have combined their long-standing experience to develop the WEkEO Copernicus DIAS service. WEkEO is the EU’s Copernicus DIAS reference service for environmental data, virtual environments for data processing and skilled user support. WEkEO DIAS Service is implemented by EUMETSAT, ECMWF, EEA, and MERCATOR OCEAN.
The name WEkEO (pronounced [wikio]) first refers to the image of the Wikipedia reference portal, and also brings up the idea of a collaborative platform where the first syllable “WE” involves the 3 centres (EUMETSAT, ECMWF, EEA, and MERCATOR OCEAN) together with all WEkEO’s users. It also refers to the way the WEkEO platform is built with a distributed architecture. The letter “k” is synonymous of Knowledge here. Finally, “EO” stands for “Earth Observation” and for “Environment Observatory”.
The following Copernicus Services are available in WEkEO (according to EARSC): Land Management (CLMS), Marine Environment Monitoring (CMEMS), Climate Change (C3S) and Atmosphere Monitoring (CAMS)
The French idGeo and SomeWhere study wrote about WEkEO:
The WEkEO platform claims to be identical to the others, but has clearly benefited from lighter specifications or staggered deadlines. For example, there were no OGC services before the end of 2020, and no pricing policy before 2020.
Data access performance inside the cloud is difficult to assess because S3 and NFS APIs are only offered to commercial users. The default API performance is ten times worse than the best average times seen in two competitors.
WEKEO only offers Copernicus data, and it remains difficult in 2020 to get much information about what it offers. A helpdesk was set up to answer questions but, despite several exchanges, the [study] contact person was unable to obtain information such as the volume of data available immediately.
WEKEO specialises in the needs around the ocean and the atmosphere, and claims two thirds of its clientele coming from research.
The future of Copernicus DIAS
The French study concludes with an interesting analysis of how it sees the future of the Copernicus DIAS services, after concluding that some of these services are struggling to find a large enough user base, business models beyond support by ESA and complex technology. The analysts write:
“The DIAS platforms are still very young, designed to respond primarily to the needs of ESA’s specifications. It would be a safe bet that the platforms to survive will be those that offer high value-added services to their customers, in particular data processing services. The success of competing platforms such as AWS (Amazon) seems to be linked to the ease of use and the robustness of the APIs.
For the DIASs to evolve in the right direction, we encourage users to challenge the platforms on their faults and shortcomings, exposed partially in this study.
We also question the sustainability of the platforms after 2021. Even if this does not plead in favour of innovation and renewal in the field, a criterion to consider is without doubts the seniority of the leading companies of each consortium within the European space ecosystem.
In general, all the platforms today have difficulty in developing a market around a clientele ready to pay for the service provided. We hope that this study will allow all DIAS platforms to improve their offer, to find their clientele and develop a viable economic model. On the other hand, we hope that ESA will be able to help the best of these platforms to sustain themselves over time and no longer depend on subsidies to survive.”