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July 8, 2002

The following news about distributed computing is from the Grid Research, Integration, Deployment and Support Center (GRIDS), part of the National Science Foundation Middleware Initiative (NMI). Subscribe to the GRIDS Center Newsletter by sending e-mail to with "subscribe news" in the body of the message.

 1. Hot Off the Grid

NMI-R1 PRODUCTION RELEASE. Following weeks of beta testing, the official NSF Middleware Initiative Release 1 (NMI-R1) is now available at The release has GRIDS software deliverables that together are expected to be used by large-scale distributed collaborations like the Grid Physics Network (GriPhyN) and the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES). In partnership with EDIT (also part of NMI), GRIDS is working with early adopters at ten testbed universities that will help integrate NMI-R1 with existing campus enterprise infrastructure.

GLOBUS TOOLKIT R&D 100 AWARD. One NMI-R1 component is the new recipient of an R&D 100 award, given annually by R&D Magazine to the 100 most significant technical products of the year. The Globus Toolkit 2.0 earned this coveted award for becoming what The New York Times recently called "the de facto standard" for Grid computing. See for details.

2. Feature Story


The GRIDS Center has contributed core software to the initial NSF Middleware Initiative release (NMI-R1). The Globus Toolkit, Condor-G and Network Weather Service (NWS) combine to form a suite of Grid applications that are packaged together for easy installation, configuration and use. NMI-R1 is expected to become the standard distribution for these popular tools, upon which applications will be built by the TeraGrid, the International Virtual Data Grid Laboratory (IvDGL), the Grid Physics Network (GriPhyN), the Network for Earthquake Engineering and Simulation (NEES) and other large-scale, distributed projects.

But the scalability of GRIDS software means that users at all levels can benefit - you don't need access to a supercomputer. Today's desktop PC is more than the equal of a 1992 supercomputer. The availability of such affordable computing power can let scientists and engineers completely reconceptualize their research, taking advantage of distributed systems for resource sharing, collaboration and data management.

Built on the Internet and the World Wide Web, the Grid is a new class of infrastructure that provides scalable, secure, high-performance mechanisms for discovering and negotiating access to remote resources. Scientists are now sharing data and instrumentation on an unprecedented scale, and other geographically distributed groups are beginning to work together in ways that were previously impossible. Grids rely on Internet-based middleware - including NMI-R1 components like the Globus Toolkit, Condor-G and NWS - that provides standard protocols for access to on-line resources.

The GRIDS contributions to NMI-R1 share the following traits

  • Is primarily open-source, open-architecture software

  • Runs on Red Hat Linux 7.2 or Solaris 8.0

  • Uses Grid Security Infrastructure (GSI), based on Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)

  • Together manage complementary requirements for sharing distributed resources

The Globus Toolkit (http// is a community-based set of services and software libraries that supports Grids and Grid applications. The toolkit includes software for security, information infrastructure, resource management, data management, communication, fault detection and portability. Each component defines protocols and application programming interfaces (APIs), while providing open-source reference implementations in C and (for client-side APIs) in Java. Its components can be used separately or together to develop Grid applications.

Condor-G is a highly distributed batch system for job scheduling and resource management in multi-domain environments. Optimized to work with the Globus Toolkit's inter-domain protocols, Condor-G contributes its own intra-domain resource and job management methods to harness widely distributed resources as if they all belong to a single domain. The combined result is a full-featured front-end for computational Grids, letting the user manage thousands of jobs running at distributed sites. It provides job monitoring, logging, notification, policy enforcement, fault tolerance and credential management.

NWS monitors and dynamically forecasts performance of network and computational resources, using a distributed set of performance sensors (e.g., network monitors, CPU monitors) for instantaneous readings. The ability of its numerical models to predict conditions is analogous to weather forecasting - hence the name. When used with the Globus Toolkit and Condor-G, it lets dynamic schedulers provide statistical Quality-of-Service readings. NWS forecasts end-to-end TCP/IP performance (bandwidth and latency), available CPU percentage and available non-paged memory, automatically identifying the best technique to forecast any given resource.

NMI-R1 also includes a tool called KX.509 from the University of Michigan. It allows Kerberos sites to interact with Grids by converting a user's credentials from Kerberos to PEM, the format used by the Grid Security Infrastructure (GSI).

NMI-enabled Grid environments certainly provide high performance, but that doesn't mean they require high-performance computers. Although GRIDS software was developed for high-performance computing, it will work just as well using commodity desktop PCs. For that matter, today's supercomputers in fact consist of many such off-the-shelf PCs - albeit numbering in the thousands - that are configured in clusters that use Grid software to work in concert. NSF's latest such system is known as the TeraGrid, and it will be located at four separate sites (two each in Illinois and California) connected by a 40 gigabit-per-second network.

But don't wait for 2012 and your own terascale desktop PC. Get started now with NMI-R1 at You might be surprised how straight-forward it is to install, configure and run your own Grid. See the Grid Computing Primer for examples of applications, with links to project web sites.

3. What's Coming Up

Global Grid Forum 5
July 21-24, 2002
Edinburgh, Scotland

Global Grid Forum 5 (July 21-24) will be held in conjunction with IEEE's High Performance Distributed Computing Symposium-11 (July 24-26) at the Edinburgh International Conference Center (EICC) in Edinburgh, Scotland. Over 500 participants are already registered to join the activities. Advance registration for the conference -- which will include a talk by NMI program director Alan Blatecky of NSF -- is available through July 10 at

GGF is a community-initiated forum of individual researchers and practitioners working on distributed technologies for "Grid" computing. GGF provides working sessions for Working Groups and Research Groups, as well as general information and education for those who wish to "brush up" on what is happening with Grid technologies, applications and initiatives. The organization resulted from a merger of the Grid Forum, the eGrid European Grid Forum, and the Asia-Pacific Grid community.

SC02 From Terabytes to Insights
November 16-22, 2002
Baltimore, MD

SC2002 brings together scientists, engineers, systems administrators, programmers, and managers to share ideas and glimpse the future of high performance networking and computing, data analysis and management, visualization, and computational modeling. This year, SC will highlight how we can use our evolving cyberinfrastructure to tap into terabytes of data to gain insight into creating a world that is safer, healthier and better educated. The conference is sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society and by the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Computer Architecture. See

4. More about GRIDS

GRIDS is part of the NSF Middleware Initiative (NMI).  NMI maintains a number of e-mail discussion lists to facilitate communication communities. See for details.


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