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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).
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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 http://www.nsf-middleware.org/NMIR1/nmiR1.htm.
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
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 http://www.grids-center.org/news_rd100.php for
2. Feature Story
GRID COMPUTING: NOT JUST FOR SUPERCOMPUTERS
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
primarily open-source, open-architecture
Runs on Red Hat Linux 7.2 or
Uses Grid Security Infrastructure
(GSI), based on Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)
Together manage complementary
requirements for sharing distributed resources
The Globus Toolkit (http//www.globus.org) 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
But don't wait for 2012 and your own terascale desktop PC. Get
started now with NMI-R1 at http://www.nsf-middleware.org. 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