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April 29, 2003

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 majordomo@grids-center.org with "subscribe news" in the body of the message.

1. Hot Off the Grid

GRIDS CENTER SOFTWARE SUITE UPDATED FOR NEW NSF MIDDLEWARE INITIATIVE RELEASE 3.0.  With the release of NMI-R3 on April 28, 2003, GRIDS has issued its third on-schedule version of the GRIDS Center Software Suite. The software serves as a stable foundation on which Grid implementers can build customized applications for science and engineering. New to the suite with NMI-R3 are a credential repository called MyProxy, a Grid tool based on the popular Message Passing Interface standard called MPICH-G2, and a tool for customizing GRIDS component configurations called GridConfig. They join existing GRIDS components like the Globus Toolkit™, Condor-G, Network Weather Service, Grid Packaging Tools and GSI-OpenSSH. See http://www.nsf-middleware.org/nmir3/.
 

GRID MIDDLEWARE AND "CYBERINFRASTRUCTURE." A blue ribbon panel recently reported to NSF on the emerging cyberinfrastructure. According to its chair, Dan Atkins of the University of Michigan (UM), "Grid middleware is a very critical component. NMI and GRIDS address important needs not just by providing stable tools, but also by defining processes for the collaborative development of software for science and engineering." Atkins said that the panel's 14 months of inquiry showed that prior ad hoc efforts to develop infrastructure had been in danger of becoming "balkanized," with many differing research communities developing independent -- and often incompatible -- solutions to similar problems of interoperability and resource sharing. "Now we are at an inflection point," he said, "where the emerging technology is helping users pull together the whole range of on-line resources so virtual communities can become real." Atkins is a professor of information and computer science at UM, and he served also as the founding dean of the university's School of Information. The panel's report is at http://www.cise.nsf.gov/evnt/reports/toc.htm.
 

2. Feature Story

SHAKING THINGS UP WITH NEESGRID: GRIDS Center Software Suite is the foundation for customized applications of a widely distributed network for earthquake engineering and simulation.
By Tom Garritano, garritano@mcs.anl.gov.

One of the GRIDS Center's target communities is NEES, the George Brown, Jr., Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), NEES is a distributed virtual laboratory for earthquake experimentation and modeling. Its users are researchers who seek to design buildings and other structures that are more resistant to seismic events and disasters in general.

An ambitious aspect of NEES called NEESgrid is a networked infrastructure that facilitates integration of diverse systems such as instrumentation (including huge shake tables, centrifuges and tsunami wave tanks), computational resources and collaborative environments. Several principal investigators from the NSF Middleware Initiative (NMI) GRIDS Center are also prominent members of the NEESgrid team. This overlap is helping to speed up progress by NEESgrid, which is building its applications on the GRIDS Center Software Suite (http://www.grids-center.org).

Because NEES and NEESgrid are scheduled to operate through 2014, they represent a long-term NSF commitment to using the Grid for earthquake engineering. GRIDS is also partnered with other NSF investments like the Grid Physics Network (GriPhyN) and TeraGrid to provide a stable substrate of middleware on which such communities can build custom applications. Collectively, they form the front line of "cyberinfrastructure" envisioned in the recent report (http://www.cise.nsf.gov/news/cybr/cybr.htm) of a blue-ribbon panel that advocates substantial new funding for NSF to stimulate projects across all science and engineering disciplines, with activities like NEES, GriPhyN and TeraGrid as models.

CAPTION:  Three shake tables at the University of Nevada Reno are used to investigate how this 40-percent scale model of a concrete slab-on-steel girder bridge responds to seismic stimuli. (Courtesy of Gokhan Pekcan, UNR.  See http://bric.ce.unr.edu/nees/.)

Three shake tables at the University of Nevada Reno are used to investigate how this 40-percent scale model of a concrete slab-on-steel girder bridge responds to seismic stimuli. (Courtesy of Gokhan Pekcan, UNR.  See http://bric.ce.unr.edu/nees/.)

Prior to the 2001 advent of NMI, research communities like NEES might have struggled to create their own separate IT infrastructures, with redundant efforts and a lack standardization. Through NMI, NSF funded the GRIDS Center to create a more uniform middleware infrastructure upon which communities can build their own applications, achieving efficiency and interoperability that wouldn't otherwise be possible. The GRIDS suite provides NEES with a long-term, sustainable base for the continued evolution of NEESgrid systems and software.

Building on GRIDS software, NEESgrid developed telepresence capabilities to permit remote observation and participation in experiments. This lets researchers view multiple data or video streams and interact with colleagues or equipment during real-time tests at multiple NEES equipment sites. NEES engineers will also have access to a repository of data from experiments and simulations, in addition to a simulation software repository.

Gokhan Pekcan is the researcher who worked most closely with the NEESgrid Systems Integration (SI) team as the initial NEESgrid software distribution was being developed. An earthquake engineer in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR), he works with Ian Buckle, the university's principal investigator on NEES. With Oregon State University (OSU) and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), UNR is an early adopter among the 15 NEES sites that are "Grid-enabling" their resources. They have deployed the NEESgrid Software Suite, including GRIDS components like the Globus Toolkit and Condor-G, as fundamental infrastructure for data acquisition, analysis and archiving.

"We are using the GRIDS distribution as the base of the NEESgrid software, and deployment has gone tremendously well," Pekcan said. "It was difficult at first because we weren't speaking the same language as the NEESgrid staff. Before NEES, none of the earthquake engineers was familiar with Grid concepts. But both sides were determined to communicate well, and that's what has happened."

They began by defining and acquiring the needed hardware and software components for NEESgrid. UNR's configuration, which Pekcan said is similar to other NEES sites, has two servers running RedHat Linux 7.3, with a third machine running Windows 2000 for data acquisition. Testing began in earnest with the first NMI and GRIDS release in mid-2002. Concurrently, UNR was installing its NEES-funded shake tables, which will eventually be accessible to remote users who will be able to conduct experiments, acquire data and interact with colleagues dispersed around the world -- all in real time

NEES is already doing Grid-enabled simulations, and they are working toward real-time remote collaboration via teleobservation, telepresence, shared data, test visualizations, system identification, and numerical computations. "We're laying groundwork for real-time manipulation of shake tables," Pekcan said, "This progress is relevant to NEES sites with large centrifuges and tsunami wave basins."


The GRIDS Center is working with NEESgrid, part of the George Brown, Jr., Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation. Funded by NSF, NEES is a distributed virtual laboratory for earthquake experimentation and modeling.

UNR's three shake tables are 14 by 14-foot biaxial platforms with intricate components pressurized up to 5,000 pounds per square inch. They have a combined payload capacity of 150 tons to test scale models of bridges and buildings -- even soil samples -- which are subjected to forces up to 1G in two directions simultaneously. Each table may operate independently, in-phase (i.e., with the other two combined to act as a single unit), or differentially with the other tables to simulate spatial variation effects of earthquakes.

A major challenge addressed by NEESgrid is the synchronization of experimental data and devices. NEES engineers envision having multiple sites run simultaneous experiments, each dependent on the other. Such dynamic circumstances mean devices will need to be synchronized at the millisecond level, which requires an extraordinarily efficient use of network and computational resources by the underlying middleware infrastructure.

UNR has been able to do most of its own Grid troubleshooting, Pekcan said, even without computer scientists on staff. Their campus IT support office has helped troubleshoot network problems, and on rare occasions when the NEES staff get stumped, he said, the UNR computer science faculty lend a hand.

Now that UNR and other early adopters have done some spade work, the remaining NEES sites will benefit from the lessons learned. "There is no doubt we are on target to meet our milestones," Pekcan said. "Progress is increasingly rapid as the September 2004 date for a fully operational 15-site NEESgrid approaches."

GRIDS principal investigators on the NEESgrid team are Ian Foster (University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory), Carl Kesselman (Information Sciences Institute at the University of Southern California) and Randy Butler (National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). Besides those institutions, NEESgrid also includes the University of Michigan and University of Oklahoma.

In addition to UNR, OSU and RPI, the NEES equipment sites will include Brigham Young University, Cornell University, Lehigh University, State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo, University of California campuses at Berkeley, Davis, Los Angeles and San Diego and University of Texas at Austin. See http://www.neesgrid.org.
 

3. What's Coming Up

Global Grid Forum 8
June 24-27, 2003

Seattle, WA
The Global Grid Forum will hold its eighth meeting, with a theme of "Building Grids -- Obstacles and Opportunities."  GGF8 will update global Grid practitioners, enthusiasts and researchers on the current state of Grid technology. The program will include esteemed keynote speakers, technology updates, application updates, industry updates and special Grid debate panels. See http://www.gridforum.org/meetings/ggf8/.
 

HPDC-12
June 22-24, 2003
Seattle, WA

The Twelfth IEEE International Symposium on High-Performance Distributed Computing will be a forum for presenting the latest research findings on the design and use of highly networked systems for computing, collaboration, data, analysis, and other innovative tasks.  HPDC provide a global meeting place for those interested in Grid computing. A joint program of tutorials and keynote talks will highlight major themes and recent developments in the field. See http://www-csag.ucsd.edu/HPDC-12/.

International School on Grid Computing
July 13-25, 2003
Vico Equense, Italy
Several GRIDS leaders are helping to organize the 2003 International School on Grid Computing, co-sponsored by the Global Grid Forum. The event will provide an in-depth introduction to Grid technologies and applications. Its curriculum will cover widely deployed Grid middleware (Globus Toolkit, Condor, Unicore), along with Grid services and data services. Lectures will focus on specialized topics such as applications and experiences with bringing up production Grids. Hands-on laboratory exercises will give participants practical experience with widely used Grid middleware. A testbed environment -- connected to major international science Grids -- will host widely used middleware produced by projects in the US, the EU, and in Asia Pacific (AP). Registration ends May 11. See http://www.dma.unina.it/~murli/SummerSchool/.

SC2003: Igniting Innovation
November 15-21, 2003
Phoenix, AZ

The SC conference marks its 15th year with SC2003. Thousands of high-performance computing and networking experts will see the latest technological tools, learn about new scientific applications, and listen to other experts present their most recent research. See http://www.sc-conference.org/sc2003/.

GlobusWORLD 2
January 19-23, 2004
San Francisco, CA

GlobusWORLD 2 will feature three tracks of invited speakers, lecturers, interactive panels, and forward-looking roundtables on Grid computing topics related to the Globus Toolkit. It follows the successful first GlobusWORLD held in January 2003, with over 450 attendees from 25 countries. Sees http://www.globusworld.org.
 

4. More about GRIDS

Part of the NSF Middleware Initiative (NMI), GRIDS is a partnership of the Information Sciences Institute (ISI) at the University of Southern California, the University of Chicago, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at University of California at San Diego, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. For more information, see http://www.grids-center.org. To subscribe for GRIDS updates, send mail to majordomo@grids-center.org with a message body of "subscribe news" (without quotes). You will receive a confirmation message with simple instructions on how to authenticate your subscription.

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