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Campus grids secret to productive grid sites

Campus grids secret to productive grid sites


A picture of FermiGrid, the campus grid at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Image courtesy of Fermilab Visual Media Services.
Photo by Reidar Hahn.

Fostering a local campus grid may be the secret to running a super-productive grid site, according to Rob Gardner, integration coordinator for Open Science Grid.

"We noticed certain sites on Open Science Grid that were very productive relative to their peers," Gardner said. "The common denominator was that they were accessing resources beyond the scope of their research domain by accessing resources on their campus."

That realization prompted OSG to look more deeply into existing campus grids. The idea, Gardner said, was to find out what the sites were doing right, and to learn from them in three key areas: job management, data management, and identity management. The ultimate goal? To arrive at a set of best practices for establishing and running campus grids.

To answer those questions, OSG organized a gathering of researchers with expertise in building campus cyberinfrastructure. The meeting, which took place this past January, was productive, albeit not in the ways in which the organizers had expected.

"We started off as a technical meeting to try to identify, if someone wants to build a campus grid, how to do it," said Gardner. "It quickly turned into a meeting about policy and incentive and communication."

What participants discovered is that the biggest barrier to the creation of a campus grid is more often diplomatic than technological.

"How do I actually get all the different communities to contribute their resources and commit to those agreements and relationships?" Gardner asked. Each group must be reassured that they will get as much from the campus grid as they put in, and in some cases, protocols must be established to ensure that this is the case.

One of the main points that emerged at the OSG meeting was that there has to be an individual or group willing to spearhead the effort.

"There are many advantages including economy of scale, knowledge sharing, and reduced cost," Gardner said. But, "there has to be someone on the campus who believes that this is a good strategic direction not only for the individual research groups but also for their collective, who is willing to do all of the ground work required to get buy in and get the individual research groups on board and to organize locally. To make a commitment to build such an infrastructure."

At the OSG All-Hands Meeting in March, Gardner delivered a paper summarizing the findings of the campus grid meeting. The next steps for OSG are yet to be determined, but Gardner sees this as just the beginning.

"I think we're far away from having a strategic campus grid solution. Clearly we are - otherwise you would see 150 campus grids, and you'd see them all together in a national cyberinfrastructure," Gardner said. "That's an ideal to move towards - a future where campuses are connected internally and use their resources efficiently internally and nationally."

-Miriam Boon, iSGTW

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