Feature - OSG and TeraGrid join forces for ExTENCI
"The idea is to have Open Science Grid and TeraGrid work together on a joint project as an experiment," explained Paul Avery, the principle investigator for ExTENCI (which stands for Extending Science Through Enhanced National CyberInfrastructure). Although the two infrastructures have worked together to agree on principles and attend each others' meetings, ExTENCI marks the first time that they will work together, sharing milestones and goals.
In order to make the partnership possible, the National Science Foundation's Office of Cyberinfrastructure and Math and Physics Directorate each awarded ExTENCI approximately one million U.S. dollars over two years, for a grand total of just over two million U.S. dollars.
The limitations imposed by a small budget and short timeline meant that they had to carefully select their projects to ensure that they could be completed within ExTENCI's lifetime. The collaboration chose to extend four technology components which will enable users to be more flexible in their choice of infrastructure. Lustre-WAN is one example that is already under development for the CMS and ATLAS LHC experiments.
"A wide area file system that institutions can share has enormous potential," Avery said. "It means that you can share data across institutional boundaries without the data being compromised."
Other technology areas under development via ExTENCI include: Virtual machines, for the STAR and CMS projects; workflow and client tools, for SCEC (Southern California Earthquake Center) and protein folding; and job submission paradigms, through development of the Cactus application.
"We're trying to solve problems that have not been solved yet," Avery said. "We want to enable more scientists to use both TeraGrid and OSG for their applications through the use of virtual machines or by partitioning workflows to easily execute on the most appropriate environment."
When ExTENCI ends in July 2012, the team hopes to have established a precedent for productive collaboration between OSG and TeraGrid. The fruits of their labor will enable users to run on the infrastructure of their choice without having to redesign their code; indeed, if things go as planned, the workflow tools they develop may make it possible for a single workflow to access OSG during one stage, and TeraGrid during another.
"For years I've wanted to see these groups work together. Finally, it's great to see something concrete actually happening," Avery said. "I think the stars have never been better aligned for a joint venture like this."
The kick-off meeting, which brought all of the major players into one room, was very inspiring, according to Avery.
"You have to remember this is really not a whole lot of money and yet the institutions that are involved in it still think it's important enough to participate and travel here and do all the work that is needed to do the project," Avery said. "It will pay off in the end."
-Miriam Boon, iSGTW