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Feature - Putting Linux on the grid

Feature - Putting Linux on the grid

Popular middleware flavours are now included as part of the standard selection box for Debian and Fedora users.
Image courtesy Karen Andrews, stock.xchng

In the field of grid computing, Globus has long been a major brand. One of the earliest grid middleware solutions, the Globus Tookit is not only a popular middleware flavor, but it also offers important building blocks for many other grid solutions, including the ARC middleware produced by the KnowARC project.

Now, KnowARC has brought Globus and VOMS (The Virtual Organization Membership Service) to the Debian and Fedora Linux distributions. These packages are also available in Ubuntu, as they take packages from Debian automatically. Furthermore, they are also in EPEL (Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux), an add-on repository for RedHat Enterprise Linux and derivatives such as CentOS and Scientific Linux that are maintained by Fedora.

The ARC middleware relies on a number of Globus libraries in their production-quality middleware, notably the grid security infrastructure and file transfer libraries, and these are now available to Debian and Fedora users out of the box. Likewise, VOMS, which is a key security component of ARC, is provided by the EGEE project through its gLite distribution.

Condor, the popular batch system backend for Grids, has also been integrated into Fedora by the system's developers at the University of Wisconsin. Along with the porting work carried out by KnowARC, the range of base components available 'out of the box' to Linux users opens the door to shipping full Grid middleware in these distributions.

"One of our goals is to have ARC included in major Linux distributions such as Debian and Fedora," said Farid Ould-Saada of Oslo University, who is KnowARC's project director. "Our middleware already runs on nearly every flavor of Linux including those two, but inclusion into these distributions will make it even easier for users to get set up with ARC".

The Linux penguin.

Image courtesy Matt McGee, Flickr

Making things easier

Integration into Linux distributions would allow users to get set up as grid users much more rapidly, without the complex installation protocols that may discourage less-technical users. In the same way, setting up grid sites would become much simpler as it would require only the installation of an appropriate operating system and all the required components for a grid would be available.

This is an alternative to initiatives like XtreemOS that seek to make a distribution of Linux specifically for the grid, as it would not require users or administrators to change to a new operating system. By minimizing the effort needed from administrators and users, KnowARC hopes to promote grid adoption.

In sum, the work makes it easier for grid users and site administrators to get set up; it complements - and does not compete -- with Condor, as Condor is a batch back-end and not a grid; and unlike XtreemOS, it does not require using a new OS.

"It was easier than we expected," says lead-programmer Mattias Ellert from Uppsala University in Sweden. "We had some technical assistance from the Globus team, and in general it has gone very smoothly with both Debian and Fedora. Next we want to port the same packages to Windows as well as submitting ARC itself to the Linux distributions."

"The work provides Debian users with convenient access to Globus capabilities such as public key security, GridFTP data transfer and the Replica Location Catalog for data management," commented Ian Foster, Globus project leader. "This broadening of the Globus user community is very exciting."

-Owen Appleton

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