iSGTW Feature - OGF20/EGEE User forum

Feature - OGF20 and EGEE 2nd User Forum: Thoughts From a Grid Novice

Cristy Burne at OGF20/EGEE User Forum in Manchester, UK.
Image courtesy of Sabah Salin

A few months ago I thought the grid was something you used to solve a sudoku. Ideally, the majority of grid users need never know any different; the word "grid" will be buried into the services it represents.

Currently this is far from the case. The Grid is a work in progress. Its users are its guinea pigs, hopefully its allies, and certainly those who should have most influence on its development. Many thousands of these users are already dependent on grid technology for the everyday running of their projects. We have seen vast improvements in the quality of grid services in the last few years, but there is a long way to go before using the grid becomes as simple as just plugging in.

Events such as last week's joint 20th Open Grid Forum and Enabling Grids for E-sciencE User Forum, held in Manchester, England, are a chance for users to share their grid experiences, and a starting point for users and developers to work together for wider grid usability, acceptance and application.

In his opening address, Mark Linesch, president of the Open Grid Forum, stressed the importance of bringing together these various players in our growing grid community. His message was clear: in this intermediate stage of grid evolution, dialogue is invaluable; let's talk to each other, let's not reinvent the wheel, let's learn from the trials and successes of our fellows.

And of course, the meeting cannot be the silver bullet for the tribulations of grid evolution. It raised unanswered questions, it fueled ongoing debate, it involved dissent and below-average coffee... But it also inspired animated talk, frank interaction, and the promise of continued cooperation as the grid continues to grow.

What really struck me as a newcomer to the grid community is the beauty of what we are trying to achieve. The meeting gathered 922 registered participants from 20 countries, each with their own specific objectives and interests, but all united under one roof, and all talking together. This may not be the most efficient way of approaching a massive project like the grid. But it does mean we can all have a say, and we can all play a part.

In ten or twenty years, grid users will not stop to think of the many thousands of hours spent grinding teeth and overcoming barriers and debating paths. They will not imagine the pain that Mark Linesch described when he spoke of the challenges we now face as grid pioneers. Instead, these users will simply plug in to the global service we will have provided. And like me, they may not even know what a grid is.

- Cristy Burne, iSGTW

Cristy Burne joined the editorial staff of iSTGW last week. She can be reached at