iSGTW Technology - UNICORE 6: one month on

Technology - UNICORE 6: one month on

Release 6 of the UNICORE, or Uniform Interface to Computing Resources, grid middleware enables easy web services-based access to computing and data resources
Image courtesy of UNICORE

Officially released 28 August at the UNICORE Summit 2007 at Rennes, France, UNICORE 6 has launched itself into the middleware scene with much gusto.

Billed by developers as a "modern, lean software stack," this latest version of the open-source middleware implements a service-oriented architecture that complies with current web service standards to support interoperability and ease of use.

"In this first month we've seen in the order of 920 downloads," says UNICORE's Achim Streit. "We're very pleased with this start. We know its already being used for several projects on Germany's D-Grid and these developers are very eager to develop their services on top of UNICORE 6."

Development versions of UNICORE 6 are also in use in the European projects Chemomentum, OMII-Europe and A-WARE, with DEISA expected to begin using the software soon.

Streit says this latest release preserves UNICORE's guiding principles.

"UNICORE began as a secure technology for accessing supercomputing resources. We have very strong security and a lot of support for workflows. Using version 5 it was already possible to run a workflow across all major European supercomputers. With version 6 we've included all the latest web services and standards to aid interoperability with other grid middleware systems, such as Globus or gLite."

UNICORE's service oriented architecture differs from the toolkit approach taken by Globus, Streit says. "We have components on all levels, from interfaces to various grid resource management systems and data services up to portals and client platforms like portal technologies, Intel's GPE framework and in the future also Eclipse-based clients."

"UNICORE 6 has been newly developed from scratch. It is 100% pure Java, which makes it leaner and faster, and it runs on almost all operating systems out there. It offers easy to use graphical clients, but also command line clients and APIs to access grid and supercomputing resources."

UNICORE provides ready-to-run tools and workflow functionality that enables workflows of widely varying complexity to run across supercomputers and other grid resources. This demonstration workflow was completed using three distributed supercomputers.
Image courtesy of UNICORE

Technical specifications

On the technical side, UNICORE 6 complies with the OASIS WSRF 1.2 and OGF JSDL 1.0 standards, provides pluggable file transfer mechanisms with the OGSA ByteIO standard as default, and uses XFire as a lean, high-performance SOAP stack in conjunction with the Jetty 6 web server.

In the security domain, authentication and authorization are based on full X.509 certificates, SAML assertions and XACML 1.0 authorization policies; pluggable extensions for proxy certificates and virtual organization management are provided.

UNICORE development was initiated over ten years ago in Germany with funding from the German Ministry of Education and Research.

UNICORE 6 is being jointly developed as an open-source BSD licenced project with main contributions from Forschungszentrum Jülich, the University of Warsaw-ICM, the Intel Software and Solutions Group group in Brühl, Fujitsu Laboratories of Europe in London and CINECA in Bologna.

- Achim Streit, Forschungszentrum Jülich