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OSG's continued expansion supports research at every scale

Why do things have mass? How do we eliminate disease? What is the magnitude of human impact on the global environment? These are just a few of the questions addressed by researchers using the Open Science Grid (OSG), a multi-disciplinary partnership that provides access to a distributed fabric of high-throughput computational services.

OSG All Hands Meeting, March 13, 2012. Image courtesy Yvonne McCann.

The Open Science Grid held its annual all hands meeting on the campus of Indiana University - Purdue University at Indianapolis, US, to focus on the computational needs of research and academic communities at every scale. Craig Stewart, executive director of the Indiana University Pervasive Technology Institute, welcomed attendees and recognized the OSG for its achievements. "The OSG plays a critical role in supporting the high-energy physics community, and yet the diversity of scientific disciplines supported by the OSG is at an all time high," says Stewart.

On average, the OSG provides roughly 75,000 CPU hours per wall clock hour. This works out to nearly 2 million CPU hours per day. (In 2012 alone, the OSG community benefited from over 734 million CPU hours.) OSG users self organize into Virtual Organizations (VOs), which are generally focused on a particular scientific area or organized on an institutional basis. Well over half of the VOs using the Open Science Grid are focused on a discipline other than physics. Just three months into 2013, a VO at Indiana University has already used more than one million CPU hours in support of experimental drug research.

Stewart also extolled the recent formal relationship between the OSG and XSEDE (the eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment, funded by the US National Science Foundation). XSEDE uses the OSG as a model of excellence in integrating campus-based and nationally-funded technologies.

Having played a crucial role in the discovery of the Higgs boson, the OSG is well known for supporting the high-energy physics community. Stewart challenged the OSG, however, to do more to inform the general public of the value of scientific research to society. "OSG has been critical to one of the greatest scientific discoveries in a hundred years. If just doing great science were enough, we would be atop a peak of public support. But clearly doing great science is not enough. We need to do more to help the general public understand the short- and long-term benefits of public funding for scientific research."

Throughout the four-day conference, members of varied campus communities cleared up any doubts about the OSG's continued expansion - noting its crucial support for research and achievements in cosmology, neurology, bioinformatics, biochemistry, chemical genomics, and drug discovery, just to name a few. Computing centers and campuses are embracing the 'submit locally, run globally' mantra of the Open Science Grid, tying together campus computing resources via a single submission protocol using the OSG software stack. This makes it easy to expand from local campus grids to the OSG and even commercial cloud products. "Acting as virtual organizations in collaboration with OSG, our campus is retaining ownership of local compute resources while sharing and consuming resources opportunistically - clearly a win-win," explains David Swanson, director of Holland Computing Center at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, US.

"As a neurophysiologist, I am studying electrical signals in the brain to try to understand concussion and learn how to treat it," explains Don Krieger from the University of Pittsburgh's department of neurological surgery. "We've developed new methods to extract neuroelectric information from magnetoencephalographic recordings using a novel nonlinear optimization method - referee consensus. This method is powerful but computationally expensive. At the beginning of December, we had been able to process only 10 seconds of data from one volunteer. By the end of January, using OSG computing resources, we had processed 10,000 seconds of data from 26 volunteers. This is a real breakthrough for our work. Use of the OSG has enabled demonstration of the power of this new method and has moved this important clinical research forward in a way that would not have been possible otherwise."

In the last six years, the OSG has provided more than 2.2 billion CPU hours to the scientific and research community. In addition to the Large Hadron Collider and its Tier 2 operations, OSG executive director Lothar Bauerdick attributes much of 2012's 734 million CPU hours to opportunistic users from a spectrum of applications. Along with success comes responsibility, more of which has fallen to the OSG community (both nationally and internationally). "Looking ahead, the OSG will continue to focus on usability and robustness of software within the OSG ecosystem, education and outreach for campus communities, and the policies surrounding interfacing with cloud resources," says Bauerdick.

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