Grid computing can turbo-boost your research-many scientists are now aware of this fact. However, getting started in grid computing is not as easy as hitting the "warp-speed" button on your desktop.
New users must adapt their applications and their mindset if they are to thrive in the grid environment. This process requires time, energy and qualified, dedicated help. So who're you gonna call?
If you're getting started in the U.S., Open Science Grid, with its fully supported "Engagement" activity, is a good place to start.
"Our mission is to connect with new research disciplines and help them implement the tools and procedures needed to benefit from OSG's infrastructure," explains John McGee, leader of the OSG Engagement team, which is coordinated by the Renaissance Computing Institute.
"OSG is committed to reaching out to new research communities to share the benefits of grid computing more widely. Our goal is to transition new communities into full, contributing members of the OSG."
McGee's team has established a supported infrastructure under which new "Engagement communities" can ease in to full use of the OSG infrastructure.
"We understand that there are significant sociological and organizational changes required to bring new communities to rely on and trust a shared, common distributed infrastructure such as the OSG," he says.
"We work shoulder-to-shoulder with each new community to help them adapt their applications to run effectively on OSG sites," explains McGee. To aid in this process, communities transitioning in to full OSG members participate in meetings, workshops and one-on-one collaborative sessions.
Many of these "engagement communities" are already benefiting from OSG-furnished compute cycles.
Ana Damjanovic uses OSG's computing power to run her CHARMM molecular dynamics simulations, and says effort of porting her application to the grid was all worthwhile. "Getting started on OSG with CHARMM was lot of work and the OSG staff was extremely helpful," she says. "Now CHARMM runs beautifully."
Brian Kuhlman, who uses OSG to power the Rosetta protein folding application, agrees. "OSG has allowed me to do work that would not otherwise be possible. Each run takes about six hours of wall clock time, and the resources I have would allow for one run per day. Only through OSG's support could we manage 16 runs per day, for a full month, in near-real time."
The NanoWire project, which focuses on developing ultra-tiny circuit components, is also powered by grid computing after benefiting from the attention of the Engagement team. Gerhard Klimeck says access to this extra grunt has been most welcome. "nanoHUB is serving over 6200 users with over 250,000 online simulations yearly," Klimeck says. "Most of them execute rapidly on local nanoHUB resources, but an increasing number of applications are utilizing the OSG as a computational backend. While the dealings with grid software and certificates remain very tricky and are not fully reliable, the nanoHUB team is very much engaged in the concept of cycle sharing and efficient utilization of compute power."
Led by Sebastian Goasguen at Clemson University, the campus infrastructure Engagement team provides focused effort for campuses to develop distributed and collaborative computing infrastructures. The team helps established campus grids to federate their resources with the OSG and participates in outreach activities aimed at campuses new to grid computing.
"We collaborate with Educause, Internet2 and TeraGrid to sponsor day-long workshops, called Cyberinfrastructure Days," says McGee. "These days are local to university campuses and help foster discussions about and support for local campus-wide cyberinfrastructure among the research and teaching faculty, IT facility and the CIO."
If you would like to know more about CI Days or have an application you would like to run on OSG, please contact the Engagement team to discuss your requirements. You can also download the OSG New User Guide.