Tuesday, April 13, 2010

European Grid Initiative – what’s next for users?

With transition to EGI one of the topics at the top of the list for discussion this week, it’s not surprising that the EGI session this morning was pretty popular. Users gathered in the auditorium to hear more about how the European Grid Initiative will provide services and support for them from 1 May.

Steven Newhouse, EGI-InSPIRE Project Director, talked us through the nuts and bolts of the project and how the 25 million Euro contribution from the EC will be spent over the 48 months. He outlined the support for the virtual research communities - user communities with an international presence, spanning borders, that need to be sustainable beyond the cycle of project funding. For them, their main point of contact with EGI is the Chief Community Officer, with strategic representation through the External Advisory Board and technical representation through the User Community Board. The User Services Advisory Group will also guide the development of tools.

A range of user support services will be available through EGI, including a registry of training events and trainers. The applications database will continue to let users know where the ‘gotchas’ lie in porting across their applications. It will also expand to include tools and software. Part of this service will be the continuation and expansion of the RESPECT programme, which will expand to include the software that sits on top of UNICORE, ARC, Globus etc as well as gLite.

Annual meetings for users of European e-Infrastructures will continue, widened to include users of infrastructures beyond grids. The aim will be to build collaboration between communities, for example those using different tools within communities and those who share tools across disciplines.

Tiziana Ferrari talked us through operations under EGI, which will continue with no major changes, at least initially. Operations will however have to evolve to address the new challenges raised by the EC, for example to become more sustainable organizationally and financially and to achieve the ‘fifth freedom’ mentioned by Enric Mitjana in the Opening Plenary. The requirement for users of different e-Infrastructures to experience a seamless service will ultimately have a big effect on EGI. Flexibility will be needed within operations, as many global tasks will be devolved to regional partners, and the infrastructure must include NGIs who support different middleware stacks.

The theme of distributed development continues within the middleware activities under EGI. Middleware will be engineered by external providers, including the European Middleware Initiative (EMI), the Initiative for Globus in Europe (IGE) and others. This will lead to a Universal Middleware Distribution for users. Ultimately, SA2’s goal will be to ensure a high quality middleware distribution from the best providers – an important step towards sustainability.

Finally, Jamie Shiers talked about the ‘heavy user communities’ who will be supported by a dedicated activity under EGI. Specifically mentioned in the EGI-InSPIRE proposal are: high energy physics, life sciences, astronomy and astrophysics, computational chemistry and materials science and technologies, earth sciences and fusion. This HUC activity will seek to make the most of the tools, such as Ganga, that have already brought many applications to the grid through EGEE. They will work to see how these can be generalized and reused for other users. Measuring success will be important, through metrics and service reports, but also the numbers of papers published, the PhDs achieved and the wider spin off benefits for science and society.

The second session on these topics coming up after lunch!

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