Thursday, February 24, 2011

TeraGrid's Common User Environment Levels the High Performance Computing Playing Field!

--by Elizabeth Leake, TeraGrid External Relations

The US National Science Foundation’s TeraGrid is known for its diverse suite of computational resources that serve a geographically distributed, multidisciplinary community of users who each have unique research application requirements, methods and workflows. Navigating multiple systems with disparate environments used to be a challenge, but not anymore. TeraGrid’s Common User Environment (CUE) simplifies access by identifying commonalities across systems and eliminating many of the differences.

The user-friendly environment is easy as 1-2-3:

1. Management System (CUEMS): Using provided examples of core modules that have been developed for all TeraGrid production systems, users can customize a command-line interface for their unique needs. Additional modules may also be developed for supported software. By applying CUEMS, new users will enjoy a default interface that features the same naming conventions for basic functions on multiple resources.

2. Variables Collection (CUEVC): Allows users to take advantage of common environment variables and parameters in the global ssh_config file with values that are defined across all platforms. Among the benefits is a short-hand method of configuring TeraGrid host aliases, which eliminates the need to enter fully qualified login host names when using ssh or gsissh. It also includes a standardized shell prompt that indicates which resource an open shell window is connected to.

3. Testing Platform (CUETP): Example programs that can be compiled and executed through the CUE to demonstrate its use on all TeraGrid machines allows users to make valuable comparisons. Users learn how to write, compile, and run fully functional programs by following examples of simple scientific MPI code written in C and Fortran programming languages. The examples are referenced through a common variable on all TeraGrid resources. ($CUE_EXAMPLES)

TeraGrid Campus Champion Leadership Team Member, Jeff Pummill, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville (right), has been enthusiastic about CUE from the beginning. “CUE was the solution to a number of nagging problems from an EOT (education, outreach, and training) point of view,” Pummill says. “New TeraGrid users want to test-drive several resources. Without CUE to unify the machine environments, they can become discouraged spending more time learning about each machine’s unique features than on their research.” Pummill is also encouraged by the CUETP aspect of the effort: “In many cases, all that is needed to increase a new user’s confidence is to provide them with a simple example that they can tinker with, submit, and run without errors.”

TeraGrid Forum Chair John Towns (NCSA) is pleased to support the continued development of CUE. “While TeraGrid offers more diversity than any other grid-enabled collection of resources in the world, the variety did take time to master. CUE reduces the effort required to leverage a variety of systems on a regular basis. It is available on all TeraGrid systems that are expected to transition this summer to the eXtreme Digital, or XD, phase of the program,” said Towns.

For more information, read the CUE Getting Started Guide. For additional help, write to

TeraGrid’11 Conference, July 17-21, Salt Lake City, Utah

The TeraGrid 2011 conference will showcase the capabilities, achievements, and impact of the TeraGrid in research and education. The conference will also mark the beginning of the National Science Foundation’s eXtreme Digital (XD) Resources for Science and Engineering program and will give scientists and engineers information on the resources and services to be provided through this successor to the TeraGrid. To learn more about TeraGrid, the transition to XD, and the TeraGrid’11 conference, visit

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