For me, this has been one of the most stimulating events I have been to during my involvement in grid computing. Why is this? Well, I think it is because of a couple of things. Firstly, the interaction and discussions which have taken place at all of the sessions that I have attended. Presentations have been enlightening, but they have frequently initiated equally pertinent responses. Secondly, there has been a common theme of discussing how to deliver services to end users that will genuinely make the infrastructure easy to use. I hesitate to say that people are starting to think out side of the box because this is the research world and we don't have boxes but nevertheless people seem to me more ready to turn received wisdoms around and consider doing things that could make access easier, at first anyway, and reveal complexity as and when required.
In the context of user and community support track there have been a number of different discussions on the theme of simplifying access to grid-based services. Typically, we currently introduce the grid to new communities by showing off how clever, complex and secure it is, all of which only serves to convey how impenetrable the grid can be. There is an emerging consensus that we need to develop, collate and promote easier mechanisms to do science with grid-enabled applications delivered as services. Portals and other web-based services will play an important role here as will
EGI.eu has made available some mechanisms to achieve this in the form of the Applications database, the Training Marketplace and the VO services tools for VO managers. We have, this week, launched our ongoing series of workshops for users and something that has been suggested as a possible way to move forwards is less documentation but more coordination and guidance about where to find the appropriate information.
The workshops that we have run this week have all proved successful:
- Data management: experiences, requirements and best practices
- NGI/EGI Roadshows: discussion around the proposed Roadshow model for NGIs to adopt
- Portal Technologies: a review of technologies and solutions
- Virtual Research Communities: experiences and plans
Reports on these will appear shortly on Indico and also through the EGI blog channel.
Others workshops will be promoted shortly.
Most of the suggestions for this improved usability for the grid and reduction of barriers can be achieved by better integration of existing services and plans. For example, the Applications Database tools section can be improved to link applications to portals that either do or could deliver simpler access to the applications that they need to do their science with their collaborators.
We look forward to demonstrating solutions to these challenges at the Community Forum next March.