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Showing posts from November, 2006

VO 2.0?

We just held an interesting and I think successful workshop on Virtual Organisations and Grids, in which we looked at the limitations of the current state of the art and what is needed to support industrial requirements. A short summary is in the works and will appear on the Grid Computing Now! web site in a couple of days, with a longer report to follow in due course.

What I want to raise here is a more speculative notion that arose during the discussions - what would be the Web 2.0 implementation of a Virtual Organisation (VO)? Could users easily create their own VO, invite their colleagues to join, actually manage distributed access in a distributed fashion, etc.? Obviously, being Web 2.0, the legal and contractual issues would have to be minimal, so this would apply more to open-source projects.

The nearest model I can think of is more the SourceForge approach, in which anyone can create a project and invite others to join. The SourceForge (or equivalent) software provides core…

Grid in the mass media?

One last comment on SC06. We sent out a press release about Imperial College's new visual monitor of the EGEE Grid, which uses Google Earth to show the state of jobs submitted around the world and made a rather eye-catching display on the UK e-Science stand. This news even found its way into a paragraph on the science page of the Metro (the freesheet that is read by commuters on public transport across the UK).

This is how they rendered it:


The first map of the world's most powerful computer grid is to be unveiled this week. Nine of the largest grids are featured in the display at the Supercomputing festival in Tampa, Florida. The map uses Google Earth to pinpoint more than 300 sites on six continents. Grids are made up of hundreds or thousands of PCs, linked together to create a supercomputer. They are vital for scientists who need extra computing power to process large amounts of data.

As you can see, that's not quite right - Grids in general and EGEE in pa…

I'm back from SC06 and almost recovered from jetlag. We're in the middle of a workshop on Virtual Organisations, which I'll report on in due course. Right now I want to highlight another of the projects we demonstrated on the UK e-Science stand at SC06. uses home enthusiasts to run climate models on their PCs, inspired by SETI@Home and similar projects. This has the advantage that it can run multiple versions of models with slightly varying parameters and look at the most likely results.

It's good and worthwhile science but what makes the project particularly worth noting is the work they've done with education and the media. They have created a schools pack so that the system can be used in school teaching (that's pre-college school in USA terms). As a result they have several schools running models on their IT labs.

The project has also been fortunate to attract the interest of the BBC, who included it in a documentary on climate chang…

Progress on Grid licensing

One of the events on our SC06 stand was a vendors' round-table discussion on Grid licensing. Representatives from Platform, NAG, Visual Numerics, Allinea, among others, contributed their thoughts on how we can produce more flexible licensing schemes for Grid use cases. There are two levels of concern: technical and business.

At the technical level, some vendors expressed frustration that the licensing systems that are currently available are too restrictive. So even though they want to offer more flexible business models, the underlying technology prevents them from doing so. There was broad agreement that a usage-based monitoring technology would provide a more flexible substrate.

There were several scenarios offerred at the business level. One of the simplest is to charge directly based on use. Ohio State University want to do this for local SME's who are just setting out down the road to Grid adoption; these SMEs don't want to commit to a large upfront cost when the…

"Sim City for real"

I'm particularly taken by one of the projects we're demonstrating on the UK e-Science Stand at SC06. "e-Social Science in action: a prototype geo-simulation portal" is, as the name suggests, applying Grid computing to the social sciences. It is simulating the interactions of individual households across an entire city to produce estimates of various factors such as health, housing, and car ownership. The simulations are based on UK census data. Users can then model the effects of various policy changes on these factors.

Under the hood, this is using standard Grid systems such as a compute cluster for running the simulations and SRB for managing the data. The system is easily scalable, so we might see more detailed simulations or see the system applied to larger cities such as London. There are some interesting research challenges left - I'm especially interested in the secure management of sensitive data - but the potential is clear.

The UK is at the leading edge o…

SC06 - Supercomputing

This week I'm at the SC06 Conference in Tampa, Florida, where I'm organising the content for the UK e-Science booth in the exhibition. This exhibition is large by the standards of most conferences, with booths from all the major vendors (IBM, Sun, HP, Microsoft, etc.) and research labs. It's a good opportunity to catch up with developments around the world.

Our booth has 10 demonstrations running continously. Researchers will explain to visitors what their science is all about and how the computing infrastructure helps them to achieve it. The demos range from physics (astronomy & particle physics) through to the social sciences, taking in the life sciences and computer science too.

We also have some interesting talks, including panel sessions on topics such as licensing and volunteer computing. We will also show a BBC horizon programme about climate change, which features one of our demos (

For more info, see