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Showing posts from November, 2007

High Throughput Computing week

We;ve just finished a week (well, four days) of talks, tutorials and discussion about High Throughput Computing. The event was opened by Miron Livny, leader of the Condor team, who gave an excellent introduction - the key point is that HTC is about the number of tasks that can be completed in a given time, whereas "traditional" High Performance Computing is about how much computing power can be brought to bear at a given time. As Miron puts it, Floating Operations per Year is not necessarily 60*60*24*7*52 Floating Operations per Second (FLOPS).

We've hosted events by the Condor team in the past, but for HTC week we extended our range. In particular, John Powers and Dan Ciruli of Digipede flew over from the Bay Area to tell us about their product. A day of hands-on tutorials allowed delegates to compare the strengths of Digipede and Condor, and the evening discussions included ways the systems could be used together.

Scheduled discussions looked at requirements for HTC …

Web 2.0, e-Science and Innovation

Last week the e-Science Institute organised a "think tank" to review the state of e-Science and suggest opportunities for research. A major emphasis of the debate was the recent trend to use Web 2.0 tools to support scientists. Dave de Roure gave several examples he saw at recent conferences, including wikis and blogs such as Open Wetware and Useful Chemistry, as well as various data mashups. Tony Hey gave a public lecture on e-Science and Digital Scholarship which presented a similar story, including the use of utility computing (which now seems to be called cloud computing - you've got to love the constantly changing buzzwords in IT). Among the discussions, people mentioned the combination of Web 2.0 tools with semantic web technology, and the combination of structured queries and semi-structured information as in DBpedia.

This growth of e-Science 2.0 (to coin a buzzword of my own) has mainly seems to have occurred largely in the life sciences, perhaps because they&…

Centralisation, security, and 25m personal account details

The media and online world are buzzing with the news that HMRC have lost discs containing financial details of 25m people. My particular interest is to what extent the centralisation of the database contributed to the problem. If we consider the NPfIT programme for storing medical records, would they be safer in distributed data stores? At first glance, one might think that a security breach in one store would at least be limited to the set of data held there. But those distributed stores would have to be networked and to allow remote queries; would this increase security (by checking for mass requests) or decrease it (because people wouldn't know which remote requests to distrust)?

In the meantime, here are a few URLs to comments that I found interesting. Philip Virgo worries (as do I) about those organisations that cover up their breaches rather than report them. David Lacey argues that certification of security practices is required to make sure policies are followed. On …

The Business Case and Methods for the Green Data Centre

"Green IT" is a hot topic at the moment. In the UK, data centres contribute nearly 2% of the country's CO2 emissions, a figure which is similar to that of the much-vilified airline sector. We recently broadcast a webinar on this subject which went very well - several people have said that it was our best webinar yet.

We were fortunate to have two excellent speakers. The first was Zahl Limbuwala of the BCS Specialist Group on Data Centres. This SG has developed an open source model for measuring server room efficiency, which will be published in January; Zahl presented the case for why energy efficiency is relevant and talked a little about this model.

The second speaker was Kate Craig-Wood, who runs a carbon-neutral hosting company. Kate gave a lot of low-level practical suggestions for improving the energy efficiency, which her company has used in their new data centre. There are obvious advantages in making such improvements, both economic and environmental.

The &qu…