Feature: Building the Global Grid
Interoperability. It’s a big word for an even bigger task: getting the world’s dozens of grid computing projects to operate as one seamless global Grid.
Over the past decade, many different grid projects, serving different communities, with their own approaches to grid technologies, have sprung up around the world. Scientists needing to access resources – computing power, data storage, scientific instruments – associated with different grids find the task difficult, if not impossible.
“Our goal is to produce grid infrastructures and software that facilitates collaboration for science,” says Laurence Field from the Enabling Grids for E-sciencE project. “To create a uniform environment for scientists, we have to break down all the administrative domains built up by the different grid projects. We can’t be egocentric about grids – concentrating on only our own software and or infrastructure.”
That view, now shared by many in the grid computing world, has resulted in a new push toward interoperation. Most efforts are bilateral: two grid projects working together to allow people to access the basic functions of both from either grid. And groups such as the Open Grid Forum’s Grid Interoperation Now community provide a place for those working on such bilateral efforts to make contact and share knowledge.
“We don’t think we’re ever going to achieve a grid environment where everything’s exactly the same,” says Leigh Grundhoefer from the Open Science Grid, “but everyone hopes the grid environment becomes easier and easier to use. Today scientists see a Grid that’s all partitioned up – they can use it in one place but not another.”
One of the first examples of working interoperability has been driven by a group of scientists facing this very problem. With a deadline a little over one year away, particle physicists working on experiments at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland need the grid projects involved, including the EGEE and OSG, to achieve some level of interoperability.
“Basic interoperation between OSG and EGEE has been achieved,” says Field. “Scientists using either infrastructure can now submit jobs to both and copy data between the infrastructures. And if another grid interoperates with either, they’ll see the other grid’s resources. Through activities like these we hope to build up a homogenous grid landscape.”
There is still a long way to go, however, before a global interoperable Grid is a reality.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done with social engineering as well as computer engineering to get grids to talk to each other,” adds Grundhoefer. “We’re just at the very beginning, but we hope examples like OSG and EGEE will make it easier for other grids in the future.”