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Feature - OSG All Hands Meeting

Feature - OSG All Hands Meeting

Attendees visited vendor tables to network and watch demonstrations at the first ever vendor and e-demonstration session to run at an OSG All Hands Meeting.

Image by Miriam Boon.

Last week, 183 researchers and vendors gathered at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois for the Open Science Grid’s annual All Hands Meeting.

In addition to hosting workshops for CMS and ATLAS computing meetings, sessions covered a variety of topics, including security, virtualization, cloud computing, biology applications, reports from European colleagues, and the future of US cyberinfrastructure. This year also marked the first vendor and e-demonstration session.

Several people expressed pleasure at the dynamic discussions that occurred during the panel-style sessions, said Paul Avery, a researcher at the University of Florida and co-chair of the OSG Consortium Council. Kent Blackburn, Avery’s fellow co-chair and a researcher with LIGO Caltech, suggested that the increased level of audience participation is revealing.

“This year’s panel sessions were much more interactive with the audience than I had anticipated,” Blackburn said. “That suggests that there’s a lot more maturity in OSG as a consortium.”

Difficulties with ease of use was a common theme throughout the three-day meeting. Small groups without the resources to hire a full-time cluster manager tend to have difficulty getting set up on OSG, and less computer-savvy users may have trouble navigating steps such as obtaining a security certificate.

Gary Stiehr, left, chats with Anup Mahurkar, the director of software engineering at the Institute for Genome Sciences at the University of Maryland's School of Medicine. The two researchers, who had not previously met, discovered similarities in their work as a result of the presentations they gave during the biology applications session.

Image by Miriam Boon.

“Grid sites are less prepared in the bioinformatics field,” said Gary Stiehr, the information systems group leader at the Washington University School of Medicine’s Genome Sequencing Center. “Starting conversations surrounding virtualization within Open Science Grid was a good first step for lowering the barrier for a broader set of scientific applications.”

Although there have been sessions dedicated to biology applications at past OSG meetings, this year’s attendance was probably the broadest so far, according to Blackburn. He added that, while in previous years most of biology researchers attended because they were considering using OSG, this year most presentations were from groups that are already using OSG to do biology research.

The session featured nine presentations and one discussion panel, covering topics ranging from biological synchrotron experiments to computational metagenomics to biomolecular simulation.

“The biology applications have really come a long way, showing tremendous growth and tremendous opportunity for OSG,” said Avery. “This was, in my opinion, far and away the most sophisticated use of computing by biologists.”

Ruth Pordes, OSG’s executive director, concurred. “There was enough of a community of biologists that they had things in common to talk to each other about at the algorithm level,” Pordes said. “I thought that was wonderful.”

To download slides from presentations given at the meeting, visit the event's timetable.

—Miriam Boon, iSGTW

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