Feature - People behind the grid: Erwin Laure
Erwin Laure was technical director for Enabling Grids in E-sciencE (EGEE), and worked for CERN for the past six-and-a-half years. ISGTW caught up with him during his last full week at EGEE, before he was to take up a position in Stockholm at the Royal Institute of Technology, known by its Swedish acronym “KTH.”
iSGTW: If you had to describe what you do at EGEE in two or three sentences, what would you say?
EL: I help keep the project’s technical end running, on a short- to medium- term basis. I make sure that we meet the requirements of users, so far as middleware, infrastructure, training and coordination of our 100-plus partners goes.
iSGTW: How did you come to EGEE?
I also traveled a lot—to every country in Europe, to Asia, Australia and America. They made me see the world.
And, of course, I got to see Switzerland.
iSGTW: Where will you be going?
It will be interesting. I’ve never been to Sweden long-term before, although I have taught classes at a summer computing school there.
But I will have to get used to Swedish dishes such as “surströmming,” or fermented herring.
iSGTW: How did you become interested in computing?
iSGTW: What is your take on the nature of the grid?
In the early days, I think the term “grid” was oversold, as if it were some kind of silver bullet that would eliminate the need for coding, managing machines, or setting up algorithms. Instead, you still must do all those things, but with the grid as an added service level that lets you expand the reach of your computing power and data.
The good thing is that with the hype over, people now have more reasonable expectations, and can do real work.
iSGTW: What does the grid need to do to gain more acceptance?
The grid was developed by experts for experts, and they wanted as much functionality as possible, without paying as much attention to ease of usage.
To add to the problem, many institutions developed their own customized variants of the interface, geared to the needs of their own people. The result was that they were not interoperable.
Meanwhile, if you are a resource provider and you want to join the grid, there’s still a high threshold to overcome. We’ve improved it a lot over the years, but it is still complex to install, platform support is limited, and it needs a lot of babysitting.
So, we have to make it easier on both sides—for the end user and the resource provider.
iSGTW: Will you continue your affiliation with EGEE?
iSGTW: What do you think you will miss, once you leave here?
—Dan Drollette, iSGTW