Feature - Through the gateway into the realm . . . to get results
Deep, wide, open. This three-pronged conceptualization underlies the TeraGrid, a National Science Foundation cyberinfrastructure initiative. “Deep” refers to digital muscle—more than a petaflop of aggregated computing power. “Open” connotes extensibility, the ability to include new resource providers and university partnerships to broaden the resource base. “Wide” means that the TeraGrid wants its resources to be useful to as many researchers as possible.
To that end, TeraGrid has created “Science Gateways”—diverse entry points for the uninitiated to pass into the realm of computational science. Implemented in 2005, the Science Gateways program, led by Nancy Wilkins-Diehr of the San Diego Supercomputer Center, has grown rapidly and now comprises 35 Gateways—each of them tailored by and for a specific research community.
What is a Science Gateway?
“A Science Gateway is a community-developed set of computational tools, applications, and data that is integrated via a portal or a suite of applications, usually in a graphical user interface, that is customized to meet the needs of the targeted community,” says Wilkins-Diehr.
All the Science Gateways interact with the TeraGrid through service interfaces that it provides. Some Gateways expose customized sets of community-developed codes to let scientists or students run them. Others bring new, otherwise inaccessible services and applications to the community. Capabilities include workflows, virtualization software and hardware, resource discovery, job execution services, access to data collections, applications, and tools for data analysis and movement.
NanoHUB, for example, a Web-based Gateway for nanotechnology research and education developed at Purdue University, hosts more than 130 simulation tools, from lightweight to extremely intensive. NanoHUB has supported more than 90,000 users worldwide running more than 390,000 simulations within the past 12 months.
Other research domains served by TeraGrid Science Gateways include astronomy, chemistry, earthquake mitigation, geophysics, global atmospheric research, neuroscience, molecular biology, cognitive science, physics, and seismology.
The TeraGrid provides three kinds of Gateways, categorized according to the way the user connects and the type of resources linked: Web portals, desktop applications that run on the user’s local machine but connect to remote TeraGrid services, and grid-bridging gateways that extend the reach of a community grid to TeraGrid resources.
Although each Gateway targets a particular research audience, most are available for use by researchers from any community. Some are also appropriate for use by educators.
“Our job,” says Wilkins-Diehr “is to provide access to tremendously capable TeraGrid resources through interfaces that scientists are familiar with. If we're successful, many will not realize they are using the TeraGrid, only that they are able to answer scientific questions they couldn’t answer before.”
—Michael Schneider, Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center