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April 7, 2010

Opinion - Challenges to exascale computing

Irving Wladawsky-Berger retired in May 2007 after 37 years at IBM. Today he is a visiting lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Engineering Systems Division, a senior fellow at the Levin Institute of the State University of New York, and an adjunct professor in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at the Imperial College Business School.

Supercomputing has been a major part of my education and career, from the late 1960s when I was doing atomic and molecular calculations as a physics doctorate student at the University of Chicago, to the early 1990s when I was general manager of IBM's SP family of parallel supercomputers.
The performance advances of supercomputers in these past decades have been remarkable. The machines I used as a student in the 1960s probably had a peak performance of a few million calculations per second or megaflops. Gigaflops (billions) peak speeds were achieved in 1985, teraflops (trillions) in 1997,

March 3, 2010

Blog post of the week - Out of the mouths of babes

A recent high school field trip to Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory was recorded the 21st century way – with tweets.
In a recent Symmetry Breaking blog post, Symmetry intern Andrea Mustain wrote:

“I was looking for a way for them to journal, but in a more realistic way. I think that’s what texting is and definitely what Twitter is—a way to journal,” says Dale Basler, instigator of all that cell-phone gazing and a physics teacher at Appleton East High School. Basler gave the students several assignments for the field trip; he’d set up a Twitter feed, and one option was to post tweets throughout the day. But he laid out some ground rules. The students had to do at least 16 tweets, on a variety of topics–physics topics–and, Basler says, he enforced strict cell phone etiquette: ringers off, and utmost discretion while tweeting. He did allow for some lighthea

December 16, 2009

Q & A - Arie Shoshani talks about Scientific Data Management

The cover of Scientific Data Management. Image courtesy of Arie Shoshani.

Welcome to the petascale era, where virtually every field of science is hungry for computational power, and if we’re not careful, we could drown in the deluge of data.
Under these circumstances, it becomes supremely important to manage data effectively. This in turn suggests the need for more scientists and software developers to receive training in how to defeat the data deluge.
That’s why it’s an auspicious time for Arie Shoshani and Doron Rotem to launch their book, Scientific Data Management: Challenges, Technology, and Deployment.
To learn more about it, iSGTW caught up with Shoshani in his office at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
iSGTW: What made you get started on this book?
Shoshani: I gave a talk about everything in the scientific data management center at a SIAM conference. After that talk I was approached by t

November 25, 2009

Feature - The long view: A conversation with John Wood

John Wood, speaking at the EGEE 09 conference in Barcelona. Image courtesy EGEE 09

John Wood is one of the key people behind ESFRI (European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures), the organization charged with creating a “roadmap” that identifies the key infrastructure needs of researchers for the next 10- to 20- years. The roughly 44 projects that ESFRI singled out are typically pan-European; they require funding from many countries to build and operate; and require cyberinfrastructure to provide access to their data for their global user communities. The projects cover all types of subject matter, from studies of language use to greenhouse-gas monitoring, and typically require research infrastructures that can handle truly vast amounts of date. (For example, the astronomy project known as the Square Kilometer Array will transport over 5,000 times the total IP traffic of the entire AT&T US backbone.)At EGEE 09

November 18, 2009

Feature - Women in IT: Lebanon

Image courtesy Claire Devereux.

Claire Devereux, who works on the EGEE, GridPP, and NGS grid computing projects at the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council, travelled to Lebanon in September as part of a British Council Exchange Program to promote women in information technology. During her trip, she spent five days in Beirut and three days touring the country’s industry, meeting women in high-profile positions: ministers, entrepreneurs, university researchers and professors. This was followed by a two-day networking event. Representatives from seven countries from the Near East and North Africa were involved.Devereux: “The idea was to get women in the IT industry together, to establish networks and discuss best practices for enabling more women to enter the field and to stay in careers once they get there. We were able to talk about normal enabling practices in the UK: flexi-time, part-time working, on-site child care, etc. Both the UK

November 4, 2009

Feature - FOOTWAYS takes its first steps

Footways started quite literally in the back of someone’s garage. Image courtesy Igor Dubus

Google, Hewlett Packard and Apple all had humble beginnings in the back of someone’s garage. Could the same be true in the back of a garage in Orleans, France?
“I had never seen a router/switch in my life, I had to get into VPN, network, perl scripting. I also had problems with electricity supply and consumption — this was my home, not a dedicated IT room,” says Igor Dubus.
This was only the beginning. Having built a 96-node cluster in his garage to run computer models as the coordinator of the FOOTPRINT project (iSGTW ran an article about FOOTPRINT earlier this year,) Dubus launched his own start-up company, called FOOTWAYS. His goal is to develop this “garage-cluster” into a 12,000-node high performance computing center dedicated to pesticide modeling.
FOOTPRINT, an EU project, seeks to minimize water contam

October 14, 2009

Link of the week - iSGTW’s new Facebook page

We hope you had fun last week browsing through our Nature Networks forums. This week, we hope that those of you who use Facebook will have just as much fun signing up for our Facebook fan page!
Why the change? Let’s face it. Many Facebook users only visit group pages once in a blue moon. The status updates of a fan page, on the other hand, will appear in your friend feed. Now, to keep up with us, you just have to become a fan. Facebook takes care of the rest!
This is your chance to engage with each other and explore science cyberinfrastructure in greater depth. Ask the questions that have been nagging at you for far too long, or lend a hand by answering someone else's questions! Start a discussion, or give iSGTW feedback. It will be what you make of it.
To become a fan, click here.

October 7, 2009

Link of the Week - Nature Networks

Image courtesy Nature

Now that you have read our stories about astronomy and distributed computing, do you find yourself wanting to know more?
For that matter, have you generally wanted to followup, get the contact details of an author or interviewee, comment on stories, give feedback, pick your colleagues’ brains, or post questions about those nagging little things you’ve always wondered about?
Or simply have a ‘virtual water cooler’ to hang around and talk shop?
Now you can do all that, and more.
International Science Grid This Week now has an electronic “forum” on Nature Networks, the online scientific community moderated by the journal Nature. It’s non-profit and non-proprietary. Anyone can read a post; just go to the Nature Networks site and click on the forum entitled “iSGTW: grid computing, and more . . . ”
If you decide you want to add your own posts, that’s easy to do &mdash

September 23, 2009

Link of the week – Information visualization manifesto creates buzz

Manuel Lima, the designer who wrote the Information Visualization Manifesto. Image courtesy Manuel Lima

It’s hard not to have a soft spot for some of the gorgeous visualizations science computing produces. But in our quest for form, have we lost sight of function?
That’s the question that drove Manuel Lima, a London-based interaction designer, to write the Information Visualization Manifesto, which you can read at his blog. Lima’s manifesto states 10 directives for any project in the information visualization realm:

Form follows function
Start with a question
Interactivity is key
Cite your source
The power of narrative
Do not glorify aesthetics
Look for relevancy
Embrace time
Aspire for knowledge
Avoid gratuitous visualization

His manifesto prompted 21 comments, and his follow-up post received more. A thoughtful response by computer science professor Robert Kosara added fat to the

August 5, 2009

Meet the new U.S. Editor: Change is here to stay

Miriam Boon, U.S. Editor, iSGTW

Everything we do, everything we use, owes something to scientists who pursued science for the sake of science. Yet in the face of countless tangible reminders of the value of basic science, society often takes it for granted.Information is not tangible. But it is the foundation of scientific progress. And from scientific progress flows new technology, which in turn shapes the path of modern society. As scientific projects have grown in size and complexity, so has the need for collaboration over large distances. In response, researchers have created or funded new tools for collaboration.It was the desire for better ways to collaborate that impelled CERN administrators to fund the work that led to the rise of the World Wide Web. Since then, web technology has come to permeate nearly every aspect of modern science and society, transforming the world as we know it.I don’t believe that this metamorphosis is over. Nor am I con

July 29, 2009

Feature - A week at CERN

Ilaria (second from left) lunching with the EGEE project office. Image courtesy Ilaria Marchese

In mid-June, the Enabling Grids for E-sciencE project office hosted Ilaria Marchese, a student from the International School of Geneva, on work-experience for a week. Ilaria, who will be 15 in August, shares her thoughts on her week, women in science and research, and life at CERN. What did you think about spending a week in the EGEE project office?
“It was really interesting. I hadn’t heard of the project before, so I was amazed at the reach of EGEE’s work — it’s practically everywhere. It’s in more than 50 countries and helps all types of research. I was also impressed by how much work goes into the project to help people use this service.” What interests you about science?
“Science is fascinating — I love understanding how and why things work. I recently wrote a report on holograms for school . . . they seem

July 22, 2009

Farewell of the week - U.S.-based editor moves on

A rotation in ISGTW's U.S.-based editorship: Anne Heavey (at right) on her way out, while Miriam Boon steps in.
Image courtesy of Cindy Arnold, Fermilab.

I – S – G – T – double-UAnne’s time on board, it is throughThe weeks, they have flownMy knowledge has grownDear readers, I hope same is true
Wow — what a great year I’ve had, working with Dan Drollette to bring your stories to the greater grid community and to help this community grow and cross-pollinate. I’ve enjoyed learning about the research and technologies that grid computing advances, transforms, or simply makes possible, and about you — the people behind these endeavors. It has been a pleasure to work with so many of you as contributors, and to meet many of you face-to-face.  In the past year, iSGTW subscribership has grown from about 3700 to over 5000, and our readership has grown over 30%.  Our surveys tell u

July 22, 2009

Opinion — EELA in Latin America: a conversation with Bernard Maréchal

EELA-2 aims at building a high capacity, production-quality, scalable grid facility, providing round-the-clock, worldwide access to distributed computing, storage and network resources needed by the wide spectrum of Applications from European - Latin American Scientific Collaborations. Image courtesy EELA News

iSGTW and BELIEF have teamed up to find out what the speakers at the 4th BELIEF International Symposium think about the state of e-infrastructures in Latin America. We spoke to Bernard Maréchal, EELA-2 (E-science grid facility for Europe and Latin America) Project Coordinator, who shared his thoughts on the challenges of implementing grid technology.
What do you do?
I’m the EELA-2 Project Coordinator. While my actual role is “restricted” to the overall coordination of the project, one of the main EELA-2 objectives is to plant the seeds of the long-term sustainabil

July 15, 2009

Profile - Craig Lee, president of Open Grid Forum

Craig Lee
Image courtesy Craig Lee

iSGTW and BELIEF-II (Bringing Europe’s eLectronic Infrastructures to Expanding Frontiers - Phase II) teamed up to find out what the speakers at the 4th BELIEF International Symposium think about the state of e-infrastructures in Latin America. Here, we interview Craig Lee, who is giving a presentation on “Future Trends and e-Infrastructure application: towards sustainable development.”What is your job?I’m serving as president of the Open Grid Forum. In this capacity, my role is not only to be the “public face” of OGF, but more importantly to understand all of our stakeholders’ requirements, and to promote all possible synergies among our current — and new — stakeholders.How is your job related to the development and application of grids and e-infrastructures?Obviously my job is to promote the development and use of all manner of distri

July 8, 2009

Opinion - Grid technologies in Latin America

Senator Jefferson Praia.
Image courtesy BELIEF II.

To find out what the speakers at the upcoming BELIEF (Bringing Europe’s eLectronic Infrastructures to Expanding Frontiers) International Symposium think about the state of e-infrastructure in Latin America, we interviewed Senator Jefferson Praia, who is also a professor at Amazonas University, Brazil. He shared his thoughts on grid technologies in the region.
What do you do?I am a Brazilian Senator representing the Amazonas State. This House plays an important role in the Senatorial Committee of Environment and Control and Fiscalization and the Congressional Committee of Climate Changes, defending the sustainable development in the Congress decisions.What is the current status of grids and e-infrastructures in Latin America?Since the emergence of new technologies in the ’90s, an increasing use of e-infrastructures has been observed.Do you think it is important for Latin Ameri

July 1, 2009

Feature - Cancer Knowledge Cloud for a new generation of medicine

Kenneth Buetow, shown speaking at a conference in 2005.Image courtesy of NCRI.

Kenneth Buetow is the National Cancer Institute’s Associate Director of Bioinformatics and IT, and Director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics and IT, where he initiated and oversees the caBIG (cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid) program. He spoke last April at the Bio-IT World conference on caBIG: An interoperable IT framework for uniting research and care.
Thinking BIGKen Buetow thinks BIG.  He envisions what he calls a Cancer Knowledge Cloud — an IT environment designed to foster information connectivity among cancer patients, cancer researchers and clinical care providers. This environment, powered by caBIG tools and infrastructure, would enable a continuous and accelerated cycle of discovery, diagnostic and pharmaceutical product development, and improved clinical care.Cancer care and research still operate on a lin

June 3, 2009

Feature - Amoolya Singh, computation and biology

Amoolya Singh in her office at EMBL.  All images courtesy of SET-Routes

Editor's note: Readers may recall our series on women in grid computing last March. ISGTW interviewed more enterprising, trailblazing women in science and computing than our month-long series could accommodate! We will continue to bring you these and other personal profiles occasionally.
iSGTW: What do you do?
Amoolya Singh: I'm a computational biologist at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, which is a fancy way of saying I use computers to understand living things. 
iSGTW: How did you get interested in this field?
Singh: My interest in science has been mainly shaped by my family origins. I was born and raised in India, in a family of scientists and artists. I remember at the age of five going with my mother to her laboratory and asking what she did. She explained that she took very detailed pictures of the insides o

May 27, 2009

Announcement - Registration opens 1 June, Grace Hopper celebration, Tucson, Arizona, U.S.

For a large poster of the above image in pdf form, click here. Image courtesy of Anita Borg Institute 


Registration opens on 1 June for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing — a series of conferences designed to bring the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront.
To be held in Tucson, Arizona from 30 September to 3 October, the celebration will feature presenters who are leaders in their respective fields, representing industrial, academic and government communities. Leading researchers will present their current work, while special sessions will focus on the role of women in today's technology fields, including computer science, information technology, research and engineering.Past Grace Hopper Celebrations have resulted in collaborative proposals, networking, mentoring, and increased visibility for the contributions of women in

April 15, 2009


Link of the Week - A day for Ada

Ada Augusta, Countess of Lovelace, translated a “Sketch of the Analytical Engine,″ and added her own extensive commentaries to the first written outline of a computer, making her what some term The First Hacker. Image courtesy of The Analytical Engine by John Walker

In honor of Ada Lovelace Day, March 24, a total of 1,980 people pledged to blog about a woman in technology that they admire.Ada Lovelace, born in 1815 to Lord Byron and his wife, translated Luigi Menabrea’s memoir on Babbage’s Analytical Engine, appending notes that included a method for calculating Bernoulli numbers with the machine — the first computer program. (Unfortunately, the calculations were never carried out, as the machine was never built.) She also wrote the very first description of a computer and of software.The Ada programming language is named after her.
See the Ada Lovelace Day Collection of postings. From Barbara Liskov (

April 8, 2009

Profile: Freya Blekman, from hockey to Higgs An active researcher, Freya Blekman has responsibility for some of the software which will process data from the (CMS) detector. As such, she will be right at the forefront when investigations into the particle collisions begin. ( Image courtesy SET-Routes Editor's note: As part of an ongoing series on women in grid computing, iSGTW presents profiles of women researchers.   What do you do, and where are you located?I work as a physicist for Cornell University in the United States, but effectively I am stationed at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. What's the best thing about your job?As a scientist, I learn something new every day, and I expect that it will be like that for the rest of my career. At CERN, I am fortunate enough to work with some of the brightest people in the world. This is very special: when you're doing science, you find out that it doesn't matter whether you come from Abu Dhabi, Adelaide, Amsterdam or Arkansas. We all work toward a commo

April 8, 2009

Announcement - TeraGrid announces new GIG director Matt Heinzel. Image courtesy of TeraGrid  Chicago native Matt Heinzel, former deputy director for TeraGrid's Grid Infrastructure Group (GIG), became the new GIG director on April 2. In this role, he occupies an office at Argonne National Laboratory, not far from the University of Chicago, where TeraGrid coordinates the GIG. “Matt has been serving as the lead administrative officer of the TeraGrid GIG. Appointing him to the position of GIG director was an easy decision for me and a well-deserved promotion for Matt," said Ian Foster, TeraGrid GIG principal investigator. “His dedicated leadership has helped to shape TeraGrid as we know it. I look forward to working with him in this new role.”  Heinzel brings with him many years of technology-related administrative experience. Prior to leading the TeraGrid GIG, he held various senior information technology management positions, including Technical Services Director, Senior Manager of Business Syste

April 1, 2009

From Martinique to Marseilles to Medaka: profile of bioinformatician Mirana Ramialison The Medaka fish is a simple model organism, amenable to genetic techniques, easily grown in the lab, but at the same time sharing many molecular processes with higher vertebrates. This image, taken with a newly developed microscope called a Digital Scanned Laser Light Sheet Fluorescence Microscope, shows a 5mm-long juvenile at the age of 10 days. The glowing green areas show its developing brain, eye and spinal cord.  Image by Philipp Keller, from the lab of Ernst Stelzer at EMBL Editor's note: As part of an ongoing series, iSGTW presents profiles of women researchers in grid computing.   What do you do? In our research group, led by Jochen Wittbrodt of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Germany, we are studying Medaka (alias "the-small-fish-with-big-eyes" in Japanese) to understand how an eye forms in an embryo. Since Medaka eyes are similar to human ones, we can have a better understanding of human eye dis

April 1, 2009

Link of the Week - Putting a bolder face on Google The Google homepage graphic on the day of the LHC startup. Image courtesy Google Marissa Mayer controls the look, feel and functionality of the home page of the Internet’s most heavily trafficked search engine, says the New York Times. She joined Google after graduating with a master’s degree in computer science from Stanford in 1999, when the company was a shoestring start-up — and Mayer took on the job of figuring out how the home page should work.She started out writing code and overseeing small teams of engineers, carving out a niche for herself by developing and designing Google’s search offerings.Mayer also had something that many of her peers did not during Google’s early days: a keen sense of style and design.  According to the article, which is this week's Link : “She adored bold blocks of color against a white background . . . It used to be people would come over to my apartment and say, ‘Does your apartment look like Go

March 25, 2009

Feature - Barbara Liskov wins Turing Award Image courtesy of MIT On March 10, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Barbara Liskov won this year's $250,000 Turing Award. Often described as the “Nobel Prize in computing,” the award was given for helping to make computer programs more reliable, secure and easy to use. Liskov is only the second woman to receive the honor. “Her exceptional achievements have leapt from the halls of academia to transform daily life around the world,” MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif said. “Every time you exchange e-mail with a friend, check your bank statement online or run a Google search, you are riding the momentum of her research.”The Association for Computing Machinery, which awards the Turing, noted that  Liskov was the first U.S. woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in computer science, which she received from Stanford University in 1968. Liskov heads the Programming Methodology Group in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT, w

March 25, 2009

Feature - Global virtual communities: opportunities versus barriers  Image courtesy of With over a decade of development, the vision of a global research community connected through a distributed computing infrastructure is increasingly becoming reality. But what makes this research environment, called e-Infrastructure, and these communities, called Virtual Organizations, successful?  And to what extent do scientists from diverse communities experience this transition and contribute to it? Addressing this question is the goal of eResearch2020, a newly launched collaboration between the University of Chicago/National Opinion Research Center, the Oxford Internet Institute, the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland and empirica Communication and Technology Research (Germany). Tasked by the European Commission, Directorate General Information Society and Media to complete its assessment by the end of the year, the study will propose strategies to enhance e-Infrastructure uptake and use