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March 25, 2009

Video of the week - Women in the Open Science Grid

What advice do you have for young women--or men--entering the field of computer science?

March 11, 2009

Feature - Nancy Wilkins-Diehr: “Follow what you enjoy” Nancy Wilkins-Diehr, head of the TeraGrid Science Gateways, shown passing the final “gateway” at the Boston Marathon. “I'm probably best known at the Supercomputer Center for my running at lunchtime,” she says. She also enjoys cooking, entertaining, playing flute and spending time with her husband and 12-year-old son Julius. Image courtesy of Boston Athletic Assn. ISGTW interviewed Nancy Wilkins-Diehr, head of the TeraGrid Science Gateways project. She shared her thoughts on her work, how she got where she is, and how young people can keep their career options open. iSGTW: Please tell us what you do in TeraGrid.NW-D: I lead the Science Gateways program in the TeraGrid.  The gateway program connects high end supercomputers with Web portals designed by scientists for scientists.  We're able to extend the capabilities of scientists, often without them even knowing they are using the TeraGrid.iSGTW: What has been your career path

February 18, 2009

Link of the Week - Hollywood comes to CERN  At the press event at CERN for Angels&Demons, left to right: stars of the film, Tom Hanks and Ayelet Zurer, with the director, Ron Howard. Image courtesy of CERN Press Office. On 12 February, CERN saw stars.Stars from Hollywood, that is. Actors Tom Hanks, Ayelet Zurer and director Ron Howard visited the grounds, posed in front of "the dome," and later unveiled some footage from their upcoming film version of Dan Brown's fictional book, Angels & Demons. (The movie is set for release on 15 May 2009.)When Sony Pictures first contacted CERN early in 2007 about filming part of Angels & Demons there, the laboratory quickly saw an opportunity and was excited to participate. While most of the film was shot in Rome, the opening sequence includes images inside the tunnel housing CERN's Large Hadron Collider, which was shot before the tunnel was sealed to begin experiments. In the story, a secret society tries to annihilate the Vatican with antimatter stolen fr

January 14, 2009

Feature - LCG, a challenge in 4-D: size, complexity, adaptability, funding Image courtesy of Les Robertson Les Robertson, a key player behind the development of the LHC grid, retired in 2008 after 35 years at CERN. The following highlights a speech he gave at GridFest last October.In a few words, it is hard to say something about computing that can compete with the wonders of the machine and its detectors.Nevertheless, I shall try. I hope to give an overview of the project, where it has come from, the challenges we faced, the computational structures and human collaborations we built to overcome these challenges, and a map of where we intend to go in the future.As we have seen, this accelerator creates extremely high-energy particle collisions, which in turn create new particles that decay in very complex ways as they move through the detector. The detector registers the passage of these particles with a vast number of sensors and, finally, creates a digitized summary that is recorded as what we call an “event.” Physici

November 19, 2008

Feature - Cluster challenge at SC08: The Tour de France of HPC The ClusterMeisters solicited support from vendors IBM and Myricom. IBM has provided a new System X iDataPlex server, designed to use up to 40% less power than similarly configured standard servers. The nodes are equipped with the latest energy efficient Intel Xeon quad core processors and memory. This cluster clips along at more than 1 TFLOP/s (1 trillion mathematical calculations per second). Myricom is providing energy-efficient, high-performance networking equipment.  The faculty advisors have been educating their students about power consumption, multi-core, multi-node systems, and performance optimization. Image courtesy of Chris Eller, IU. The Tour de France of high performance computing for undergraduates kicked off this past Monday—the second annual Cluster Challenge at SC08. Until 4:00 Wednesday afternoon, seven teams comprised of some of the best young minds in computational science are working around-the-clock. They’re building HPC clusters o

November 19, 2008

Feature - People behind the grid: Simon Lin Simon Lin at the Academia Sinica Grid Computing Center. Image courtesy of Kevin Wang (Editor's note: Simon C. Lin is currently coordinator of the Asia Federation in EGEE and is responsible for the ASGC—Academia Sinica Grid Computing Center—the only WLCG Tier-1 Center in Asia. He is deputy project manager of the EUAsiaGrid project, coordinated by ASGC and INFN in Italy.)iSGTW: How did you get involved in particle physics? I am a theoretical physicist by training. Like many of my generation, I was inspired by the great names in physics of the first half of the 20th century. I was fortunate enough to do my Ph.D. at Edinburgh University under Peter Higgs. Firstly, I worked on applying group theory to supersymmetry but then turned to field theory on surfaces and interfaces later. I still feel theoretical particle physics is excellent training for physicists, independent of what they go on to do.iSGTW: How did you get involved in computing?In Edinburgh, I had Dave Wallace as

November 19, 2008

Link of the week - Straight from the horse’s mouth: GridCast from Austin Image courtesy of David Wallom An exhibitor’s eye view “My posts on this blog will try to give an exhibitor’s eye view of the conference, so I have my camera with me and will keep my Flickr updated with pictures from the floor (tagged Supercomputing08) ... I'll also be twittering and using the the #SC08 tag so keep an eye on that too for musings from me and others,” blogs GridTalk's Neasan O'Neill, of  GridPP and EGEE.To bring you more perspectives are David Wallom, technical manager of the Oxford e-Research Centre and technical director of the UK National Grid Service. Claire Devereux who manages the UK & Ireland regional consortium in the EGEE and NGS projects and is also involved in grid computing outreach and dissemination activities.Tim Rupp who works with the Computer Security Team at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois where he spends most of his time on the technical implementation of the lab’s

November 12, 2008

Link of the Week - The Economist’s take on a conference in Istanbul The Blue Mosque as seen from the rooftops of the Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul during EGEE ’08. Image courtesy of Dan Drollette So, we all got a good look at Istanbul during EGEE ’08, and had a chance to meet our colleagues, learn about new developments in the grid, attend lectures and seminars, and explore a bit of Istanbul and its culture—such as visiting the Blue Mosque, or bargaining for goods in the Grand Bazaar. But what did others think of us attendees and our culture? What did they observe of the way we conduct business, and our foibles?To find out, take a look at the latest Correspondent’s Column in The Economist, in which writer Natasha Loder describes her first experience with the computational crowd, in a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek way.(Loder was the key presenter at a session on  Working with Journalists.) Warning: Part of The Economist’s headline says “An odd crowd congregates in a stunning city.&rdquo

October 29, 2008

Feature - People behind the grid: Erwin Laure

Image courtesy of 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?EL: Just as I was finishing up my PhD in high-performance computing and business administration at the University of Vienna in the late 1990s, this thing came along called the “grid.” It sounded interesting, and I

October 15, 2008

  Opinion - Reaching for the Exa-scale, with volunteer computing Over the last few years, GPUs green) and CPUs (blue) have increased exponentially in speed, but the doubling time for GPUs has been about 8 months, while it has taken 16 months for CPUsImage courtesy of NVIDIA (Editor's note: David Anderson is the founder of the popular volunteer computing platform known as BOINC, or the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing. Here, he peers into his crystal ball to predict the direction of volunteer computing, especially as new, high-speed graphics processing units come into the market.)Remember your prefixes? Kilo, mega, giga, tera, peta . . . exa? Each denoting a thousand times more than the one before? Today, the average personal computer can do a few GigaFLOPS (the acronym refers to doing one billion FLoating-point Operations Per Second). A modest cluster might do one thousand GigaFLOPS, or 1 TeraFLOPS. And for several years, one thousand TeraFLOPS, or one PetaFLOPS, was the Holy Grail

October 1, 2008

Feature - People behind the LHC Grid: A Bird’s eye view When the LCG first started, the idea of a grid, with its tiered hierarchy, was still new. Image courtesy of Ian Bird  Ian Bird is project leader for the Large Hadron Collider Computing Grid, where he is responsible for grid deployment and all of the technical work involved in setting up the grid infrastructure for the LHC. iSGTW: If you were at a cocktail party, and someone asked “What do you do,” how would you answer, in lay person’s terms?IB: Well, I’d try to change the subject. (Laughs)Seriously, I try to coordinate the overall activities of the LCG—the experiments, the service providers, the money and the people. I report to CERN management and oversight, to make sure all the nuts and bolts are in the right place. And, of course, I  think about all the technical aspects.iSGTW: How do things look now?IB: Well, we’re very upbeat. Of course, we always knew that there would be surprises, but we are handling them.&nb

September 24, 2008

Feature - Office of Cyberinfrastructure at NSF: the first two years Daniel Atkins is a professor in the School of Information and the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan and Associate Vice President for Research Cyberinfrastructure.Image courtesy of Daniel Atkins. Cyberinfrastructure (CI) has become a vital tool for scientific research and discovery.  A system of distributed computing, storage, software and management using the network as its backplane, and for which the complexity is largely hidden from the user, CI has the potential for revolutionizing the way science and engineering research is conducted, says Daniel Atkins, former and initial director of the National Science Foundation’s  Office of Cyberinfrastructure.With an initial annual budget of $185 million, the office coordinates and supports the development of CI resources, tools, and services. In its conception, the office focused almost exclusively on high performance computing. Over the course of Atkins’ tenure, its vision bro

September 17, 2008

Announcement - National Science Foundation Selects LSU Researcher as TeraGrid GIG Director of Science Daniel S. Katz Image courtesy of LSU  Daniel S. Katz, Ph.D,, a member of LSU’s Center for Computation & Technology, or CCT, and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will be Grid Infrastructure Group, or GIG, Director of Science for the TeraGrid.As TeraGrid GIG Director of Science, Katz will work with national science and engineering groups to understand their advanced computing requirements and to ensure TeraGrid is adequately serving the research and education communities. He also serves as TeraGrid’s liaison to the TeraGrid Science Advisory Board. Katz began his role with the TeraGrid in mid-August, immediately after being named to the position.  As he starts his new job, Katz is eager to hear from users who have opinions on how TeraGrid can better serve the research and education communities. Users can contact him at [email protected] position is a part-time appointment, and Katz wil

September 17, 2008

Feature - People behind the LHC grid: Michel Vetterli Mike Vetterli hiking in the North Vancouver mountains near his home. Image courtesy of Mike Vetterli. An outdoorsman when his dual responsibilities at Simon Fraser University and TRIUMF allow him the time to hike with his daughter, physicist Michel (Mike) Vetterli not only loves nature, he wants to understand it.  He’s always wanted to see how things work. He remembers being inspired by watching the Apollo 13 ground crew solve problems with the spacecraft remotely. In graduate school he became fascinated with the fundamental workings of computers.  Now he’s working to uncover nature’s secrets with grid computing.In addition to his professorship at SFU in Vancouver, Canada, Vetterli has been instrumental in setting up both WestGrid and the ATLAS-Canada Tier-1 Data Center at TRIUMF. He is currently computing coordinator for ATLAS-Canada, charged with ensuring that Canada has the necessary computing resources to analyze ATLAS data. He was recently e

September 10, 2008

Profile - People behind the LHC grid: Wesley Smith The trigger makes the first decision, on whether to keep an event . . . or throw it out.  Image courtesy of CERN iSGTW: What do you do?Wesley Smith: I work at the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), where my job is to throw away 99.999 percent of the data we record.What we’re hoping to do is like looking for a needle in a haystack, only with multiple haystacks. I want to remove as much hay as possible, without losing any needles.iSGTW: How did you become interested in physics?Wesley Smith: I grew up in San Francisco, where we lived one block away from Mel Schwartz of Stanford University, who won the Nobel Prize in Particle Physics. I knew his son, we went to elementary school together, and our parents spent a lot of time together. It was a connection that stayed almost 40 years, and a powerful influence. Then when I was in college at Harvard, I studied under Carlo Rubbia (former Director General of CERN,1989-1994, and Nobel prize-winner in physics) and Larry Sulak.My first s

September 10, 2008

Podcasting from beam day In the control room of ATLAS, where there was a champagne toast shortly after the first beam successfully completed its 27 kilometer circuit.Image courtesy of iSGTW, GridTalk and GridCast. Today is the big day for all the sites involved in the superconducting supercollider. Click here, on the image at right, or on the GridCast page, to see the final moments in the control rooms, as the clock ticks away toward the startup.  (All times in the subtitles are approximate.)

September 10, 2008

Link of the Week - What's goin' on . . .  QuarkNet students at Fermilab decided to take the idea of the pajama party literally. Image courtesy of Anne Heavey. We all know about the event at CERN, but what else is happening to mark this event? That is where LHC First Beam Events comes in. It has information about what several U.S. institutions, involved in the construction and startup of the LHC, are doing. Probably the most entertaining is the First Beam Pajama Party, held in Illinois at Fermilab's Remote Operations Center, where it was around 2:00 am Central Standard Time at the moment of the first beam in Geneva, Switzerland. The sign in Fermilab's Wilson Hall said “Breakfast will be served," and compared "supersymmetry pajamas" to "dark energy pajamas," among other things.  For more on events at sister laboratories in New York, San Francisco, Arizona, Oregon and elsewhere—click here.Added 11 September: Read a report from the Fermilab pajama party.

September 3, 2008

Feature - Leading digital data research group moves to North Carolina DICE and the distributed data delugeFor more than 10 years the DICE group’s Storage Research Broker (SRB) data grid has been used by research teams worldwide to automate all aspects of manipulation of large, distributed data files, including discovery, access, retrieval, management, replication, archiving and analysis. DICE most recently developed iRODS, the open source Integrated Rule-Oriented Data System, which introduced user-settable rules that automate complex management policies, helping users tame today’s mushrooming collections of digital data.The team has worked on national and international projects, providing data management systems for major grid and distributed research projects, including the Southern California Earthquake Center, the TeraGrid, the Worldwide University Network, California Digital Library-Digital Preservation Repository, the Laboratory for the Ocean Observatory Knowledge Integration Grid, the Biomedical Informatics Researc

September 3, 2008

Feature - Mega grid for mega science From left, Ian Foster, Carl Kesselman and Steve Tuecke who together created the Globus software for grid computing.Image courtesy of ANL. An editorial chronicling the development of grid computing and its relationship to the Large Hadron Collider, which originally appeared in the October 2006 print issue of R&D Magazine and ran again at last Friday (29 August), has been adapted and reprinted with permission. In 1995, Ian Foster at Argonne National Laboratory and the Univ. of Chicago, Ill., and Carl Kesselman in the Information Sciences Institute at the Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles, known as the fathers of grid computing, looked at ways of using network technology to build very large, powerful systems, getting machines in different locations to work on parts of a problem and then combine for the result. Ultimately, these ideas together formed I-WAY, which enlisted high-speed networks to connect end resources at 17 sites across North America, marking the start of

September 3, 2008

Link of the week - SDSC director urges academia to make cyberinfrastructure  “real” Francine Berman.Image courtesy of SDSC. Comprising the “infrastructure” for the Information Age, cyberinfrastructure—the organized aggregate of information technologies such as computers, data networks, digital storage systems, and scientific expertise—is essential for future research advancement and discovery. In this month’s EDUCAUSE Review, Fran Berman, director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at UC San Diego, makes the case for investment in cyberinfrastructure as part of the “IT bill” for the Information Age.Just as technology transformed the Industrial Age, Berman writes that cyberinfrastructure has the potential to be a key driver of the Information Age, particularly with the explosive growth in digital data that is creating a new set of challenges in information management, storage, and long-term preservation. The challenge is that in the research and education communi

August 20, 2008

Feature - People behind the LHC grid: Jamie Shiers Some of the different projects involved, from across the globe. Image courtesy of Jamie Shiers Jamie Shiers is part of grid support for the Large Hadron Collider, and has been working on the LHC for 16 of his 25 years at CERN. Dressed in sneakers and jeans, and looking tan after a recent grid conference in Brazil, he talked with iSGTW at CERN’s Restaurant 1.  iSGTW: What first got you interested in physics? JS: It could be something in the genes, I suppose. I and two of my three brothers  became physicists—and we’ve all passed through CERN.  For me, what helped to get me hooked was a book about physics, called “Mister Tompkins in Wonderland,” that I read at age 14 or 15, by George Gamow—a Russian physicist who worked with Niels Bohr. He wrote about a world in which light was slowed down enough that you could see the effects of relativity. It was a great book that turned me on to physics . . . that, and the old c

August 13, 2008

Feature - Youngest-ever at grid summer school? Iris Schott (center), possibly the youngest-ever OGF delegate,  produced a report on OGF23, highlighting issues such as cloud computing, the BEinGRID Industry Days and OGF-Europe's Seminar on Digital Repositories. Image courtesy of OGF This summer, OGF (Open Grid Forum ) welcomed someone who was possibly the youngest delegate in their history at OGF23, a grid standards conference held in June in Barcelona, Spain. We caught up with 15-year-old Iris Schott to hear how she got interested in grids and what else she has been doing with her summer. Here is the result of our question-and-answer session:iSGTW: What did you think of the conference?IS:  “To be honest, I didn’t understand much the first two days! At the end of the second day, some friends sat down with me, I asked them questions, and they explained a lot about how grid computing works. After that I found it much more exciting.”iSGTW: What do you think is exciting about grids? IS:  “You c

August 6, 2008

Link of the Week - LHC, the (underground) movie Image courtesy of Alpinekat, some dancers who prefer to remain anonymous, YouTube and US LHC Blog So, you think you have already heard of all the  ways in which the work of the Large Hadron Collider can be described?But have you seen the underground version?A music video was done on-site, in rap form, with portions filmed below ground in the tunnel near the supercooled magnets, making for a truly cool  movie. Posted to YouTube, it was put on the website of US LHC Blog—a neat site which has all kinds of unexpected stuff about particle physics, from A to Z. (Atlas to Z particle.)As for the rap, people posting to the US LHC Blog said it is not only “phat” (an acronym which The Online Slang Dictionary speculates could mean “pretty hot and tasty”) but has “mass.” See for yourself! —Dan Drollette, iSGTW

August 6, 2008

  Image of the week - Summertime on the Dubna On the river near Dubna, Russia, 228 people from 20 countries and 48 universities and scientific institutes presented 38 plenary reports for the GRID2008 international conference. And since it took place from 30 June to 4 July, these pictures provide a peek into what Russians do on the all-American holiday known as the Fourth of July. Images courtesy of Tatiana A. Strizh, Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna, Russia    

July 16, 2008

Image of the week - Live from BudapestImage courtesy of the GridCast blogspot.Wanted to go to Budapest but just couldn’t make it?Want to know what’s happening behind the scenes at the International Summer School for Grid Computing?Well, if you could not attend in person, you can now attend virtually, via Gridcast, and hear what attendees have to say, straight from the source: the blog. (All gridcasts are produced by the GridTalk team.)The first person brave enough to stand in front of our cameras was Ben Sterrett.