August 02, 2004
Grid Computing
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Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor

by Jack Horgan - Contributing Editor
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Grid Related Organizations

The Global Grid Forum (GGF) is a community-initiated forum of thousands of individuals from industry and research leading the global standardization effort for grid computing. GGF's primary objectives are to promote and support the development, deployment, and implementation of Grid technologies and applications via the creation and documentation of "best practices" - technical specifications, user experiences, and implementation guidelines.

The GGF has defined the Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA), a services-oriented architecture. The OGSA standard defines the basics of a grid application structure that can be applied to any grid system, i.e. what grid services are, what they should be capable of, and what technologies they be based on. OGSA, however, does not go into specifics of the technicalities of the specification. The companion implementation standard, the Open Grid Services Infrastructure (OGSI) consists of specifications on how work is managed, distributed, and how service providers and grid services are described. Web services, particularly the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and Web Services Description
Language (WSDL), are a major part of this specification. Currently, both OGSA and OGSI are works in progress.

The Globus Alliance conducts research and development to create fundamental technologies behind the "Grid," which lets people share computing power, databases, and other on-line tools securely across corporate, institutional, and geographic boundaries without sacrificing local autonomy. Based at Argonne National Labs, USC, University of Chicago, University of Edinburgh and Swedish Center for Parallel Computers the alliance produces open-source software that is central to science and engineering activities totaling nearly a half-billion dollars internationally and is the substrate for significant Grid products offered by leading IT companies. Sponsors include federal agencies such as
DOE, NSF, DARPA, and NASA, along with commercial partners such as IBM and Microsoft.

The Globus Alliance is organized around four main activities: research in areas such as resource management, security, information services, and data management; software tools, large-scale testbeds; and applications.

The project has spurred a revolution in the way science is conducted. High-energy physicists designing the Large Hadron Collider at CERN are developing Globus-based technologies through the European Data Grid, and the U.S. efforts like the Grid Physics Network (GriPhyN) and Particle Physics Data Grid. Other large-scale e-science projects relying on the Globus Toolkit include the Network for Earthquake Engineering and Simulation (NEES), FusionGrid, the Earth Systems Grid, the DOE Science Grid, the NSF Middleware Initiative and its GRIDS Center, and the National Virtual Observatory.

The Grid2003 Project has deployed a multi-virtual organization, application-driven grid laboratory (“Grid3”) that has sustained for several months the production-level services required by physics experiments of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN (ATLAS and CMS), the Sloan Digital Sky Survey project, the gravitational wave search experiment LIGO, the BTeV experiment at Fermilab, as well as applications in molecular structure analysis and genome analysis, and computer science research projects in such areas as job and data scheduling. The deployed infrastructure has been operating since November 2003 with 27 sites, a peak of 2800 processors, work loads from 10 different
applications exceeding 1300 simultaneous jobs, and data transfers among sites of greater than 2 TB/day.

The Global Alliance has developed the Globus Toolkit, now at version 3, as the first full-scale implementation of the OGSI standard. The toolkit is a community-based, open-architecture, open-source set of services and software libraries designed to support grids and grid applications. The toolkit addresses issues of security, information discovery, resource management, data management, communication, fault detection, and portability. Major toolkit components include:
Grid Resource Allocation and Management (GRAM) protocol provides resource allocation and process creation, monitoring, and management services.

Grid Security Infrastructure (GSI) protocol that provides single sign-on, run-anywhere authentication and communication protection with support for local control.

Monitoring and Discovery Service (MDS) that provides a framework for discovering and accessing system configuration and status information . such as compute server configuration, network status, or the locations of replicated datasets.

The Enterprise Grid Alliance (EGA), an open consortium of leading vendors and customers was launched in April 2004 to accelerate the adoption of grid computing in the enterprise. The initial focus areas include reference models, provisioning, security and accounting. The Alliance will address obstacles that organizations face using enterprise grids, by looking at best practices and solutions that are open and interoperable. The EGA membership includes EMC, Fujitsu Siemens Computers, and NEC; but does not include such grid supporters as IBM, Microsoft and SAP. Both IBM and Microsoft are pursuing their own grid platforms, and are backers of the Global Grid Forum, a group with
interests similar to those of EGA.

Platform Computing

I interviewed Peter Nichol, the General Manager of the Electronic Market Initiatives. The Toronto based company was launched in 1992. The company sold and oem'ed its base product LSF (Load Sharing Facility) in several industries. In more recent times it has targeted five primary vertical industries (Government and Research, Financial Services, Industrial Manufacturing, Life Sciences and Electronics) and developed and tuned both product and services for these industries. The company has around 400 employees, annual revenue of about $60 million and 1,600 customers. According to Peter the Electronics industry generates approximately 50% of the firm's revenue and that 16 of the top 20
semiconductor design firms have standardized on LSF for grid computing. Customers include AMD, ARM, ATI, Cisco, NVIDIA, Synopsis and Texas Instruments.

Platform Computing has strategic relationships with IBM, HP, SGI, Dell and SAS, to support emerging computing models such as on demand, utility computing and e-business.

At DAC in June Platform announced availability of Platform LSF Electronics Edition. This included high performance capabilities; integrations with key application tools; premium support and maintenance with customized electronics consulting services; and an electronics-oriented best practices guide. Platform claims seamless integrations for this package with simulation, synthesis and verification applications from leaders such as Altera, Cadence, Denali, IBM, Magma, Mentor, Nassda, Synopsys, and Verisity.

Peter cited NVIDIA as an example of a customer success story. Three years ago they had a cluster of 500 cpu's running 30,000 jobs per day. Today they have 5,000 cpu's a ten-fold increase, and are running 500,000 jobs per day. He also cited Infineon Technologies AG as a success story. Infineon has over 45 R&D sites on three continents and more than 6,500 of its 32,000 employees in this business area. They first implemented Platform LSF eight years ago. Today the company infrastructure comprises 18 Clusters worldwide. LSF is deployed in every Infineon development center worldwide. This amount to several thousand CPUs running on Solaris and Linux systems.

Peter sees widespread adoption of grid computing occurring in three phases. The first is Enterprise Computing with virtual design organizations spread over different time zones and geographies. The need and desire to share resources is obvious. Firms require the flexibility to adjust to peak demands by sharing resources rather than configuring each site individually and independently to meet its own likely peak resource requirements. The second is Partner Grids where separate firms or organizations wish to collaborate on projects. The third phase is Service Grids where grids operate as a utility model.

Platform LSF is software for managing and accelerating batch workload processing for compute-and data-intensive applications. With Platform LSF, users can intelligently schedule and guarantee completion of batch workload across a distributed, virtualized IT environment. Platform LSF fully utilizes all IT resources regardless of operating system, including desktops, servers and mainframes to ensure policy-driven, prioritized service levels for always-on access to resources. Platform LSF is based on the production-proven, open, grid-enabling, Virtual Execution Machine (VEM) architecture.

Platform LSF Analytics uses workload and license management data to provide design centers with analytics support for project planning decisions. Platform LSF Analytics assists engineering managers to estimate project completion times, provision hardware, charge back cost, forecast usage and so forth. Out-of-the-box reporting capabilities on system metrics include workload, hardware performance, cluster performance, software license usage, and resource consumption.

Platform LSF MultiCluster extends an organization's reach to share
virtualized resources beyond a single Platform LSF cluster to span geographical locations. With Platform LSF MultiCluster, local ownership and control is maintained ensuring priority access to any local cluster while providing global access across an enterprise grid.

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To read more news, click here.

-- Jack Horgan, Contributing Editor.

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