Bringing life to the grid

Last month marked another step forward for the European Grid Infrastructure as they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Life Science Grid Community (LSGC). The MoU will solidify the relationship between the two, bringing benefits to all grid users.

Biomedical research was one of the first communities, after high energy physics, to embrace grid technology. Yannick Legre the president of HealthGrid, the organisation co-ordinating LSGC, recognises the benefits the grid has had on their work "The European grid has been instrumental in the work we do. We have been able to offer researchers resources that they could usually only dream of, enabling research into some of the most exciting areas of biomedicine. We are really happy to formalise our relationship with EGI and look forward to working with them on providing an infrastructure for our members".

The agreement provides a joint work plan covering; user support, operations, outreach, requirement gathering and policies and procedures. Collaborating on these areas will ensure that the two can work together to improve the services they offer.

Steve Brewer EGI's Chief Community Officer believes that this is an important agreement for the project "EGI is providing an infrastructure for research in Europe. To do this we need to work with every discipline and discover their wants and needs. The life sciences have a very different view of the technology to a group like particle physicists, making the grid work for them will only improve the grid experience for them and others. I am delighted that we have been able to bring that community on-board so quickly. I think it is proof that we have something to offer everyone".

Sergio Andreozzi, Policy Development Manager at EGI, supported the negotiation process and welcomes the final signature "this agreement is another important milestone in the EGI strategy of establishing long-term relationships with diverse virtual research communities, thus expanding the user base and connecting them. More agreements with various actors are nearing the finish line and will be announced in the coming weeks".

It’s time for the DCI Summer School

EGI has come together with its fellow Distributed Computing Infrastructure (DCI) projects to organise a summer school to help researchers, and providers, learn about the technologies they provide. It will run from the 11-16 July in Budapest, Hungary.

The event is the first Joint European DCI Summer School, it aims to introduce, and explain, the technologies provided by the DCI projects. The meeting will also address the issues of how to organise production infrastructures based on these technologies and include sessions on porting applications and supporting users.

The school is being jointly organised by the 6 EC funded DCI projects; EGI, European Middleware Initiative (EMI), the Initiative for Globus in Europe (IGE), European Desktop Grid Initiative (EDGI), StratusLab and VENUS-C.

For information about the event is available online.

Linking Africa and Europe

Last week saw an important step in improving research collaborations between Africa and Europe with the announcement of €14.75M of investment in the AfricaConnect project.

Modern collaborative research requires a stable and robust IT infrastructure. However African researchers interested in taking part in global research are finding that the current state of the available infrastructure in Africa is preventing them from being as active in international collaborations as they would like. AfricaConnect aims to remedy this by establishing a high-capacity Internet network for research and education in Southern and Eastern Africa. This will provide the region with a gateway to global research collaboration, making these collaborations as easy as possible.

The project brings together partners from all over Europe and Africa including the continent’s existing National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) alongside some of Europe’s. They are not alone, the project is being managed by DANTE (Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe) with its counterparts the UbuntuNet Alliance and WACREN (West and Central African Research and Education Network). These three projects bring significant expertise in providing cutting edge networks and connecting European and African resources.

Over the next four years the project will work on building up the infrastructure so that by the end of the project the African partners will be able to maintain and improve the intra-regional African research network and its direct connection to international networks. The scheme should also accelerate the development of the Information Society in Africa, improving ordinary African’s access to IT and the global network.

Go, Go Gadget AppDB

This week the team behind the EGI Applications Database launched their latest tool, a widget to allow anyone to integrate the database with their website.

AppDB has gone from strength to strength since its launch last summer including a major upgrade late last year. The main aim for the database is for users (and developers) to be able to find out what is already out on the grid that can be used or built upon for their work. For this the AppDB needs to be easy to use, but more importantly easy to find.

During the initial development of the AppDB the developers at the Institute of Accelerating Systems and Applications in Greece focussed on producing a resource that could be easily accessed and leveraged by anyone who was interested. Using standard, and easy to understand, protocols the team made it simple to query, and pull results from, the database. The first place to test the underlying technology was the AppDB's very own website.

Now that the tool was easy to use, how could they make it easy to find? Just put it everywhere. On NGI websites, national lab websites even individual scientists websites. There was a snag, the system was simple to understand and use but the effort required integrating it fully into an existing site would be asking a lot. So the team have developed the AppDB Gadget, a widget which can be placed on any webpage and display a simple interface to the AppDB. In less than 500 characters a website can have a fully functioning, fully customised interface to the AppDB available to its users.

One of the important features of the gadget is the ability to customise it for a particular discipline (even sub discipline), virtual organisation (VO), middleware or even where it was developed. This means that depending on the audience the website is for the gadget can be set up to be relevant to that VO, scientific community or underlying technology.

Marios Chatziangelou is in charge of the team building the AppDB and the gadget, he is really happy with their progress "I think we have done really well since taking over last July. Now with the new gadget the entire community can interact with the AppDB from any website that wants to host it. Also more users mean more testing and comments which will help us build on and improve the AppDB".

Venus-C Opens Clouds for research

Venus-C has just launched its Open Call looking for pilot applications to get up and running on the cloud.

Funded by the European Commission, Venus-C brings together industrial partners and researchers to create an enterprise-quality cloud service for Europe. To help expand the community they already have, they have launched this new initiative to fund between 10 and 20 new schemes. These pilots will also help gather additional requirements for the platform, alongside testing and validating it. The projects will have access to all of the resources VENUS-C control and be given start-up funds to get the ball rolling.

The expertise at Venus-C will also work with the successful applicants to determine what features and capabilities of Cloud computing best support their work. They hope to attract interest from a diverse range of disciplines including; the Arts & Humanities, Engineering, Health & Life Sciences, Economics, Financial Services, and Natural Sciences. Of particular interest are applications that require dynamic scaling and ubiquitous availability.

Andrea Manieri is one of the coordinators in engineering group at Venus-C and is looking forward to what this means for the project and cloud computing in general “Venus-C already has a compelling range of applications but this open call will broaden the scope of the project, and help ensure the future of an academic cloud infrastructure in Europe”.

The call is open to public and private research organisations and runs from the 11th of January to the 11th of April, 2011. The entire fund is €400,000 which will be equally divided among successful candidates. All Call documents and more information are available online.