National Science Foundation awards $13.3 million for Globus Toolkit development

November 28, 2005

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has made a five-year, $13.3 million award to sustain and enhance the Globus Toolkit, the software that underpins a rapidly increasing number of large information-intensive science projects in the United States and abroad. Globus founders Ian Foster of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory and Carl Kesselman of the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute (USC/ISI) will lead the project.

"A growing skyscraper of front-line research is now based on Globus," Foster said. "This grant will secure the foundations of that skyscraper. Researchers and educators can now build on this software with confidence, knowing that a dedicated team is available to address problems and to enhance its capabilities as their needs evolve."

Globus is open source software for distributed computer systems, freely available for use and modification by programmers. It is designed to coordinate the use of geographically distant computers--their raw computing power, the data they contain, and the instruments controlled by them. The software addresses the security, data-management, execution management, resource discovery and other issues that arise from such sharing.

Foster and Kesselman began the Globus effort in 1996 with their colleague Steve Tuecke (now CEO of Univa Corporation, which builds commercial applications based on Globus). Globus underpins numerous highly visible projects including the U.S. TeraGrid national computing infrastructure project and NEESGrid earthquake engineering system, the international Large Hadron Collider particle physics grid, and also major efforts in astronomy, genomics, and other fields. Said Charlie Catlett, TeraGrid Director: "It is Globus software that allows TeraGrid's eight sites to function as a single distributed facility--and thus enables frontier computations in fields as diverse as medicine and environmental science. This award is great news for U.S. science and engineering."

The award, entitled "Community Driven Improvement of Globus Software," will support scientists and engineers at UC and USC/ISI. Staff at those two organizations, along with other Globus developers around the world, will work with the scientific community to define and prioritize Globus enhancements. "What's exciting about this award is that it permits both ourselves and our partners to make long-term plans," Kesselman said. "Many projects that use Globus software have five or even 10-year planning horizons. We can now engage with them in defining and developing the software technology needed to support 21st Century science and engineering."

The Laser Interferometry Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO), established to search for evidence of gravitational waves predicted by Einstein's theory of relativity, uses Globus software to distribute more than a terabyte (1 million megabytes) of data per day to each of eight sites across the United States and Europe. Said Albert Lazzarini of Caltech, LIGO Laboratory Data and Computing Group Leader: "Globus provides a common foundation of grid middleware on which the science and engineering community has been able to build. Globus not only enables individual projects to advance, but also promotes cross-disciplinary connections that are important to discovery and progress at the frontiers of science and engineering."

The new award is funded by the NSF Middleware Initiative (NMI) program of the NSF's Office of Cyberinfrastructure (OCI), which NSF established to produce and apply the enabling software technology ("middleware") needed by scientific applications. Deborah Crawford, Acting Director of OCI, said: "Technologies like Globus are key to delivering the promise of cyberinfrastructure, by providing a broad set of integrated technologies to support complex, multi-scale and cooperative scientific endeavors."

Development of Globus software was first supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Department of Energy (DOE), and later also NSF, IBM, and Microsoft. DOE and (in Europe) the United Kingdom's Engineering and Sciences Research Council and Swedish Research Council continue to provide important support for Globus-related research and development.

In addition, the open source nature of the software allow a large international community of developers and users, in both research and industry, to contribute to its development.

University of Chicago

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