Fosdem O'Reilly
2005 Edition Free and Open Source Software Developer's European Meeting


2005-02-22 - Olle Mulmo

Globus Toolkit

An interview conducted by FOSDEM & the LinuxFR readers
FOSDEM - First and traditional question: please present yourself !

Olle Mulmo - I am Olle Mulmo, normally spending my working days at KTH, the Royal Institute of Technology, in Stockholm, Sweden, doing more or less anything that is related to Grid computing. My non-professional time is spent with family, remodeling our house, trying (and failing miserably) to stay in shape, and to play the Violin at a reasonably-skilled amateur level.

FOSDEM - How did you start working on Globus ?

Olle Mulmo - I first encountered Grids in 1996 (although it was called metacomputing in those days). While being an exchange student in the US, I got in contact with a half-crazed bunch of researchers, who I worked with remotely to do a successful demo at the Supercomputing conference in 1997. I have been part of that team off-and-on ever since.

FOSDEM - Can you give us an historical overview of the Globus toolkit ?

Olle Mulmo - Globus started as a bottoms-up, proof-of-concept approach to provide a common middleware layer primarly for remote job submission to various supercomputers, and a platform-independent set of libraries that applications could use to easily port their applications and have it run on different hardware platforms. Globus v1.0 run on probably 10 different OSes, from Windows to Cray, and maintainance was a nightmare. A couple of years later, GT2 came. While several APIs and interfaces looked the same, the internals were to a large extent rewritten.
When industry and other external projects started to show interest in resuing components or building solutions on top of GT, it quickly became clear that the "proprietary", de-facto standards or protocol extensions that were in GT2 were not sufficient or adequate, and that we needed more and better toolkit-neutral standards in the grid community. This lead to to the shift towards the merging of the Grid and Web services communities, and we are in that transition still: we had a rather bumpy road the past two years with two architectural overhauls in GT3 and GT4. Things look really good now though, so hopefully that effort was worth it at the end of the day.

FOSDEM - Sharing computer ressources can lead to security issues, how are they
adressed in Globus ?

Olle Mulmo - Security is one of the main focal points in the Globus toolkit. We have an impressive set of bright minds on the securit architecture team, but that is of course not enough: bugs in the software, correct deployment and configuration of the software, and vigilant users are factors you can never completely safeguard against.

FOSDEM - Version 4 should be available soon : what are its new features ?

Olle Mulmo - I should't say too much here, since this is what I will talk about at FOSDEM... :-)

Many of the GT4 services are built on top of the Web Services Resource Framework (WSRF) constructs. The tooling has been brought up-to-date to be compliant with the latest related Web Services standards. There's a new gridftp server, written from scratch. For application and service developers, we provide both a Java and a C hosting environment. Documentation has been vastly improved. And finally, you should see considerable increases in performance compared to GT3.

FOSDEM - It is said that globus is really long and difficult to set up, but there are some cases where applications (for instance in computer science experiments) require a lot of computing power for a short time. Do you plan to make it more simple for use in small, local grids ?

Olle Mulmo - The "difficult to set up" issues have been dealt with in many ways this includes intelligent error messages and better documentation. Ultimately though, it'ss a question of packaging: While providing pre-built binaries in addition to source code tarballs, we rely on other partners in the Grid ecosystem to bundle GT with other suitable third-party softwares and applications and provide RPMs or some other kind of easy-instlal packages to some specific community.

We have recently seen an increased interest in GT from the enterprise community: I hope for additional improvements in this area as well.

FOSDEM - What do you expect from your FOSDEM talk ?

Olle Mulmo - Hopefully I can convey the message that Grid computing, and the Globus Toolkit in particular, is not just monolithic pile of software addressing the needs for large-scale scientific computing, but that it is a set of modular, orthogonal components that follow open standards, that you can reuse in other settings as well in a pick-and-choose kind of fashion.


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