Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Got an itch - the NGS has the thing to scratch it with!

For the more technically minded amongst you, we have an announcement from the team at the NGS RAL site.

STFC/RAL has recently installed a pair of Panasas ActiveStor 6000 shelves, and has made 4TB of its 30TB capacity available as scratch space to the NGS. The Panasas system allows much greater read and write speeds to be achieved than is possible via traditional NFS-based servers –a total of over 1GByte/s has been observed across 24 NGS compute nodes reading and writing simultaneously to the same file system. The system will benefit anyone who needs fast I/O spread across multiple compute nodes.

The file system is available on, and all of its compute nodes, via the /work/scratch directory. First create a directory for yourself (e.g. mkdir /work/scratch/ngsXXXX) and then transfer your working data into it, run your job and finally copy your results out.

Please be aware this area is not backed up, and is liable to period wiping (usually at 1 week’s notice though this can’t be guaranteed), so please be sure to copy your results to safety. It’s also polite to clean-up the file system after you’ve finished with it as this will reduce the number of times we have to wipe it out.

We’d be very interested to hear about any good (or bad) experiences you have with this new system, please feel free to contact us via the NGS helpdesk (

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Advanced warning!

At long last the NGS based at RAL are ready to move into their new server room. Understandably this will cause some interruption to NGS services but we are aiming to give you as much warning as possible about this.

All the NGS Core Services hosted at RAL (CA, MyProxy, Inca, Ganglia, BDII, NSR, RB, UI and this website) will be interrupted during the move. The move will start on the 8th of June and will last about 8 weeks finishing on the 27th of July. We have planned to reduce the downtime of services to a minimum but services will still be at risk after they are moved. More detailed updates will be available on the NGS-Status mailing list. If you are not already a member of NGS-Status and would like to receive emails on service downtime and status then please join the list as soon as possible!

Friday, 22 May 2009

The past and the future

It's all go at the UK e-Science AHM headquarters at the moment.

In addition to the call for papers that we announced earlier this week, the first volume of the Proceedings from AHM 2008 have now been released.

The issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences is entitled 'Crossing boundaries: computational science, e-Science and global e-Infrastructure I. Selected papers from the UK e-Science All Hands Meeting 2008’ compiled by P. V. Coveney and M. P. Atkinson I:28 June 2009; Vol. 367, No. 1897

One paper in particular highlights how the use of NGS resources has assisted in the planning of radiotherapy treatment by reasearchers at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff.

The volume is now available online here with the second instalment coming soon so watch this space!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

A week of e-science in Oxford

The ever popular UK e-Science All Hands Meeting (AHM) has just released a call for papers which is available here.

The AHM is now in its 8th year and has been moved from its traditional September slot to December so it can co-exist with the IEEE e-Science meeting which will also be taking place in Oxford. The AHM will take place from Monday 7th December until Wednesday 9th of December with IEEE being held on the 9th – 11th of December.

You can therefore spend an entire week in Oxford listening to the latest developments in e-science!

The IEEE event also has a call for papers out and details can be found here.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Advanced Distributed Services Summer School 2009

The NGS in conjunction with the Training, Outreach and Education team at NeSC are running an Advanced Distributed Services Summer School (ADSSS 09) on the 7th – 11th September at Cosener’s House , Oxfordshire.

The sessions will be taken by many of the leading researchers and technology providers in the field of Distributed Computing in the UK so it is a chance for students to take part in a unique learning experience in this field (including a large component of hands on tutorials) but also to spend a week in a small group with the leaders in the field!

The aim of the school is to help develop the skills of those involved in providing computational support for research in a wide range of disciplines.

In particular the school will focus on the use of, provision of interfaces to and the development of services based on employing the composition or aggregation of computational or data services.
Topics covered include how to compose a variety of services into bioinformatics work flows which can be used to support biomedical research processes, how to use and develop lab or department scale clusters of computers to run simulations, how to work with the NGS to compose protein simulation models for running on UK or international super computers, developing a portal to support legacy applications.

Further information on the summer school can be found on the ADSSS website or email

Registration is now open and the cost of the summer school including accomodation and meals (except Tuesday and Thursday) is £276.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Cloud Computing Users and the NGS

The Belfast e-Science Centre (BeSC), which is a member of the NGS now offers a hosting-on-demand service within the NGS for UK academic users. The BeSC already have several commercial partners which take advantage of the service and would now like academic users to make the most of this service as well.

The service allows a remote user to deploy software into servers within the BeSC domain and to manage these deployed services remotely. The BeSC service hosting cloud can be accessed via a web UI and using an API BeSC are developing (currently called libcloud); a Europar 09 paper on libcloud can be found here.

The API is intended to provide a provider neutral interface to remote resources such as those provided by Amazon, Flexiscale etc and the BeSC hosting cloud; plugins for all of these providers are part of the library. If you have an interest in using this library in your development and/or helping its development please contact Terry Harmer ( for more details.

Monday, 11 May 2009

EGEE 09 call for papers and registration is open!

The ever popular EGEE conference has announced a call for sessions for its next meeting in September in Barcelona. The event will be held on the 21-25th Sept with a theme of “Uniting our strengths to realise the sustainable European grid” and will mark the beginning of the end of the EGEE projects and the start of the transition to EGI.

Sessions are welcome from communities using the various e-infrastructures, the operations groups running the e-infrastructures and the software developers building the e-infrastructures, and the projects that are collaborating with the European e-infrastructures around the world.

Further details on how to submit a session for EGEE09 are provided here under the “submit a new abstract link”.

The EGEE09 Programme Committee will review the proposals in early June 2009 and publish a preliminary schedule shortly afterwards. A call for demos and posters will be made in June.

If you would like to attend the conference, registration is now open with early bird registration available until the 30th of June. To register please visit the registration page.

Friday, 8 May 2009

NGS & OMII-UK project in the news

A recent edition of the weekly grid bulletin, iSGTW, featured an article by Simon Hettrick from OMII-UK on the joint NGS and OMII-UK Engage project.

The article explains the background to the Engage project and why it was set up with the goal of finding out the computational needs of various research communities by actually going out and talking to the researchers.

This approach is still somewhat unusual in e-science and has been a long time coming. How can we be sure we are providing the resources that researchers need if we don't go out and talk to them? The grid was originally built for the particle physicists but now there is a much larger research community who want to take advantage of the opportunities that distributed computing offers. The social scientists and molecular biologists, for example, don't necessarily work in the same way as the particle physicists and it is important that the tools are in place for them to take advantage of all available resources.

The Engage project will hopefully produce tools which will be deployed on the NGS and made available to these diverse communities therefore attracting more users from different subject areas. There is a lot of work yet to be done in taking the outcomes of the Engage project, making them available to the communities and, perhaps most importantly, making sure that the community knows that these tools exist for them to use.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Roadshow talks available online

If you are considering hosting a NGS roadshow at your institution or are simply curious about what goes on at these events, then have a look at the NGS website where the presentations from our latest roadshows (Aston and Bath) are now online.

The Aston roadshow was a 2 day event with a "normal" NGS roadshow held on the first day for a few hours before lunch with a full day of "hands on" training on the second day organised by the NeSC training, outreach and education team. Presentations from Aston are available here.

The Bath roadshow was a more traditional event with a series of presentations followed by lunch. Presentations from Bath are available here.

Both events were full organised by the NGS and NeSC leaving local organisers with the single responsibility of booking a suitable room - oh and some help with local advertising never goes amiss! If you would like to publicise NGS resources in your institution with very little effort required then please contact myself ( for further information.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Hard work at the OMII-UK workshop

Last week I attended the OMII-UK Collaborations workshop and, unlike many meetings where you sit and listen to presentations, this one was really hard work! The attendees were varied and included representatives from the Engage project teams, OMII-UK, the NGS, end users and data providers. The workshop consisted of breakout sessions where a variety of topics were discussed and all participants had to contribute to the discussion.

As the NGS outreach officer, I was particularly interested in the outreach / communication sessions. The session names say it all really –

  • Communications between computer scientists and scientists that use computers
  • How to talk to scientists?
  • Best practices for software development in research community
  • Tracking customer requirements

I can honestly say it was one of the most productive meetings I have ever attended with a great deal of productive discussion and long term collaborations planned. It’s not often you come out of a meeting with such a large number of people with concrete tasks and plans for the future!

If you would like to see the outcomes and slides from the meeting then visit the workshop page.