Monday, 30 November 2009

Open call for Hector

EPSRC are piloting a new access class for the HECToR service called 'Direct Access' (Class 1b) where users can request significant amounts (>1,000,000 AUs) of computing resource only for a period of up to six months.

The Direct Access mechanism will provide successful applicants with discretionary access to the HECToR system in order to provide resource to cover activities such as:

* Bridging access between grant applications,
* Resource to trial application developments at scale,
* Provide preliminary results in aid of grant applications via Responsive Mode or to a Call for Proposals;

There is no deadline for submission, however:

* the proposals will be assessed by a Resource Allocation Panel (RAP) which will meet every four months (February 2010, June 2010 and October 2010)
* the deadline for applications being submitted to the Panel will be three weeks before the Panel meeting.

More information can be found on the EPSRC website.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Make the most of the NGS

We are keen to make sure that everyone is aware of the new tool recently developed and released by the NGS.

The NGS UI/WMS service is now in full production allowing NGS users to exploit all sites on the NGS including the partner resources.

Since going into pre-production in October, the UI has been upgraded and extensive stress testing has been undertaken with 1000's of jobs run through the service. The UI now also checks your certificate proxy when logging in and corrects for many common proxy problems hopefully making your life easier!

The documentation has also been extensively updated on the new NGS web site and the NGS wiki. The majority of scientific application documentation pages now have examples of running the applications via the UI-WMS. Some of these are fleshed out in tutorials on the NGS wiki, linked from the main tutorials above), with more tutorials and examples in the pipeline.

If you have any questions or problems using the service, please mail the NGS helpdesk at support(at)

Monday, 23 November 2009

Got an opinion - then share it!

If, by some amazing feat, you haven't seen the announcements for the NGS user survey that is out now then here is another one!

The NGS user survey targets all registered users of the NGS and queries how they use the NGS, which parts of the NGS they use, if you are aware of all the services and outreach methods from the NGS and also gives NGS users the opportunity to have their research publicised as use case examples of NGS research.

Oh and all completed surveys will be entered into a prize draw to win one of three Amazon vouchers. Perfect timing for the festive shopping and sale season!

If you'd like to feedback on your experience of using the NGS then please visit the 2009 user survey.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Everyone's calling

There seems to have been a rash of "Calls for Papers" recently - everyone planning for 2010 I guess! They are up on the new NGS website if you want more information but in short we have EGEE User forum in Uppsala, Sweden, OGF28 in Munich, Germany and ISGC in Taiwan.

The NGS is also beginning to plan for 2010 as we are already dealing with roadshow requests for next Easter and looking attending a range of events and conferences next year. If there is an event you know of either through attending or organising then please let us know about it!

We are also keen to hear from people who are presenting work that was done using NGS resources. The new website has a much better area for showcasing research performed on the NGS and I would like to make the most of this. If you have anything you'd like to tell us about or share with us then please contact me through the NGS helpdesk (support(@)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

New NGS website launched today!

After several months of hardwork by a large number of NGS staff, we are pleased to announce tha the new NGS website was launched today.

We hope that the new design and layout will make it easier for visitors to find the information they need quickly and easily. We also hope that it will enable you to find out more about the services that the NGS offers.

The home page is designed to be dynamic and will be regularly updated with news from the NGS as well as having feeds from this blog, the NGS-STATUS list and the most recent updates to the website.

Feedback on the new website is welcome through the NGS helpdesk.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Argue about grid topics!

As you may know the NGS has a good number of success stories and announcements published in the popular weekly grid newsletter iSGTW. Now iSGTW has launched a discussion forum for stories and other topics from iSGTW. This means that if something on iSGTW gets your dander up or if you disagree or agree with anything said this is your chance to respond!

The forum can be found here.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Flying visit to QUB

This week saw several members of the NGS team fly over to Belfast to host a NGS roadshow at Queen's University Belfast.

The cold weather was quickly forgotten due to the warmth of the welcome by the local organiser Ricky Rankin who gave us a quick tour of the new library at QUB. I have to say that it is very impressive - much better than the cold dark libraries I had to frequent as a student!

We had nearly 30 attendees from both QUB and the University of Ulster which was great. We always invite NGS users to speak about their research at these events and this time we had Julie Bardin from the University of Strathclyde and Che Seabourne from the University of Leeds. Both gave excellent presentations about their research and also sang the presentations of the NGS and particularly the support and help they had received from our helpdesk. No I hadn't bribed them depsite several people asking!

Lunch was a lively event with many conversations about how the NGS could help research from ecology to cancer research and people asking how to get their grid certificates etc. Hopefully the intial interest will be followed up by new users from Northern Ireland!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Hangovers from the Scary Grid

Grid software has a - not entirely undeserved - reputation for being complicated.

Things have improved but the NGS support staff still see code left over from the bad old Scary Grid.

Occasionally someone surfaces with a command like:

globusrun -b -r \
-x '&(count=4)(jobtype=mpi)
(environment=(NGSMODULES namd/64/2.7b1))

It works, but not even the most enthusiastic grid advocate could call it user friendly. It also needs a different invocation for every single site.

But things have changed, hopefully for the better...

  • The grid software developers have produced less hairy commands. For example, there are globus-job-run and globus-job-submit commands that are simpler than globusrun.

  • The NGS sites have agreed a common way for launching applications via scripts called /usr/ngs/SOMETHING that behave in the same way on all sites. This can replace the NGSMODULES environment trick used above.

The modern counterpart to the Scary Grid command would look like:

globus-job-submit \
-np 4 -x '(jobtype=mpi)' -d '$(HOME)/experiment' \
-stdout job.out -stderr job.err
/usr/ngs/NAMD_2_7b1 namd2

It might not be pretty but it is shorter, simpler and easier to convert to a different site.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Win Amazon vouchers courtesy of the NGS

Here at the NGS we have released our user survey for 2009. The annual survey aims to gather information on user habits, why people use the NGS, the resources they use and the output of NGS usage amongst others. Each completed survey will be placed into a draw at the end of the year to win one of 3 Amazon vouchers.

We really do want to hear from you and your opinions on the NGS - what you like, what you don't, what would make your life better or how wonderful we are! There are also opportunities in the survey to advertise yourself and your research. I am always looking for interesting research taking place on NGS resources to highlight in a range of publications and to make into our popular case studies.

The results of the survey won't just lie unloved on a shelf somewhere - we'll put together a report which will be available from our website and will contain actions on your recommendations and suggestions where appropriate.

If you would like to take part in the survey please visit the survey home page.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Roaming around the EBI

Earlier this week, I was down in Cambridge at the European Bioinformatics Institute for the NMR Software Workshop.

I was there to issue certificates to users as a "Roaming RA" operator. The NGS runs the UK e-Science Certificate Authority, which issues certificates not only to the people who want to make use of NGS services and resources, but for any UK academics involved in Grid computing. The certificates are accepted and recognised across the world and can be used to enable authentication of people across different Universities - even in different continents.

Usually, certificates are authorised for someone by an operator in their own institution but this is not always available.... which is where I come in. There are a number of Roaming RA operators with the ability to issue certificates at events where there is no local provision for issuing certificates. Quite often this will be at one of the many NGS roadshows or events we attend.

If you have an event where you think people would like a convenient opportunity to get a certificate for use on the NGS or elsewhere, get in touch with us at

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Pioneers required!

The NGS has recently announced a pre-production release of a WMS (Workload Management System) resource broker which will allow users to easily submit jobs to the NGS, without the need to specify where the job should run.

The WMS has quite a few advanced features for parameterised jobs and file staging that mean that it will be possible to launch 100’s of jobs easily to the NGS, and have the results returned to your home directory.

The WMS is easy to use through a UI (user interface) machine where users can specify their jobs and any files the job requires. You can also describe any additional requirements (hardware, software) and the WMS then automatically selects the best resources on the NGS to run the job.

It sounds pretty easy and you can try it for your self! Some simple examples are available at the UI/WMS tutorial(s). Please give it a go if you have a few minutes to spare, and let us know how you get on (

The NGS Resource Broker and User Interface is based on the gLite 3.1 WMS-LB and UI nodes from the EGEE Project.