XSEDE project brings advanced cyberinfrastructure, digital services and expertise to nation's scientists and engineers
A partnership of 16 institutions, including Indiana University, recently announced the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), the most advanced, powerful and robust collection of integrated advanced digital resources and services in the world.
Scientists and engineers use these resources and services -- things like supercomputers, collections of data, and new tools -- to propel scientific discovery and improve lives. They are a crucial part of research in fields like earthquake engineering, materials science, medicine, epidemiology, genomics, astronomy and biology.
"Enabling scientific discovery though enhanced researcher productivity is our goal, and XSEDE's ultimate reason for being," said Barry Schneider, program director in the Office of Cyberinfrastructure at the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF will fund the XSEDE project for five years, at $121 million.
"For this sort of cyberscience to be truly effective and provide unique insights, it requires a cyberinfrastructure of local computing hardware at sites around the country, advanced supercomputers at larger centers, generally available software packages, and fast networks. Ideally, they should all work together so the researcher can move from local to national resources transparently and easily."
XSEDE, and the experts who lead the program, will make that ideal a reality.
XSEDE will replace and expand the TeraGrid project that started more than a decade ago. More than 10,000 scientists used the TeraGrid to complete thousands of research projects, at no cost to the scientists.
That same sort of work -- only in more detail, generating more new knowledge and improving the world in an even broader range of fields -- will continue with XSEDE.
"The TeraGrid really helped invent the concept of having digital resources like supercomputers, tools and expertise spread across the country and allowing researchers to easily use them," said John Towns of the University of Illinois's National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Towns will lead the XSEDE project and also had a variety of roles in the TeraGrid project.
"This is much more than just the same old resources that TeraGrid offered," Towns said. "XSEDE will take the next step by lowering technological barriers to access and use. We are creating a distributed cyberinfrastructure in which researchers can establish private, secure environments that have all the resources, services and collaboration support they need to be productive."
The XSEDE User Access Layer, for example, will provide a comprehensive view of the resources available -- not just those at XSEDE partner sites, but any resources. It will integrate things like authentication and job monitoring, providing a comprehensive view and single contact point for all the cyberinfrastructure that researchers need to achieve their science and education goals.
"Indiana University's role in XSEDE provides leading edge research, and supports progressive jobs within Indiana," said Brad Wheeler, vice president for information technology and CIO at Indiana University. "IU's expertise is helping build one of the most important national resources that will support U.S. scientific competitiveness in this decade."
Indiana University will contribute to the project by providing leadership and support in the following areas:
- Development of science gateways, online tools and portals: These resources will enable scientists -- from areas such as chemistry and the life sciences -- to more easily access advanced, discipline-specific computing resources without an in-depth knowledge of computational science.
- Online support: The University Information Technology Services (UITS) Support Division will provide 24/7 Web-based support, including a customized Knowledge Base.
- Virtual machine (VM) provisioning: Providing a wide range of business services similar to those delivered by large cloud providers, VMs offer scientists access to powerful, customized services from a variety of sources, without users needing to be aware of or understand where the services originate. In particular, XSEDE VM provisioning will let scientists share services they develop with the general scientific community; for IU, these services span from earthquake and tornado predictions to studies of evolution.
- Network monitoring and backup operations: The IU GlobalNOC and UITS Networking Division will provide network monitoring services and serve as a backup operations management site for XSEDE.
- Leadership of XSEDE Campus Bridging: Led by IU Associate Dean Craig Stewart, these efforts will make XSEDE services easy for scientists to use, as if they were all local resources.
IU's selection as an XSEDE partner reflects the university's overall leadership in advanced information technology and informatics. Since 2001, IU has been involved in the TeraGrid through the Office of the Vice President for Information Technology, University Information Technology Services (UITS), the School of Informatics and Computing, and Pervasive Technology Institute.
Stewart will serve as IU principal investigator for XSEDE, while Therese Miller, UITS manager of collaboration and engagement support, will lead project administration as the IU executive investigator. IU also contributes to XSEDE via the Future Grid, an NSF-funded cloud and grid test-bed led by Geoffrey Fox, PTI Digital Science Center director and distinguished professor in the IU School of Informatics and Computing.
For additional details about IU's involvement in XSEDE visit: https://pti.iu.edu/news/faqs-about-ius-participation-nsf-exsede-project
XSEDE will provide an array of services to ensure that researchers can make the most of the supercomputers and tools. This will include outreach to new communities that haven't traditionally used cyberinfrastructure and other digital services. It will also include advanced support for very large, complicated, or novel uses of XSEDE resources.
Initially, XSEDE will support 16 supercomputers across the country. It also includes other specialized digital resources and services to complement these computers. These resources will be expanded throughout the lifetime of the project.
The XSEDE partnership includes: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Carnegie Mellon University/University of Pittsburgh, University of Texas at Austin, University of Tennessee Knoxville, University of Virginia, Shodor Education Foundation, Southeastern Universities Research Association, University of Chicago, University of California San Diego, Indiana University, Purdue University, Cornell University, Ohio State University, University of California Berkeley, Rice University, and the National Center for Atmospheric Research. It is led by the University of Illinois's National Center for Supercomputing Applications.
Originally published July 25, 2011.