IFISCWeb4Grid

Web interface for generic grid jobs - Web4Grid -

Web4Grid

Scientific grid has been proven to be a useful tool in some very computationally demanding fields as for example in analysis of particle physics or astrophysics data. While it has been extended to other fields such as plasma research it is still viewed as a tool associated to large projects. However the capability of grid computing of processing a large number of jobs simultaneously is, by itself, not restricted to large projects.

There are many research areas on which small teams or even individual researchers may need to run many jobs in order to explore the dynamics of a system as function for different parameter values or for statistical purposes in cases of dynamics subject to noise or fluctuations. Complex systems would be a prototypical area where such calculations are performed. While this high throughput computational needs are very much suitable for what grid was intended for, very few users take advantage of it because the access is cumbersome and requires a learning period that many researchers, mainly in small groups, can not afford.

To popularize grid it is required to have user friendly interfaces where simple programs can be uploaded and executed in a simple way. Those interfaces should not aim at replacing sophisticated interfaces developed for specific applications. Neither it is required they allow for all the possibilities in submitting a job or in monitoring the grid system. On the contrary they should cover the most basic aspects with suitable default options.

At IFISC, a first attempt to simplify the environment was made a few months ago: our UI was integrated with all the institute resources, so that users have a unified home directory, an specific VO for IFISC users was created and some scripts were developed. The main script can be easily invoked by the user with just the name of the executable and the input files. It then automatically creates the proxy, submits the job, oversees the execution and finally it downloads all the output files.

Many grid advanced options are not really needed to carry out the computations considered here. Besides submitting a job and recovering the results what is also is needed is the capability to monitor the existing jobs and to check the (local) grid status (load, number of free cores available, ...). A few months ago we also developed scripts that provide some of this information and that can be easily invoked from the shell.

While all this has proven to be helpful, we are now moving one step beyond. We have been developing a web interface to allow researchers to submit applications, recover the results and monitor the status without any prior knowledge on grid.

This user-friendly web interface has been developed with one of most known open source web application frameworks, Django. This framework's goal is the creation of complex database-driven websites rapidly and Django modularity is essential for our purpose.

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Spanish National Research Council Universitat de les Illes Balears