NCSA LAUNCHES NEW WEB WINDOWING ENVIRONMENT

October 20, 2000

SCIENCE & ENGINEERING NEWS

Champaign, IL — A new Web windowing environment that will help scientists integrate data, tools, and information into a customizable portal environment is now available from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA).

Called Open Portal Interface Environment (OPIE), the NCSA environment brings a windowing function to the Internet. OPIE brings together information on a variety of topics from disparate data sources and puts it into one customizable and easy-to-use interface.

This Web windowing environment allows more flexibility and customization than is now possible in many information and corporate portal environments. OPIE can also make existing Web-based applications accessible on wireless devices.

“Five years ago, the dot.com world didn’t exist,” said Dan Reed, director of NCSA and the National Computational Science Alliance (Alliance). “Five years from now, wired and wireless portal interfaces like OPIE will be just as integral to our lives as e-commerce is today. They will change the way we interact with people and the way we do our jobs.”

OPIE allows multiple windows to appear simultaneously in a user’s browser. By dragging a mouse users can easily size the windows from full-screen to a small fraction of the screen. The Web windows can also be dragged freely across the desktop, made to overlap, organized to fit the size of a specific monitor, or tiled into columns.

The Web windows can also interact with each other. For example, one Web window can show a list of jobs running on one of NCSA’s supercomputers. When the user clicks on a specific job in the list, another Web window can report the details of that job submission.

A public version of OPIE is available for demonstration at the NCSA website ( http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu ) by clicking on the “log in” icon in the upper left corner of the page and entering “demo” in the user name.

OPIE runs in Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or later and in Netscape 6.0 and Mozilla. OPIE uses NCSA written DHTML and JavaScript. Its customization capabilities are possible through an XML storage system, which saves information about all of the applications and websites within a user’s OPIE environment.

“One of the main advantages of OPIE is that the user is in control of what appears in the multiple windows open within their browser,” said Douglas Fein, lead developer of OPIE. “Almost any page or application on the Web can be incorporated into this innovative, open environment. OPIE offers a level of dynamic interaction and customization that was previously unavailable in the academic and commercial sectors.”

OPIE is being developed to help meet the needs of scientists who want to use the high-performance computing resources of NCSA and the Alliance. Through OPIE these researchers will be able to track their computing jobs, search databases, and use specialized applications designed for their discipline. In addition, new software developed for and by scientists can easily be incorporated into the OPIE environment. Currently, Alliance research partners in chemical engineering and environmental hydrology are developing applications that will run in the OPIE environment.

“OPIE gives scientists a uniform interface to a wide variety of tools that we are connecting to the Chemical Engineering Portal,” said Jay Alameda, a member of the Alliance Chemical Engineering team and a researcher at NCSA. “It is an integral part of how we plan to deliver the Chemical Engineering portal to our community.” Alameda and other members of the Chemical Engineering team are working with the OPIE development team to build a portal designed specifically to the needs of the national chemical engineering community.

The National Center for Supercomputing Applications is the leading-edge site for the National Computational Science Alliance. NCSA is a leader in the development and deployment of cutting-edge high-performance computing, networking, and information technologies. The National Science Foundation, the state of Illinois, the University of Illinois, industrial partners, and other federal agencies fund NCSA.

The National Computational Science Alliance is a partnership to prototype an advanced computational infrastructure for the 21st century and includes more than 50 academic, government and industry research partners from across the United States. The Alliance is one of two partnerships funded by the National Science Foundation’s Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) program, and receives cost-sharing at partner institutions. NSF also supports the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (NPACI), led by the San Diego Supercomputer Center.

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