Resource Management in Seconds: The New Era for Virtual Organizations

By Pawel Plaszczak

September 8, 2009

A professor, an engineer, and a researcher who have never met before sit down to a conference dinner. One of them has a petabyte database of worldwide historical climate data. The second one owns a weather simulation engine over a cluster of a couple of thousand nodes. The third one has access to a real satellite. During conversation the question comes up: How precisely can we predict today’s weather front in Beijing, China? Let’s not waste time on discussion, but find out: they open their laptops to form an ad-hoc virtual organization to immediately share their assets. Historical data are then being fed to the simulation engine, and the results are compared to the real-time satellite feed. Within minutes, the answer is there for all to see.

Impossible? Possible. Today.

Complex HPC infrastructures, grids, collaboratories need to manage a plethora of distributed assets: data repositories, machines, applications and services. To share in a coordinated way, the HPC community invented virtual organizations (VOs): groups that share resources because they trust each other. VOs are the base concept of grid security, envisioned as highly dynamic, on-demand structures. People and processes can form and dissolve a VO at any moment, to run a project.

This concept isn’t new. It’s a decade-old, developed in the mid-90’s by Foster, Kesselman and Tuecke (The Anatomy of the Grid, 1995). Yet, how many ad-hoc VOs, formed on the fly at a conference table, have you seen since?

Common distributed security frameworks used for cross-institutional collaborations have not met this criteria. In various clones of the grid security implementation, often descending from the PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) model, virtual organizations have become static, heavy-weight, unusable structures, managed by multiple administrators. In the end, for an average user it wasn’t that simple to become part of one. Not to mention the idea of creating a VO yourself.

What happened to the original, brilliant and forward-thinking vision of a VO? It appears to me that we can’t see the forest through the trees. We might be hitting a moment when this changes.

What the HPC community has not noticed is that the concept of VOs is alive and flourishing in Web 2.0 services. In Flickr, users share pictures with others. No admin intervention is needed. In peer-2-peer services designed for sharing music, sharing is as simple as a mouse click. In T-Mobile’s Media center, and hundreds of similar services, one can upload their pics and define groups of friends to access these.

What went wrong with the robust multidisciplinary, multi-institutional research projects? Remember, grid’s mantra is “coordinated resource sharing”! Then why are commodity solutions more mature than grids? I tend to think that the root cause of the problem is not technology, but the philosophy. Web 2.0 says: give users the power to decide.

You may think that this is more difficult in research environments, because these assets are way more complex (and expensive) than those in the Web 2.0 world. True. But going back to the core of the problem, it does not make sense. I know my data. I know best whom I should share it with. I take responsibility for my data. Why should I involve an admin? Do they care more about the data than I do? If technical complexity of my assets are beyond my understanding — fine, let’s have a security expert decide. If, however, it is all about letting my project peer run an SQL query over my data, involving anyone but myself in permitting the action is just another hurdle that I should be free from.

And technologically, what’s missing? Actually, not much. Almost nothing. The distributed security frameworks, such as PKI, GSI and Shibboleth, are feature rich. This is good because they give a lot of options. They enable (but don’t support) dynamic sharing. What’s missing is the simplicity on top. A layer that ties together the loose ends provided by complex security software, and brings this up as a simple, intuitive end-user interface.

In fact, our company, GridwiseTech, recently announced such a product. AdHoc, version 1.1.0, is specifically designed to enable regular users (not administrators) to create a virtual organization on the fly and share their resources.

So the story of the professor, the engineer and the researcher is not only possible, but has already been tried out in a project we’re involved in that shares other types of data: medical patient records across multiple hospitals. Now we’re looking to work and partner with academic as well as commercial institutions that wish to adopt the concept of dynamic sharing of data, applications and machines.

About the Author

Pawel Plaszczak’s international software engineering experience includes work at CERN, British Telecommunications and Argonne National Laboratory. In 2003, Pawel founded GridwiseTech to lead pioneering work for the early adopters of scalable systems. Under Pawel’s leadership the company has won the trust and respect of customers including Turner Broadcasting, Ricoh, and Philips, and led numerous research efforts for international consortia. Pawel is the author of numerous articles and tutorials, the book “Grid Computing: The Savvy Manager’s Guide,” and a frequent speaker at professional conferences and events. Pawel blogs at

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Nvidia Debuts Turing Architecture, Focusing on Real-Time Ray Tracing

August 16, 2018

From the SIGGRAPH professional graphics conference in Vancouver this week, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang unveiled Turing, the company's next-gen GPU platform that introduces new RT Cores to accelerate ray tracing and new Tenso Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC Coding: The Power of L(o)osing Control

August 16, 2018

Exascale roadmaps, exascale projects and exascale lobbyists ask, on-again-off-again, for a fundamental rewrite of major code building blocks. Otherwise, so they claim, codes will not scale up. Naturally, some exascale pr Read more…

By Tobias Weinzierl

STAQ(ing) the Quantum Computing Deck

August 16, 2018

Quantum computers – at least for now – remain noisy. That’s another way of saying unreliable and in diverse ways that often depend on the specific quantum technology used. One idea is to mitigate noisiness and perh Read more…

By John Russell

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Introducing the First Integrated System Management Software for HPC Clusters from HPE

How do you manage your complex, growing cluster environments? Answer that big challenge with the new HPC cluster management solution: HPE Performance Cluster Manager. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Super Problem Solving

You might think that tackling the world’s toughest problems is a job only for superheroes, but at special places such as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, supercomputers are the real heroes. Read more…

NREL ‘Eagle’ Supercomputer to Advance Energy Tech R&D

August 14, 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has contracted with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) for a new 8-petaflops (peak) supercomputer that will be used to advance early-stage R&a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

STAQ(ing) the Quantum Computing Deck

August 16, 2018

Quantum computers – at least for now – remain noisy. That’s another way of saying unreliable and in diverse ways that often depend on the specific quantum Read more…

By John Russell

NREL ‘Eagle’ Supercomputer to Advance Energy Tech R&D

August 14, 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has contracted with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) for a new 8-petaflops (peak Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CERN Project Sees Orders-of-Magnitude Speedup with AI Approach

August 14, 2018

An award-winning effort at CERN has demonstrated potential to significantly change how the physics based modeling and simulation communities view machine learni Read more…

By Rob Farber

Intel Announces Cooper Lake, Advances AI Strategy

August 9, 2018

Intel's chief datacenter exec Navin Shenoy kicked off the company's Data-Centric Innovation Summit Wednesday, the day-long program devoted to Intel's datacenter Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

SLATE Update: Making Math Libraries Exascale-ready

August 9, 2018

Practically-speaking, achieving exascale computing requires enabling HPC software to effectively use accelerators – mostly GPUs at present – and that remain Read more…

By John Russell

Summertime in Washington: Some Unexpected Advanced Computing News

August 8, 2018

Summertime in Washington DC is known for its heat and humidity. That is why most people get away to either the mountains or the seashore and things slow down. H Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

NSF Invests $15 Million in Quantum STAQ

August 7, 2018

Quantum computing development is in full ascent as global backers aim to transcend the limitations of classical computing by leveraging the magical-seeming prop Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

By the Numbers: Cray Would Like Exascale to Be the Icing on the Cake

August 1, 2018

On its earnings call held for investors yesterday, Cray gave an accounting for its latest quarterly financials, offered future guidance and provided an update o Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

SC17 Booth Video Tours Playlist

Altair @ SC17


AMD @ SC17


ASRock Rack @ SC17

ASRock Rack



DDN Storage @ SC17

DDN Storage

Huawei @ SC17


IBM @ SC17


IBM Power Systems @ SC17

IBM Power Systems

Intel @ SC17


Lenovo @ SC17


Mellanox Technologies @ SC17

Mellanox Technologies

Microsoft @ SC17


Penguin Computing @ SC17

Penguin Computing

Pure Storage @ SC17

Pure Storage

Supericro @ SC17


Tyan @ SC17


Univa @ SC17


  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
Share This