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Test track for grid software
Computer programs, like cars, need to be test driven to ensure they are in full working order. But until recently developers had nowhere to take grid computing software for a trial run.
The ETICS project has solved the development community’s dilemma by creating a one-of-a-kind testbed where developers can build and try out new grid applications – a kind of test track for software.
Grid computing harnesses the processing power of numerous, dispersed computers to process data, perform calculations and run simulations faster than would be possible by single machines or groups of machines operating alone.Grid computing is currently being used by scientists for such complex, data-intensive tasks as predicting the effects of climate change and studying the solar system.
Solving the interoperability obstacle
However, the diverse nature of grid infrastructure, with numerous different computers running different operating systems at different connection speeds means that applications do not always interoperate or function smoothly.
The scale of the problem can be huge, with some grid middleware – software designed to make different applications interoperate – consisting of more than 300 components and nearly two million lines of code. If printed out in a continuous line, the coding would stretch from Brussels to London.
In order to solve the problem, the ETICS researchers created what they call an ‘out-of-the-box’ build and test system.
Testbed for grid software developers
Using a 150-computer testbed that mimics the variety of computers, software and operating systems found on a real grid infrastructure, developers run programs they have created and automatically receive feedback about how they function and how compatible they are with other applications and services.
Developers use a web interface to describe their applications and to specify what middleware they should be tested on.
Toward quality assurance
The overarching aim of the project is to improve the quality of grid software and middleware, while laying the foundations in the longer term for a standardised certification process that would provide quality assurance. In essence, certification would provide a seal of approval that an application is optimised for the grid.
ETICS is already being used by several prominent groups developing grid infrastructure. The consortium behind the EGEE project, which has set up a vast international grid infrastructure for scientists, is using the ETICS system to test variations of its gLite middleware.
Meanwhile, researchers involved in the DILIGENT project, which is pioneering the creation of digital libraries for scientific and cultural applications, are using it to test applications that run on top of the gLite middleware.
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