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Using Sakai for e-Research: Building a Multi-Institution Virtual Research Environment Xiaobo Yang, Rob Allan, Adrian Fish, Miguel Gonzalez and Rob Crouchley.

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Presentation on theme: "Using Sakai for e-Research: Building a Multi-Institution Virtual Research Environment Xiaobo Yang, Rob Allan, Adrian Fish, Miguel Gonzalez and Rob Crouchley."— Presentation transcript:

1 Using Sakai for e-Research: Building a Multi-Institution Virtual Research Environment Xiaobo Yang, Rob Allan, Adrian Fish, Miguel Gonzalez and Rob Crouchley

2 What is a Virtual Research Environment? A VRE is defined as a distributed way of working using a Web- based portal and for linking into users' desktop applications to access a wide and growing range of on-line tools. These include access to Grid based computing and data management systems as well as collaboration tools, some based on Web 2.0. It is both a ``one-stop shop'' for academic users and a ``turnkey solution'' for commercial users. These emerging characteristics of a VRE are increasingly overlaid with a requirement to provide support for the creation, further development, or enhancement of a research community in virtual space - a ``Virtual Research Community''. The OST report of March 2006 indicated that VRCs have the potential to open exciting new opportunities to collaborate in research and thus realise significant gains at institutional, national and international levels. In this talk we only consider Web based VREs using portal technology.

3 Portals and VREs The idea of portals has been around for a number of years. We organised the Portals and Portlets 2003 Workshop here at NeSC just at the time when two significant pieces of technology, the JSR- 168 portlet standard and WSRP 1.0, Web Services for Remote Portlets standard, were being agreed (as mentioned in my previous talk). Since then, a number of open-source and commercial portal projects have been launched and are in use for a variety of purposes. One example in the UK is the portal for the National Grid Service. This evolved from HPC Portal which was initially a Perl/ C based environment for launching and monitoring Grid jobs similar to the US GridPort and HotPage portals from San Diego Supercomputer Centre. After briefly using PHP technology we have now evolved to using JSR-168 portlets firstly in the GridSphere and StringBeans frameworks and more recently in uPortal and Sakai.

4 Example: NGS Portal HPC Portal v4.0 provides a set of tried and tested portlets which will work in a variety of frameworks, and can be distributed as MyNGS. Built-in help system offers guidance for new users. Training and documentation is also available. Open pages show non-authenticated users what is on offer. Authentication via modified JAAS layer offering, local portal id, Grid certificate authentication, Shibboleth. JSDL editing and sharing portlets use an underlying database. Sharing JSDL job descriptions encourages developments of communities of practice around specific Grid applications. Job submission across NGS, NW-GRID, SCARF and local resources can be configured. Data management also included.

5 NGS Portal Application Registry

6 Science Gateways I A VRE is however more than just a portal. Whilst NGS Portal has a number of tools to encourage people to share artefacts, e.g. descriptions of computational tasks or workflows, it has very little built-in community support. It is important to address this if e- Science technologies and the Grid are going to be taken up more widely. In the USA this is done through the concept of Science Gateways such as NEESit. A number of these science gateways are listed on the TeraGrid Web site. Scientific gateways can have varying goals and implementations. Some expose specific sets of community codes so that anonymous scientists can run them. Others may serve as a "metaportal," a community portal that brings a broad range of new services and applications to the community. A common trait of all three types is their interaction with the TeraGrid through the various service interfaces that TeraGrid provides. Although the gateways may be instantiated on TeraGrid resources, it is expected that many will be instantiated on community resources and be administered by the community itself.

7 Science Gateways II Science Gateways signal a paradigm shift in traditional high performance computing use. Gateways enable entire communities of users associated with a common scientific goal to use national resources through a common interface. Science gateways are enabled by a community allocation whose goal is to delegate account management, accounting, certificates management, and user support to the gateway developers. Science Gateways take three common forms: A gateway that is packaged as a Web portal with users in front and TeraGrid services in back; Grid-bridging Gateways: often communities run their own Grids devoted to their areas of science. In these cases the Science gateway is a mechanism to extend the reach of the community Grid so it may use the resources of the TeraGrid; A gateway that involves application programs running on users' machines (i.e. workstations and desktops) and accesses services in TeraGrid (and elsewhere).

8 Classification of Grid User (adapted from Foster and Kesselman)

9 JISC VRE 1 Sakai Demonstrator JISC VRE 1 Progamme – 2005-2007 4 partner sites: Daresbury, Lancaster, Oxford, Portsmouth (now Reading) Framework extensions Security – Shibboleth WSRP JSR-168 New tools, DMS, Agora, WSRP Consumer, Grid portlets, Blogger, Shared Whiteboard, Bridging tools, Semantic search tool Production portal for e-Research projects – currently some 400 users and 25 projects hosted.

10 VREs and CWEs According to Wikipedia: a Collaborative Working Environment (CWE) supports people (e.g. E-professionals) in their individual and cooperative work. Research in CWE involves organisational, technical, and social issues. It lists tools or services which may be considered elements of a CWE including e-Mail, instant messaging, application sharing, video conferencing, collaborative workspace, document management, task and workflow management, Wiki and Blog. Access Grid is mentioned as being a particular type of CWE. It will be seen below that many of these tools have also been recognised as being important in our VRE development and are now available in Sakai. Not all of this work is described in this paper however; in particular the important work on the Agora conferencing and desktop sharing tool from University of Lancaster, was initially funded as part of the VRE Demonstrator. This tool addresses the requirements of desktop-based video conferencing!

11 Agora Agora is an easy to use online meeting tool. With Agora you can take your workplace with your laptop. Video-conference: "many to many": Organised into virtual meeting rooms, you can video-conference with an unlimited number of participants(*). Shared desktop: You can broadcast what you are watching on your desktop. Whiteboard: Collaborative whiteboard on which anybody can sketch. Chat: Instant messaging application. Moviecasting: Broadcast movies. Session recording: Record your sessions for further analysis.

12 Half Way House? Sakai is not a portal, but has many portal-like characteristics and similar look-and-feel Sakai supports a Tool Portability Profile enabling close integration within the Sakai framework Sakai uses many underlying standards Sakai was designed as a Collaborative Learning Environment, so also shares many aspects of CWEs It is designed to be scalable, supporting 10,000s of users Works with Oracle 10g To enable interoperability with portal technologies we added a WSRP Consumer tool to Sakai (there was already a Producer) More recently a native JSR-168 interface has been added, based on Pluto 1.1 Sakai tools can also be exposed in portals, such as uPortal, so Sakai could be viewed as a Service Hosting Environment. We think this is required for a VRE

13 Classes of User In observing usage patterns we have seen the following: 1.Expert HPC user is happy to log on and develop applications 2.Semi-expert users liking remote scripting interfaces 3.Novice users like generic portals to test the functionality 4.Application-based communities develop rich clients, e.g. desktop GUI There is probably no single solution that will satisfy all the diverse requirements, but exposing a common set of underlying services and using standards to promote inter-operability can help. This is the key to rapid and agile application development, using and combining remote resources. We are trying to use Sakai to combine a rich set of well-integrated internal services with more loosely integrated remote services.

14 Some Questions about VRE Usage Deployment and evaluation of such a VRE tests and extends our understanding of practical IT-based support for research in the following areas: How can such frameworks be configured to best suit the expectations and work practices of different research user communities and institutional or organisational contexts? Can tools from multiple institutions and organisations be brought together coherently to enable sharing of information, processes and collaboration? Can community-specific tools be integrated meaningfully alongside generic and remotely-hosted Web tools? Can a portal-like approach provide the flexibility to enable effective use by both researchers and administrators? At what points are rich desktop tools or those provided by a mobile platform, more effective? How might these be best integrated to provide a meaningful user experience?

15 Sakai as a VO Management Tool In the terminology of Sakai, a VO maps onto a ``worksite''. Through their worksites, bespoke tools can be made available to the VOs that require them. Each worksite can be customised to have a specific look-and-feel and configured to contain just the tools that are required by its members. This can include Web interfaces to distributed services managed by a particular project or hosted as part of a Grid resource. Sakai's internal VO management is through role-based policies. Users can be allocated roles within each worksite. Roles can be extended by administrative users from the small number of defaults like ``admin' and ``maintain''. Certain users can configure new sites, and resources can be shared between sites. Other concepts include permissions, types, realms, skins, properties, groups, aliases. Sites can be public, private or joinable.

16 Roles and Permissions WorksiteRole Front page (not logged in) view only My sitemaintain Site 1create Site 2maintain Site 3access Site x – created from Site 1 maintain Users see only what they have access to. Some additional worksites are joinable. Each worksite provides a list of tools and view of underlying content depending on the users role

17 Managing Users and Tools

18 Built-in Web 2.0 Services Web 2.0 typically provides hosted services enabling users with a Web browser to interact with them, contribute content and invoke remote operations. A growing list of such tools are being hosted in the Sakai server and database. They can be rendered as stand-alone pages or tiled in various combinations as required. Blog Wiki Calendar Chat client Message Center Shared Resources Announcements Workshop paper management RSS News reader Glossary Threaded Discussion Forum

19 Wiki and Discussion Forum

20 RSS News and Calendar

21 My Workspace Each user has a workspace which aggregates views of all the sites they belong to.

22 Customisation and Personalisation

23 Web 2.0 – Map Mashup Recently we have investigated how to augment the built-in Web 2.0 services by making use of the Yahoo! Maps Web Service. Such a Web API greatly alleviates the entry level of developing Web 2.0 for geo-spatial research applications. The services provide a set of APIs (AJAX or Flash) through which developers can easily access online maps around the world and overlay their own information (mashup). What we have tested is to display a map of the Sakai Community similar to the one located at the Sakai Web site inside our VRE. We expect this kind of mashup technology to be of use in a number of research fields such as archeology, flood monitoring and prediction, climate simulation and urban decision making in addition to supporting other forms of collaborative working, such as locating Access Grid rooms. Users will upload their data into Resources/MapData and then select which to overlay on the map.

24 Screenshot

25 Rollout, Sustainability and Community Sakai is running on a fully-supported IBM BladeCenter at Daresbury Laboratory currently with 28 dual-processor Xeon blades. The content is hosted in the Oracle 10g database on the UK National Grid Service (RAL node). We are currently deploying fully-operational and supported Sakai- based VREs for the following communities: NW-GRID: a community of computational scientists, both academic and commercial, using compute clusters in the North West of England. ESRC e-Infrastructure: a community of multi-disciplinary social scientists thoughout the UK building a common infrastructure and adopting e-Science technology through the work of NCeSS and ReDReSS and Diamond e-Infrastructure: a community of experimental scientists using the new Diamond Light Source the largest investment in science in the UK for 30 years.

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