Friday, 18 December 2009

And the wind down begins

Things are beginning to quieten down here at the NGS in preparation for the Christmas holidays. As you may expect NGS staff are also on holiday over the next few weeks so we have announced our Christmas cover arrangements in the fortnightly NGS email bulletin that went out today. This announcement is also on the front page of our website.

However, although things may be calming down now, next year is already looking very busy. Personally I'm going to be going through all the feedback we've received on our new website and addressing the comments, suggestions and feedback. We want to make the website as useful for our users and institutions as we possibly can so all feedback is welcome!

If you haven't already done so there is still time to complete our user survey which will close on the 20th of January 2010. So if you would like to be in with a chance to win one of three Amazon vouchers to help with your January sales shopping then make sure you complete the survey soon! I'll be spending the end of January going through the user survey results so if you would like your comments and feedback heard then you know what to do!

I'm also busy organising 4 NGS roadshows for the beginning of next year at various sites across the country. Keep an eye out on here and the NGS website for more news on these. The roadshows are becoming more and more popular and sometimes it's hard keeping up with demand. However we will consider all requests to hold more roadshows after Easter! If you would like a NGS roadshow at your institution then please let us know by emailing the support desk.

I hope you all have a great holiday and that we'll see you back on the NGS in 2010.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Catch up with the news

The latest edition of NGS News, the quarterly newsletter from the NGS, is out now.

This Christmas edition has a European flavour as we describe the NGS activities in Europe and our participation in building the European Grid Infrastructure (EGI). There is also an excellent article from Jonathan Churchill from the NGS at RAL and Paul Wilkinson from Exeter University who give an excellent use case study of the new User interface / workload management system (UI/WMS) for pest insect gene coding. Finally we also have articles on why we need certification and the ongoing developments in this field, a user case study from Dr Narcis Fernandez-Fuentes at the University of Leeds on virtual candidate drug trials and much much more.

The newsletter can be found on the NGS website.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Eventually I get this posted...

There have been some major teething problems with the wireless and wired connections here at AHM / IEEE. Thankfully they seem to have been fixed so here is the blog post I wrote yesterday!

This morning I was in the User Engagement session for two main reasons. User engagement is one of the main purposes of my job and the second reason is that I was giving a presentation during this session!

The session kicked off with Alistair Sutcliffe from Manchester talking about user engagement with health informatics. He specifically talked about user tool development and the involvement the eventual users had in the development process. Next up was a fellow NGS staff member Kevin Haines who gave a more technical focused talk on how users can access NGS resources using SSH enabled clients. Good publicity for the NGS again.

I was next up and you couldn’t really get a more different presentation from Kevins! My talk focused on the outreach methods that I use at the NGS to tell people about the NGS and the methods we use for gathering feedback from our users etc. I covered topics such as our popular roadshows where we go out to institutions and give presentations to potential users, our new Campus Champions scheme, innovation forum, our new website, the Communities service which was launched last week and our annual user survey. A lot to cover in 20 mins but I made it! There were a lot of good questions at the end which asked for more detail and I got to talk for longer about a subject that I get really enthusiastic about!

After lunch (better than yesterday!) I attended the social sciences and humanities session returning to my first job in grid computing many moons ago. Peter Halfpenny from the University of Manchester talked about the e-social science agenda. Peter started off with describing NCeSS and its objectives and the initial lack of demand for grid computing by social scientists. Things however have moved on and social scientists are no longer frightened of the grid. However now looking to the future the social scientists are now asking questions about the sustainability of the tools that have been produced. Who will look after these tools, who will look after them and who will support them? These questions need to be answered and people are looking towards the funding bodies.

So tonight is the conference dinner in the centre of Oxford and a chance to catch up with all those colleagues that I’ve not yet had a chance to chat to and there are quite a few! It’s almost the end of day 2 and it seems to have gone pretty quickly already.

Monday, 7 December 2009

AHM kicks off

It’s been a hectic day so far at AHM - the first thing I had to do today as soon as I walked in the venue was to find a presentation for someone to use as they were standing in for a NGS user who was ill. Luckily thanks to our shiny new website a suitable presentation was found and they made their slot with minutes to spare. A huge thank you to Shiv and Dave F for stepping in at the last minute with a presentation on using the NGS for in-silico drug screening.

The exhibition area where the NGS has a booth has been particularly busy. We had our first demo this afternoon on the NGS booth and I am pleased to say that it was extremely busy. Photos will follow tomorrow to prove this! The UI/WMS demo was given by Jonathan Churchill and was very popular with people staying way past the demo slot to ask more questions and find out more. More information on the user interface / work management system (UI/WMS) can be found on the NGS website.

This evening brings the poster session and the journey back into Oxford to find and check into our accommodation for the week.

Friday, 4 December 2009


It’s all been a bit busy here at the NGS this week as many of us are off to the AHM and e-science conference in Oxford next week. The NGS will be sharing a large double stand with our colleagues at GridPP so it should be fun!

We have some demos on the stand so be sure to pop past and see what’s going on. We have demos of the new UI/WMS, the Digital Library and SARoNGS on which we would really like your feedback.

The NGS will also be hosting a Birds of a Feather meeting on the Monday night 4.30pm - 6pm on the topic of "Services to support EU projects through the NGS" so come along!

So the stand rota is done, the leaflets are packed, the posters are printed, the stand presentation is almost done and the only thing that’s left now is to write my own talk that I’m giving on Tuesday!

I’ll be at both conferences so I’ll be in Oxford Monday – Friday – I hope it’s a good one as that’s a long stretch!

If you can’t make the conferences you can keep up to date through the wonders of blogging. Various NGS staff should be blogging from the events and myself and Claire will also be blogging for the GridCast team along with Manisha (from GridTalk) and Neasan from GridPP.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Open call for Hector

EPSRC are piloting a new access class for the HECToR service called 'Direct Access' (Class 1b) where users can request significant amounts (>1,000,000 AUs) of computing resource only for a period of up to six months.

The Direct Access mechanism will provide successful applicants with discretionary access to the HECToR system in order to provide resource to cover activities such as:

* Bridging access between grant applications,
* Resource to trial application developments at scale,
* Provide preliminary results in aid of grant applications via Responsive Mode or to a Call for Proposals;

There is no deadline for submission, however:

* the proposals will be assessed by a Resource Allocation Panel (RAP) which will meet every four months (February 2010, June 2010 and October 2010)
* the deadline for applications being submitted to the Panel will be three weeks before the Panel meeting.

More information can be found on the EPSRC website.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Make the most of the NGS

We are keen to make sure that everyone is aware of the new tool recently developed and released by the NGS.

The NGS UI/WMS service is now in full production allowing NGS users to exploit all sites on the NGS including the partner resources.

Since going into pre-production in October, the UI has been upgraded and extensive stress testing has been undertaken with 1000's of jobs run through the service. The UI now also checks your certificate proxy when logging in and corrects for many common proxy problems hopefully making your life easier!

The documentation has also been extensively updated on the new NGS web site and the NGS wiki. The majority of scientific application documentation pages now have examples of running the applications via the UI-WMS. Some of these are fleshed out in tutorials on the NGS wiki, linked from the main tutorials above), with more tutorials and examples in the pipeline.

If you have any questions or problems using the service, please mail the NGS helpdesk at support(at)

Monday, 23 November 2009

Got an opinion - then share it!

If, by some amazing feat, you haven't seen the announcements for the NGS user survey that is out now then here is another one!

The NGS user survey targets all registered users of the NGS and queries how they use the NGS, which parts of the NGS they use, if you are aware of all the services and outreach methods from the NGS and also gives NGS users the opportunity to have their research publicised as use case examples of NGS research.

Oh and all completed surveys will be entered into a prize draw to win one of three Amazon vouchers. Perfect timing for the festive shopping and sale season!

If you'd like to feedback on your experience of using the NGS then please visit the 2009 user survey.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Everyone's calling

There seems to have been a rash of "Calls for Papers" recently - everyone planning for 2010 I guess! They are up on the new NGS website if you want more information but in short we have EGEE User forum in Uppsala, Sweden, OGF28 in Munich, Germany and ISGC in Taiwan.

The NGS is also beginning to plan for 2010 as we are already dealing with roadshow requests for next Easter and looking attending a range of events and conferences next year. If there is an event you know of either through attending or organising then please let us know about it!

We are also keen to hear from people who are presenting work that was done using NGS resources. The new website has a much better area for showcasing research performed on the NGS and I would like to make the most of this. If you have anything you'd like to tell us about or share with us then please contact me through the NGS helpdesk (support(@)

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

New NGS website launched today!

After several months of hardwork by a large number of NGS staff, we are pleased to announce tha the new NGS website was launched today.

We hope that the new design and layout will make it easier for visitors to find the information they need quickly and easily. We also hope that it will enable you to find out more about the services that the NGS offers.

The home page is designed to be dynamic and will be regularly updated with news from the NGS as well as having feeds from this blog, the NGS-STATUS list and the most recent updates to the website.

Feedback on the new website is welcome through the NGS helpdesk.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Argue about grid topics!

As you may know the NGS has a good number of success stories and announcements published in the popular weekly grid newsletter iSGTW. Now iSGTW has launched a discussion forum for stories and other topics from iSGTW. This means that if something on iSGTW gets your dander up or if you disagree or agree with anything said this is your chance to respond!

The forum can be found here.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Flying visit to QUB

This week saw several members of the NGS team fly over to Belfast to host a NGS roadshow at Queen's University Belfast.

The cold weather was quickly forgotten due to the warmth of the welcome by the local organiser Ricky Rankin who gave us a quick tour of the new library at QUB. I have to say that it is very impressive - much better than the cold dark libraries I had to frequent as a student!

We had nearly 30 attendees from both QUB and the University of Ulster which was great. We always invite NGS users to speak about their research at these events and this time we had Julie Bardin from the University of Strathclyde and Che Seabourne from the University of Leeds. Both gave excellent presentations about their research and also sang the presentations of the NGS and particularly the support and help they had received from our helpdesk. No I hadn't bribed them depsite several people asking!

Lunch was a lively event with many conversations about how the NGS could help research from ecology to cancer research and people asking how to get their grid certificates etc. Hopefully the intial interest will be followed up by new users from Northern Ireland!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Hangovers from the Scary Grid

Grid software has a - not entirely undeserved - reputation for being complicated.

Things have improved but the NGS support staff still see code left over from the bad old Scary Grid.

Occasionally someone surfaces with a command like:

globusrun -b -r \
-x '&(count=4)(jobtype=mpi)
(environment=(NGSMODULES namd/64/2.7b1))

It works, but not even the most enthusiastic grid advocate could call it user friendly. It also needs a different invocation for every single site.

But things have changed, hopefully for the better...

  • The grid software developers have produced less hairy commands. For example, there are globus-job-run and globus-job-submit commands that are simpler than globusrun.

  • The NGS sites have agreed a common way for launching applications via scripts called /usr/ngs/SOMETHING that behave in the same way on all sites. This can replace the NGSMODULES environment trick used above.

The modern counterpart to the Scary Grid command would look like:

globus-job-submit \
-np 4 -x '(jobtype=mpi)' -d '$(HOME)/experiment' \
-stdout job.out -stderr job.err
/usr/ngs/NAMD_2_7b1 namd2

It might not be pretty but it is shorter, simpler and easier to convert to a different site.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Win Amazon vouchers courtesy of the NGS

Here at the NGS we have released our user survey for 2009. The annual survey aims to gather information on user habits, why people use the NGS, the resources they use and the output of NGS usage amongst others. Each completed survey will be placed into a draw at the end of the year to win one of 3 Amazon vouchers.

We really do want to hear from you and your opinions on the NGS - what you like, what you don't, what would make your life better or how wonderful we are! There are also opportunities in the survey to advertise yourself and your research. I am always looking for interesting research taking place on NGS resources to highlight in a range of publications and to make into our popular case studies.

The results of the survey won't just lie unloved on a shelf somewhere - we'll put together a report which will be available from our website and will contain actions on your recommendations and suggestions where appropriate.

If you would like to take part in the survey please visit the survey home page.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Roaming around the EBI

Earlier this week, I was down in Cambridge at the European Bioinformatics Institute for the NMR Software Workshop.

I was there to issue certificates to users as a "Roaming RA" operator. The NGS runs the UK e-Science Certificate Authority, which issues certificates not only to the people who want to make use of NGS services and resources, but for any UK academics involved in Grid computing. The certificates are accepted and recognised across the world and can be used to enable authentication of people across different Universities - even in different continents.

Usually, certificates are authorised for someone by an operator in their own institution but this is not always available.... which is where I come in. There are a number of Roaming RA operators with the ability to issue certificates at events where there is no local provision for issuing certificates. Quite often this will be at one of the many NGS roadshows or events we attend.

If you have an event where you think people would like a convenient opportunity to get a certificate for use on the NGS or elsewhere, get in touch with us at

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Pioneers required!

The NGS has recently announced a pre-production release of a WMS (Workload Management System) resource broker which will allow users to easily submit jobs to the NGS, without the need to specify where the job should run.

The WMS has quite a few advanced features for parameterised jobs and file staging that mean that it will be possible to launch 100’s of jobs easily to the NGS, and have the results returned to your home directory.

The WMS is easy to use through a UI (user interface) machine where users can specify their jobs and any files the job requires. You can also describe any additional requirements (hardware, software) and the WMS then automatically selects the best resources on the NGS to run the job.

It sounds pretty easy and you can try it for your self! Some simple examples are available at the UI/WMS tutorial(s). Please give it a go if you have a few minutes to spare, and let us know how you get on (

The NGS Resource Broker and User Interface is based on the gLite 3.1 WMS-LB and UI nodes from the EGEE Project.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Wish you were here

For those of you not at the Innovation Forum, you are missing lots of interesting presentations and discussions. Applications, clouds, outreach, "campus champions", EGI, and more. Oh, and real research. I encourage you to see the slides if and when they're available.

In my areas of expertise, I note in particular the requirements for data management and identity management. On the latter, we are working to improve the way certificates are managed in various stages of their lifetime; recent developments in the IGTF will, for once, help make some things easier. The CA will be modernised. And SARoNGS will of course also be available.

For data management, it is interesting to note the very different requirements of communities: security, performance, volume, metadata, filesize, etc. The good thing about the NGS is we're stronger together. For a new community, to solve their problems themselves would take a long time, but using infrastructure set up for other communities makes things much easier.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Day 1 at the NGS Innovation Forum '09

Nearly the end of the first day of the NGS Innovation Forum ’09. From an organisers point of view it’s gone okay – all the speakers turned up, everyone was fed and watered and we have a good mix of people here.

The day kicked off with an introduction from the NGS Executive Director Andrew Richards who used some interesting analogies (London underground and shipping containers!) to describe the past, present and future of the NGS.

Next up was David Fergusson from the NeSC training team who talked us through the life cycle of a job on the NGS including birth, mating and death accompanied by some of his own great photos– very interesting!

After a lively coffee break it was time for the break out sessions which, judging by the amount of talking, were lively and constructive. Half way through the sessions everyone swapped to the second session so well done everyone for finding your place! I’m looking forward to the feedback sessions later on from the groups to see what was said and the issues that were raised.

Another coffee break and back in for a presentation from Steve Newhouse, Director of EGI who talked about the European future which is currently the presentation I’m sitting in!

So a great day so far with a lot of discussion and a lot of interesting issues raised! Wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Almost there

Things have been rather busy here at the NGS lately as we prepare for the Innovation Forum which starts tomorrow.

NGS staff will be at the venue from early on and registration starts at 9am with plenty of tea and coffee available so come along and have a chat before the crowds appear! We're expecting 131 people over the 2 days with a good mix of users, IT support staff and other e-research organisations represented.

If you can't make the event then don't despair, blog posts live from the event will appear here and the slides will be available on our website.

Hopefully we'll see many of you tomorrow in The Magic Circle Headquarters!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Release of a free e-science book online today

We are pleased to announce that “The New Paradigm”, a collection of essays expanding on the vision of pioneering computer scientist Jim Gray has been released online today.

Malcolm Atkinson, Director of The e-Science Institute and National e-Science Centre said –
“The UK e-Science programme always recognised the importance of data. This book recognises that data-intensive science is dramatically changing the way research is done, and is an excellent compendium of progress with this new approach.

It is also dedicated to the memory of Jim Gray, who christened data-intensive research "The New Paradigm", who shaped the transactional model of databases we all depend on, who led Microsoft into supporting the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and into developing new database technology to support data-intensive research. Sadly, Jim was mysteriously lost at sea in January 2007.”

The book has several connections with UK e-Science as the prime mover and first editor is Tony Hey (former director of the UK e-science initiative) and Carole Goble (University of Manchester) and Dave De Roure (University of Southampton) have a chapter in it.

The book is available for free download from the website.

The New York Times has also featured an article about the book.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Amazon vouchers up for grabs from OMII-UK

Our colleagues at OMII-UK are looking for volunteers to fill in a quick ten-minute survey on e-research.

Completing the survey not only gives you the chance to win an Amazon voucher, but it also means that you will be directly contributing to development of the software and support that is needed by the research community.

The survey can be found here.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Digging for the right information?

Our colleagues at NaCTeM (National Centre for Text Mining) are holding a workshop entitled "Text Mining for Scholarly Communications and Repositories" which will take place on the 28th - 29th October at the Manchester Interdisciplinary BioCentre, University of Manchester. The Workshop is being co-hosted by NaCTeM and UKOLN.

There will be a keynote presentation entitled "eScience and Semantic Computing" given by Professor Tony Hey, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft External Research - a name familiar to many in the UK e-science community!

A full Programme of international speakers and the registration form is now available at the event website.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Get in training

The NGS will be running another RA operators training event on the 11th of November. If you or someone at your institution needs to be able to distribute, authenticate, revoke UK e-science certificates etc then this is the course you have to do!

It's a short course starting at 11am at RAL down near Oxford and will finish by 2pm. Lunch is included as well and the event is free to attend.

Further information (inlcuding how to register for the event) is available on the RA training pages on the NGS website.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Way up north

A long train journey up the west coast took at least one of the NGS team to the NGS Roadshow event at the University of Glasgow yesterday. The others had slightly shorter train journeys or a flight but at least I got to see some stunning scenery!

We had a really good turn out for the event which was held in the rather nice surroundings of the University Library annexe - 43 people, the vast majority of whom were not current users of the NGS.

The event kicked off in traditional style with an introduction by our Technical Director, Dr David Wallom. This was then followed by 2 user presentations from people at the University of Manchester. Sanjay Kharche spoke about his use of NGS resources for multi-scale cardiac Modeling whilst Mahmoud Ibrahim explained how he benefits by using Gaussian on the NGS.

After the examples of how the NGS can be used, Dr David Fergusson from NeSC explained how you can actually apply for and start using NGS resources followed up by a presentation on the types of training available from NeSC and further afield.

The event was wrapped up by Dr Stuart Purdie who described the European picture and the role of EGEE. Well done to Stuart who kept going after his laptop locked up and lost all his slides!

Lunch was a typically lively affair with a great deal of discussion taking place on a wide range of topics. There is certainly plenty going on in the UK grid computing field!

Our next roadshow is not until the 11th of November so we have a bit of a breather until then. However we do have the Innovation Forum which will take place on the 21st - 22nd of October and registration closes on the 13th so if you haven't registered yet, do so soon!

Monday, 28 September 2009

Brief return

The NGS staff are all back from the EGEE conference in Barcelona where NGS received a fair amount of publicity thanks to a keynote presentation from David Wallom (our technical director), the exhibition stand and several posters and presentations from NGS staff.

You may think we would have time to catch our breath but it's not so. On Wednesday we are running a NGS roadshow event at the University of Glasgow where we have over 40 people attending from 4 different universities across the central belt of Scotland. We have some great speakers lined up for this event and more details can be seen on the event page.

Talking of events, there is still time to register for the NGS Innovation Forum. Registrations keep coming in and the closing date is the 13th of October so you haven't got long left! The break out sessions are proving to be really popular and it's a great way to meet up with researchers in similar areas to discuss issues etc. The registration link can be found here.

In non-event news the latest edition of the NGS newsletter is out now featuring articles on the NGS and GridPP working closer together, NGS roadshows, a spotlight on the Manchester team and much more. If there is anything you would like to see in the next edition of the newsletter or if you have a suggestion for a story then please contact the NGS (

Thursday, 24 September 2009

#egee - Users? What are they?

Another update from the EGEE 09 conference here in Barcelona.

This morning I went to the session on “Users on the Grid” as, being the outreach person who is trying to encourage new users to use the NGS, it’s a topic close to my heart. It's also sometimes easy to forget at some grid conferences that the grid should be there for people to use and not for people to build. It's nice to be reminded that there is an audience out there wanting to use it!

There were a range of presentations from different research areas including particle physics and the life sciences but unfortunately some of the other presentations, from the computational chemistry community for example, didn’t take place.

There was an interesting presentation regarding user support for the Atlas experiment who mainly use Gmail to keep track of their user support queries. The presenter said a big thank you to whoever from Google is responsible for Gmail! The size of their task is quite immense even going so far as to have shift workers – one for the EU time zone and one for the US time zone. This will increase even more in November when they will be moving onto double shifts to cope with the anticipated large influx of relatively inexperienced grid users. It makes the NGS helpdesk look pretty simple in comparison!

The next talk of major relevance to me was the life sciences. The speaker here outlined that the life sciences community contains a large number of different types of researcher all of whom have different levels of knowledge about grid – low, medium or high.

They have put in place various means to get life science researchers engaged with the grid including training, documentation, ticketing and essential tools. The training has been especially important for users with medium to low awareness with intensive hands on training being very welcome and very effective.

Due to the difference in levels of experience in grid computing it is important to have documentation to suit all levels with the presenter pointing out that low level users need examples of APIs usage. For the life sciences one of the most important set of tools are those for managing data but there are also privacy issues that have to be considered. [This is why the NGS is having a session on data handling at our innovation forum in October!].

It was an interesting session and reassuring to hear that we all have the same problems with communities. However I was surprised when I heard that the astronomy and astrophysics community also had barriers to adoption and poor knowledge of grid techniques.

Hopefully one day we can overcome these problems and have everyone using the grid in the same way that they use the internet now.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

#egee - The NGS in the spotlight

Yesterday the NGS Technical Director, Dr David Wallom, gave a keynote address on the NGS to a pretty packed room here at the EGEE conference in Barcelona. David talked about the current state of the NGS and also where we were headed in the future given the move towards an EGI. He explained the resources that we offered our users and highlighted the large number of institutions who have signed up to become members of the NGS, realising the important of giving their researchers access to the most amount of resources. The range of research performed using NGS resources was also highlighted with David talking about many of our popular use case examples. There were lots of questions with many delegates taking the opportunity to quiz David as it is usually the other way round!

This was a great opportunity for the NGS to be showcased to a European (and further beyond) audience at an important event and we would like to thank the organisers for giving the NGS this opportunity.

If you would like to see the slides from Davids presentation they can be found here.

Monday, 21 September 2009

#egee - This is how the Spanish do it

Well the first day of the EGEE’09 conference has kicked off. The exhibition booths (including the NGS one) are extremely busy and there are lots of interested people coming to see us. If you are here and you are reading this blog make sure you stop by and say hello!

The first day is always a bit mad but I headed into the serenity of a session this afternoon to catch up with the Spanish grid initiative to see what they were up to.

There are many similarities between the Spanish grid and the NGS which was nice to see. They currently have around 900 researchers signed up from 94 research groups in 45 different institutions. They also have 16 VO’s in production with a total of 2024 cores available for use from 6 resource providers. One important point that was made was that this is not the Spanish NGI but a start up for it.

Similar to the NGS, all contributions are voluntary and although they don’t have any SLA’s (unlike the NGS) these are on the way. Again, same as the NGS, they have accounting, ticketing and a regional helpdesk as well as first line support. The Spanish attracted their users in a slightly different way to the NGS. They put out a call for applications which resulted in 20 approved proposals for applications, 22 for pilots (feasibility studies) and 14 for support groups.

There then followed a series of mainly biomed use case examples which I’ve listed these below for brevity. There were some quite interesting applications in there.
  • Using BLAST to analyse horizontal transferences of genes between prokaryotes and plants
  • Grid-Fast rotational docking
  • Construction of phylogenetic trees
  • Medical imaging on the grid – need efficient storage mechanisms and infrastructures for sorting, indexing and processing medical images, in particular mammography.
There was also a presentation on High energy physic applications which mainly related to their contribution to the LHC.

So the first day is nearly over. All that remains now is the welcome cocktail which normally results in a lot of people coming to visit the stands etc and then off into town in search of dinner. Hopefully we won’t have a repeat of last nights torrential thunderstorm!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Climate change and impact assessment in Exeter

Yesterday I was down at the University of Exeter along with our Technical Director, David Wallom, to run a NGS roadshow event. 23 people had registered for the event which featured two presentations from some of our biggest users.

Andrew Price from the University of Southampton spoke about the GENIE model system which stands for Grid ENabled Integrated Earth system model. The model demonstrated possible scenarios and perfectly demonstrated the need for resources such as the NGS to carry out this sort of modelling.

The second speaker was Dr Zhongwei Guan from the Department of Engineering at the University of Liverpool. Dr Guan leads a research team all of whom heavily rely on the NGS in their research. Dr Guan spoke about why and how he uses the NGS in his work and the benefits he has found doing so. He also showed some of the modelling he has carried out on impact assessments on structures such as fuselages and lattice structures.

All the presentations were very well received and lunch was a lively affair with much discussion regarding the NGS, the resources available and how Exeter researchers could benefit from it.

The roadshows are now on hold until the end of the month when we have one in Glasgow. If you are near Glasgow and would like to attend the roadshow then please register at the event website.

Watch this site for news from the EGEE conference in Barcelona next week. Hopefully between being on the UKI stand and keeping on top of all my other work, I'll have time to blog about some of the sessions I attend during the week.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Are you involved in any of these areas?

For the first time the NGS Innovation Forum will feature break out sessions devoted to particular topics. These have proved to be very popular with those already registered so get in quick before your particular topic fills up!

We have everything from research community related sessions to more generic sessions on day to day research problems. ITS staff needn't feel left out as we also have topics for you! The full list is-
  • Data handling and integration
  • Site integration with the NGS
  • Software licensing
  • User support
  • molecular modelling
  • bioinformatics
  • social sciences
  • human biology
Further suggestions are welcome and they can be added to this list.

The Innovation Forum will be held in London on the 21st - 22nd of October and, although the event is free to attend, registration is required. You can register at this site - just make sure you do so before the deadline of the 14th of October!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Normal service will be resumed

It's been a bit quiet here on the NGS blog recently as I've been on holiday for the last 3 weeks and I seem to be the only person who ever has something to say! Just as well really for an outreach person... Well now that I'm back normal service will hopefully be resumed.

However things are a tad hectic here in the life of the NGS - well for me at least. We have 2 of our very popular NGS roadshows happening this month - one at the University of Exeter and one at the University of Glasgow. We've got some more lined up for later on this year but we aren't taking any more bookings for 2009 as we're so busy! If you're interested in having a NGS roadshow at your institution or you want to find out more about them then drop me a line on here and I'll get back to you ASAP.

The next event coming up (apart from roadshows) is the EGEE'09 conference in Barcelona from the 21st - 25th of September. The NGS will have several members of staff there and will be a partner on the UKI exhibition stand at the event along with OMII-UK, Grid Ireland, NeSC and GridPP. If you're there, stop by and say hi!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

NGS Central Service Update

Following the recent issues with aircon in the main machine room at RAL, the majority of services have now been returned to full service. Full details of which services are on the main NGS website in the News section. The main services now back on are the NGS database services at RAL, which not only returns to service a number of user hosted databases but also a number of key central services such as user account management. In many ways, the distributed nature of the NGS has shows the benefits of having a distributed e-infrastructure in the UK, as many users have not been affected at all by the recent RAL outtage. However, it does highlight that even with many services distributed and replicated, certain key services remain in one place. NGS Operations is now undertaking a full review of what we class as 'critical' and in what way those services should or can be made more resilient.

To compound the issues, a recent linux security vulnerability is meaning that RAL is choosing to keep current compute services, i.e. services that users can access directly, offline. Tests across a number of systems show a mixed picture between which kernels and which O/S are vulnerable to the current vulnerability. Until patched kernels are available or until a confident work around is available STFC RAL is choosing to stay in downtime, though other sites are making their own local security decisions, based on advise from EGEE, as to what to do.

Friday, 14 August 2009

NGS Central Service Outtage

RAL Status: Site Outtage Update 14/08/09 @ 15:00

The NGS would like to apologise for loss of central NGS services over recent days.

The fault with the Aircon at STFC RAL that caused loss of the entire main machine room at 00:00 on 12/08/09 is now believed to be fixed, though a continued period of testing and confidence building will mean that the machine room remains at risk until early next week. A number of NGS central services have now been resumed by moving key services to a seperate UPS protected machine room.Remaining services that depend on the main machine room will be restarted possibly Monday next week. Further updates will follow.
The current problems at RAL also affect the GridPP Tier-1 service. Further, more detailed, information on the current machine room status can be found at or on the GridPP Wiki at

Services UP:
UK CA - Fully operational, Signing has resumed
NGS Website and Wiki - Fully Operational
Helpdesk -
BDII Services (both ngsinfo and ngi-info)
MyProxy (
Ganglia (

All of the following services at STFC RAL remain DOWN:
RAL Compute and database services (All Oracle hosted services) - estimated for Monday 17/08/09 onwards
NGS Portal (
INCA Monitoring
SRB (MCat and RAL Vault) - n.b. this affects access to SRB vaults at all NGS sites
UAS - User accounting portal and new account registration. Note: Existing accounts will remain active and usage records updated once the UAS is re-instated. Users without current access to a particular NGS site should contact the NGS helpdesk.

*** Users who have submitted new applications in the last 3 days and who need urgent access to NGS resources should contact the helpdesk. We can manually create accounts in the NGS VO server. NGS VOMS services at Manchester are not affected by the RAL outtage.***

*** Please note: Any services not mentioned in the above list, those operated by Partner and Affiliate sites are NOT affected by the STFC RAL outtages. ***

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Condor workshop open for registration

Our colleagues at the Advanced Research Computing Division (ARCCA - no I 'm not sure how they got that acronym either...) have announced a Condor Workshop at Cardiff University on the 16th September 2009.

The target audience for this event is both administrators (and potential administrators) and end users of Condor with the event split into two parts. The morning session will explore best practices of service provision and future developments. The afternoon session will showcase the research that Condor is enabling.

Registration for the workshop is now open with registration available from the event website.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

NGS Innovation Forum '09 - registration open!

The registration for the second annual NGS Innovation Forum is now open! It will be held on the 21st - 22nd of October at The Magic Circle Headquarters in London - a stones throw away from Euston train station.

The event is held over 2 days with the first day primarily aimed at NGS users or potential users. There will be presentations on what the NGS is, how to run a job on the NGS and user success stories as well as break out groups on a variety of topics and research areas in order to gather feedback and input from the community.

The second day is aimed more at IT service providers and will feature presentations on what it means for an institution to join the NGS, what the NGS offers, how the NGS can help with outreach and dissemination and cloud technology amongst others.

The event is free to attend and delegates are welcome to register for one or both days. Further information and a link to the registration site can be found on the event page on the NGS website.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

A heads up for our Humanities and Arts users!

The Digital Resources in the Humanities and Arts 2009 (DRHA) will take place at Queens University Belfast on the 7th – 9th September and registration is now open.

As well as the conference there are several pre-conference workshops on topics such as GIS applications for Arts and Humanities and visualisation. More information on the workshops is available on the website where you can also find the link for registration.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Summer = summer school time

There have been a couple of announcements of upcoming summer schools recently. It might be cold and rainy (well it is here!) but apparently it's summer so it's time to hone up on your grid computing skills.

A reminder that the ADSSS organised by the NGS and NeSC is taking place on the 7th - 11th of September at Coseners House at Abingdon. The school is aimed at people who are involved in supporting researchers who wish to use NGS resources etc. Full details of the school can be found on its website.

The second school announcement is for the GridKa School 2009 which takes place on the 31st Aug - 4th Sept near Karlsruhe, Germany. The GridKa School offers a broad range of topics, which are chosen from the realm of these projects and beyond, aimed at beginners, experienced users and grid administrators from science and industry. Again full details of the school can be found on their website.

Friday, 31 July 2009

5th IEEE e-Science conference - paper deadline extension!

The 5th International Conference on e-Science has extended their paper deadline until the 7th of August (next Friday) so if you were thinking about submitting a paper and didn’t quite get round to it then there is still time!

The conference will be held in the same week as the UK e-science All Hands Meeting so Oxford will be a great place to be from the 7th – 11th of December.

Papers are invited on a wide range of e-science topics including Arts, Humanities and e-Social Science; Bioinformatics and Health; Physical Sciences and Engineering; Climate and Earth Sciences; Research Tools, Workflow and Systems; Digital Repositories and Data Management and e-Science Practice and Education. Anything goes really!

The proceedings are also expected to be published by the IEEE CS Press, USA and will be made available online through the IEEE Digital Library.

See the conference website for more info.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The NGS helps to forecast crime rates!

NGS user Nick Malleson at the University of Leeds recently had his research featured in Scientific Computing World which has a readership of over 96,000 worldwide!

Nick is using the NGS to forecast crime rates in the city of Leeds by carrying out sophisticated modelling of possible crime scenarios that would be impossible to perform on a desk top PC.

Nick explained “This is where the NGS was essential for the project to be feasible. Without access to NGS resources, the project would not have been able to continue. I can now achieve hundreds of results in a few days where I would have previously only produced one”.

If you would like to read the article on Nick’s research and how the NGS was able to help, follow this link to the article on the Scientific Computing World website.

The NGS Liaison Officer, Gillian Sinclair, often receives enquiries from editors looking for interesting and accessible researcher using grid computing and it's great publicity for the researcher and the NGS when we can match them up!

If you'd like to make sure your research stands out then make sure your use case in your NGS application is up to date and accurate with lots of keywords as this is the main source of our information when looking for specific research.

Monday, 27 July 2009

New GridSAM tutorial from OMII-UK

Our colleagues at OMII-UK have released a new tutorial which shows how to run a command-line-based client: from generating results locally, through to running the same command line in a controlled manner on GridSAM.

The tutorial is aimed at researchers who would like to learn more about deploying a custom GridSAM application in a grid environment but systems administrators and technical managers may also be interested in the tutorial. It can be found here on the OMII-UK website.

Monday, 20 July 2009

A new way to access the NGS

The NGS member site RAL, is trialling a new system that allows users to login to grid resources using any SSH client. They are currently inviting users to come along and have a play!

In a nutshell, all you need to do is to create a MyProxy credential (easily done, with the MyProxy Upload Tool) and then use virtually any SSH client (such as Putty, WinSCP or Nautilus) to login to with the username and password to your MyProxy credential. It's a very simple way to get connected to a grid resource.

Further details available here are available on the NGS wiki.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

New Wizardry at the NGS

We are pleased to annouce that an updated version of the MyProxy Upload Tool has now been released for your comments and feedback. The tool is available from this page of the NGS website.

The general layout has been overhauled and we'd like to have some feedback on this. The main new feature is the capability of generating proxies with VOMS attribute certificates for those that need them.

Please note that this tool is still in development and should be considered a Beta rather than a production release! The tool also depends on Java 1.6 (although we may be able to extend support to 1.5 shortly).

If you have any comments or feedback on the tool then please let us know! Comments should be sent to David Meredith (david.meredith(at) and Will Rogers (

Monday, 13 July 2009

e-Science demos wanted!

As previously announced on this blog, the next EGEE conference will take place in Barcelona on the 21st – 25th September. The NGS is organising the UKI Federation exhibition stand where we will be exhibiting alongside OMII-UK, NeSC, GridPP and Grid-Ireland.

In a change to the previous EGEE meetings there won’t be a dedicated demo booth section, instead all demos will now take place on the exhibition stands. If you would like to give a demonstration of your e-science application on the UKI stand then please let us know! Contact Gillian (gillian.sinclair(at) at the NGS to discuss your demo etc.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Training announcement - SAGA: Tutorial and training

A tutorial on the use of SAGA will be held at the e-Science Institute in Edinburgh on the 3 - 4th September.

This first half of the 2 day event will cover the basic concepts underlying SAGA, provide an in-depth review of the API and its design. The second half will provide hands-on training and an opportunity to understand how SAGA can help your application development and requirements.

More information and registration can be found on the event website.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Reminder - UK e-science conference deadline extended

Just a quick reminder that the deadline for submissions to the UK e-Science All Hands Meeting 2009 (AHM) has been extended. The event will take place in Oxford from the 7th – 9th of December.

This event is the UK’s premier e-science conference and a place for people who are developing these new technologies to meet the people who are actually using them as well as discussing future advances in the field. We would strongly encourage NGS users to attend and to present their work to demonstrate the wide variety of research being carried out using NGS resources.

The deadline for abstracts is tomorrow (10th July 2009) and further details can be found on the event website.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Quick catch up from the NGS

Although it may have been quiet on the NGS blog, it's been a rather busy time here at the NGS. Last week was spent exhibiting at the Higher Education Academy Conference. We were located by many of the JISC services exhibition stands and a "treasure trail" with a prize of a laptop ensured there was a steady stream of visitors to the NGS stand. Many people we talked to were not familiar with the NGS so it was good to reach out to a whole new audience.

A quick reminder that you can still register for the Advanced Distributed Services Summer School which will be held on the 7-11th of September. The course is aimed at developing the skills of those providing computational support for researchers from a wide range of disciplines. More information about the course can be found on the website.

The NGS is looking for user / research conferences to attend in the UK. If you are attending or organising a UK conference then please let us know! We are interested in sponsorship opportunities where we can give a presentation and / or have an exhibition stand. Please either leave a comment or email the NGS liaison officer (gillian.sinclair (at)

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Obesity and e-research (essConf09)

I attended a very interesting talk today on the Obesity e-Lab project which is based at the University of Manchester. It’s a long way to come to Cologne to hear about a project based at your own institution but quite often it’s the way we find out about these things!

As we all know from the media, obesity is becoming a major problem across the globe with over 1 billion people now classed as being overweight. The project was introduced as being non-technical and indeed it wasn’t much to the relief of some of the audience. The presentation was given by Sarah who is responsible for user engagement and usability. She goes out and talks to the users to ask if what the project is producing is what they actually want and need.

This project takes a more rounded view of obesity in so much that it’s not just your calorie intake that affects your weight. It can also be factors such as available food, proximity of shops, available transport, peer groups, income etc. The project involves a range of people from epidemiologists to social scientists and computer scientists and aims to take into account many of these factors in examining the causes of obesity. They aim to do this by examining over 5000 datasets from the UK Data Archive. The sheer volume of data is challenging as well as the problems of identifying which data set you need and how to access it.

The project is still in early days and has a list of goals which include –
  • Supporting interdisciplinary community of obesity researchers
  • Reducing barriers to database access
  • Developing a community
  • Contributing to e-Labs
Current work is identifying good practices, understanding problems, planning training and support in order to make sure that the community can use and get the benefits of the project. A working prototype is currently available in which users can search and download variables from a dataset. This allows users to download just the variables they require instead of the whole dataset.

The project is also contributing to e-Lab which is a distributed and collaborative space for e-science. There are other projects working on similar research areas so they are collaborating to build an e-Lab by sharing software components, requirements and use cases.

That’s all I have time to blog about today but I did attend another talk that grabbed my attention so hopefully I’ll have time to blog about that one tomorrow between attending talks and being on the NGS / EGEE exhibition stand!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The Grid and the social sciences

The sun is shining in Cologne and the 5th International Conference on e-Social Science has begun. Over 140 delegates have gathered in Cologne from all over Europe and much further afield – testified by sitting at a table with 5 Australians for lunch!

Today is workshop and tutorial day so there is plenty of activity going on. The tutorials and workshops range widely in scope so there is something for everyone.

David Fergusson from the NeSC training team is currently involved in running a tutorial with Alex Voss from NCeSS, Andy Turner and Nick Malleson from the University of Leeds. The demo is looking at the Repast toolkit to model social simulations such as public health and urban studies. This is a “hands on” session where delegates are actually submitting jobs to the grid – the first time for some of them!

Another “hands on” tutorial is looking at Biocep, a new platform for statistical computing and data analysis which is built on top of R. Biocep makes it easier for people to their statistical analysis routines.

The workshops were large in number and scope with 8 being available for delegates to choose from. Topics ranged from law, ethics and e-social science to looking at software to analyse blog content. I would encourage anyone who had any doubts about what the grid could do for social scientists to look at the wide range of papers being presented here today.

I'll be on the NGS / EGEE exhibition stand so if you want a chat about what grid can do for you then pop over!

Further information about the workshops can be found on the NCeSS conference page.

Monday, 22 June 2009

e-Social Science in Germany

Tomorrow I am off to Cologne for the 5th International Conference on e-Social Science which is organised by the National Centre for e-Social Science (NCeSS) based at the University of Manchester.

I've had the pleasure of attending 3 out of the previous 4 of these conferences and they have always been very interesting showing the breadth of research in the social sciences using grid technology.

Many of the UK researchers who will be presenting their work over the next few days are users of the NGS. The NGS will have an exhibition stand at the event in conjunction with EGEE so pop over and say hello!

Hopefully I will find time to blog about some of the presentations during the conference so watch this space!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Need a Grid Certificate?

The NGS will be running a training event for RA Operators on the 21st of July.

The course is designed for new RA managers and operators and gives comprehensive training on the procedures and tasks that RAs will encounter. Items on the agenda include:
  • CP/CP
  • Certificate securit
  • How to authenticate users requesting certificates
  • How to approve certificates
  • How to revoke certificate
  • Operation of the RA web interface at
The course usually runs from 11:00am to 2:00pm and is designed so that attendees can travel to and from RAL in a single day. Lunch and refreshments are provided.

If you would like to attend the meeting then please see the website for further information.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Another good OGF for NGS

OGF26 in Chapel Hill, NC, US, was fairly small by OGF standards, but it was yet another productive one.

It is interesting to have both industry and academic input, because we obviously have different priorities; this has turned out to be a positive outcome of the merger between the then GGF and EGA. Also interesting now is the interaction between the OGF and OGC who themselves have large and diverse communities - I see a potential for lots of fruitful collaborations.

Apart from our very own David Wallom being made VP of e-Research, I was made Area Director for security. This is an interesting challenge which I look forward to. For one thing, there are numerous security related projects building things for the NGS, and being able to chase them about using standards - or creating them when they don't exist - will be useful. Also interestingly, I had been given a grid security shopping list by some industry contacts.
  • The Storage Resource Manager (GSM-WG) made progress with standardisation of SRM 2.2.
  • More talk about digital repositories (more about this later), and a new research group is formed (DR-RG). The iRODS folks are also involved in this (iRODS being the next generation "data grid," SRB being the previous one.)
  • "Cloud" interfaces are now being standardised, slightly unfortunately as "OCCI" (Open Cloud Computing Interface or something to that effect) which is also Oracle's C++ API. As if there were not enough XTLAs (eXtended Three Letter Acronyms).
  • Again a fair number of interoperation activities - since the NGS is not homogeneous, interoperation is relevant to us.
  • More Certification Authority stuff - a whole day of it! - of more later.
It is hard to summarise a whole conference in a few bullet points; it is maybe worth picking out a few items and looking at them in detail in some appropriate forum. As a whole I believe it is good that the NGS is engaged in standardisation and interoperation between the grids.

The Grid in Action

The team from the JISC-funded eIUS project have recently released a new video showing the grid in action.

This video features a group of researchers in Bioinformatics at the University of Manchester who, in collaboration with the myGrid Consortium, use the Taverna Workbench and the myExperiment virtual research environment to assist with the analysis and sharing of data relating to sleeping sickness (Trypanosomiasis) in African cattle.

This is the second video released by eIUS with the first video focusing on the use of grid in field archaeology.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Second instalment of e-science research

The second volume of the Proceedings from AHM 2008 have now been released. This is the second of the back to back issues, details of the first one are available here.

The issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences is entitled 'Crossing boundaries: computational science, e-Science and global e-Infrastructure II. Selected papers from the UK e-Science All Hands Meeting 2008’ compiled by P. V. Coveney and M. P. Atkinson :13 July 2009; Vol. 367, No. 1898

Papers in this issue cover research areas such as earth system modelling, simulation in engineering, cardiovascular data and simulation and e-humanities.

Volume II is now available online here.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

NGS Technical Director Appointed to OGF Board

We are pleased to announce that Dr David Wallom, NGS Technical Director and Technical Manager of the Oxford e-Research Centre (OeRC) at the University of Oxford, has recently taken over from Geoffrey Fox as VP of e-Research at the Open Grid Forum. Davids responsibilities include co-ordinating and steering the interactions of the research communities and their participation in OGF with the other functions, including Enterprise and Standards.

David will still be continuing in his current roles with the NGS and OeRC and we hope this will lead to greater collaboration between the NGS and OGF.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

New edition of NGS News out now!

A new edition of the quarterly NGS News newsletter is out now.

Available from the NGS website, the latest edition contains news on the next phase of the NGS, new sites recently joining the NGS, reports on the Protein Molecule Simulation workshop and the NGS involvement with the DataMINX project, NGS roadshows, cloud computing and the NGS and much more!

If you would like to see your research, your institute or event featured in the next edition of the newsletter then please contact the NGS Liaison Officer (gillian.sinclair(at)

Friday, 5 June 2009

Upgrade to the NGS P-Grade portal to make life easier for you!

The NGS partner site, University of Westminster, is releasing a new workflow interoperability solution available through the NGS P-GRADE portal to support NGS users to run their applications.

P-GRADE portal has been extended with the capability of nesting heterogeneous sub-workflows and execute them on NGS resources. The solution, that currently supports the embedding of Taverna, Triana and Kepler workflows in PGRADE workflows, is based on the GEMLCA Grid application repository and submitter.

Description of the workflow interoperability solution, manual and case study presenting this solution can be found here on the wiki page of the NGS P-GRADE portal.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Budapest Summer School

Joint EDGeS and EGEE Summer School on Grid Application Support
Budapest, Hungary, 29 June - 4 July 2009

The NGS partner site, University of Westminster, is helping to organise the Joint EDGeS and EGEE Summer School on Grid Application Support in Budapest this summer. They will also be using NGS resources during the tutorial sessions and will therefore be introducing the NGS to a much wider audience.

So what is the summer school about? Well EGEE is the largest service grid in Europe using the gLite grid middleware, BOINC is the most used volunteer desktop grid technology in the world and EDGeS integrates gLite based service grids with BOINC and XtremWeb based desktop grids.

In this way the EDGeS infrastructure is the largest potential grid infrastructure in the world. The subject of the summer school is to give insights to these technologies (gLite, BOINC, XtremWeb and EDGeS) as well as to tools and programming environments by which user can develop and run applications on this enhanced grid infrastructure.

More information on the summer school can be found on the website.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Got an itch - the NGS has the thing to scratch it with!

For the more technically minded amongst you, we have an announcement from the team at the NGS RAL site.

STFC/RAL has recently installed a pair of Panasas ActiveStor 6000 shelves, and has made 4TB of its 30TB capacity available as scratch space to the NGS. The Panasas system allows much greater read and write speeds to be achieved than is possible via traditional NFS-based servers –a total of over 1GByte/s has been observed across 24 NGS compute nodes reading and writing simultaneously to the same file system. The system will benefit anyone who needs fast I/O spread across multiple compute nodes.

The file system is available on, and all of its compute nodes, via the /work/scratch directory. First create a directory for yourself (e.g. mkdir /work/scratch/ngsXXXX) and then transfer your working data into it, run your job and finally copy your results out.

Please be aware this area is not backed up, and is liable to period wiping (usually at 1 week’s notice though this can’t be guaranteed), so please be sure to copy your results to safety. It’s also polite to clean-up the file system after you’ve finished with it as this will reduce the number of times we have to wipe it out.

We’d be very interested to hear about any good (or bad) experiences you have with this new system, please feel free to contact us via the NGS helpdesk (

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Advanced warning!

At long last the NGS based at RAL are ready to move into their new server room. Understandably this will cause some interruption to NGS services but we are aiming to give you as much warning as possible about this.

All the NGS Core Services hosted at RAL (CA, MyProxy, Inca, Ganglia, BDII, NSR, RB, UI and this website) will be interrupted during the move. The move will start on the 8th of June and will last about 8 weeks finishing on the 27th of July. We have planned to reduce the downtime of services to a minimum but services will still be at risk after they are moved. More detailed updates will be available on the NGS-Status mailing list. If you are not already a member of NGS-Status and would like to receive emails on service downtime and status then please join the list as soon as possible!

Friday, 22 May 2009

The past and the future

It's all go at the UK e-Science AHM headquarters at the moment.

In addition to the call for papers that we announced earlier this week, the first volume of the Proceedings from AHM 2008 have now been released.

The issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences is entitled 'Crossing boundaries: computational science, e-Science and global e-Infrastructure I. Selected papers from the UK e-Science All Hands Meeting 2008’ compiled by P. V. Coveney and M. P. Atkinson I:28 June 2009; Vol. 367, No. 1897

One paper in particular highlights how the use of NGS resources has assisted in the planning of radiotherapy treatment by reasearchers at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff.

The volume is now available online here with the second instalment coming soon so watch this space!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

A week of e-science in Oxford

The ever popular UK e-Science All Hands Meeting (AHM) has just released a call for papers which is available here.

The AHM is now in its 8th year and has been moved from its traditional September slot to December so it can co-exist with the IEEE e-Science meeting which will also be taking place in Oxford. The AHM will take place from Monday 7th December until Wednesday 9th of December with IEEE being held on the 9th – 11th of December.

You can therefore spend an entire week in Oxford listening to the latest developments in e-science!

The IEEE event also has a call for papers out and details can be found here.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Advanced Distributed Services Summer School 2009

The NGS in conjunction with the Training, Outreach and Education team at NeSC are running an Advanced Distributed Services Summer School (ADSSS 09) on the 7th – 11th September at Cosener’s House , Oxfordshire.

The sessions will be taken by many of the leading researchers and technology providers in the field of Distributed Computing in the UK so it is a chance for students to take part in a unique learning experience in this field (including a large component of hands on tutorials) but also to spend a week in a small group with the leaders in the field!

The aim of the school is to help develop the skills of those involved in providing computational support for research in a wide range of disciplines.

In particular the school will focus on the use of, provision of interfaces to and the development of services based on employing the composition or aggregation of computational or data services.
Topics covered include how to compose a variety of services into bioinformatics work flows which can be used to support biomedical research processes, how to use and develop lab or department scale clusters of computers to run simulations, how to work with the NGS to compose protein simulation models for running on UK or international super computers, developing a portal to support legacy applications.

Further information on the summer school can be found on the ADSSS website or email

Registration is now open and the cost of the summer school including accomodation and meals (except Tuesday and Thursday) is £276.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Cloud Computing Users and the NGS

The Belfast e-Science Centre (BeSC), which is a member of the NGS now offers a hosting-on-demand service within the NGS for UK academic users. The BeSC already have several commercial partners which take advantage of the service and would now like academic users to make the most of this service as well.

The service allows a remote user to deploy software into servers within the BeSC domain and to manage these deployed services remotely. The BeSC service hosting cloud can be accessed via a web UI and using an API BeSC are developing (currently called libcloud); a Europar 09 paper on libcloud can be found here.

The API is intended to provide a provider neutral interface to remote resources such as those provided by Amazon, Flexiscale etc and the BeSC hosting cloud; plugins for all of these providers are part of the library. If you have an interest in using this library in your development and/or helping its development please contact Terry Harmer ( for more details.

Monday, 11 May 2009

EGEE 09 call for papers and registration is open!

The ever popular EGEE conference has announced a call for sessions for its next meeting in September in Barcelona. The event will be held on the 21-25th Sept with a theme of “Uniting our strengths to realise the sustainable European grid” and will mark the beginning of the end of the EGEE projects and the start of the transition to EGI.

Sessions are welcome from communities using the various e-infrastructures, the operations groups running the e-infrastructures and the software developers building the e-infrastructures, and the projects that are collaborating with the European e-infrastructures around the world.

Further details on how to submit a session for EGEE09 are provided here under the “submit a new abstract link”.

The EGEE09 Programme Committee will review the proposals in early June 2009 and publish a preliminary schedule shortly afterwards. A call for demos and posters will be made in June.

If you would like to attend the conference, registration is now open with early bird registration available until the 30th of June. To register please visit the registration page.

Friday, 8 May 2009

NGS & OMII-UK project in the news

A recent edition of the weekly grid bulletin, iSGTW, featured an article by Simon Hettrick from OMII-UK on the joint NGS and OMII-UK Engage project.

The article explains the background to the Engage project and why it was set up with the goal of finding out the computational needs of various research communities by actually going out and talking to the researchers.

This approach is still somewhat unusual in e-science and has been a long time coming. How can we be sure we are providing the resources that researchers need if we don't go out and talk to them? The grid was originally built for the particle physicists but now there is a much larger research community who want to take advantage of the opportunities that distributed computing offers. The social scientists and molecular biologists, for example, don't necessarily work in the same way as the particle physicists and it is important that the tools are in place for them to take advantage of all available resources.

The Engage project will hopefully produce tools which will be deployed on the NGS and made available to these diverse communities therefore attracting more users from different subject areas. There is a lot of work yet to be done in taking the outcomes of the Engage project, making them available to the communities and, perhaps most importantly, making sure that the community knows that these tools exist for them to use.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Roadshow talks available online

If you are considering hosting a NGS roadshow at your institution or are simply curious about what goes on at these events, then have a look at the NGS website where the presentations from our latest roadshows (Aston and Bath) are now online.

The Aston roadshow was a 2 day event with a "normal" NGS roadshow held on the first day for a few hours before lunch with a full day of "hands on" training on the second day organised by the NeSC training, outreach and education team. Presentations from Aston are available here.

The Bath roadshow was a more traditional event with a series of presentations followed by lunch. Presentations from Bath are available here.

Both events were full organised by the NGS and NeSC leaving local organisers with the single responsibility of booking a suitable room - oh and some help with local advertising never goes amiss! If you would like to publicise NGS resources in your institution with very little effort required then please contact myself ( for further information.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Hard work at the OMII-UK workshop

Last week I attended the OMII-UK Collaborations workshop and, unlike many meetings where you sit and listen to presentations, this one was really hard work! The attendees were varied and included representatives from the Engage project teams, OMII-UK, the NGS, end users and data providers. The workshop consisted of breakout sessions where a variety of topics were discussed and all participants had to contribute to the discussion.

As the NGS outreach officer, I was particularly interested in the outreach / communication sessions. The session names say it all really –

  • Communications between computer scientists and scientists that use computers
  • How to talk to scientists?
  • Best practices for software development in research community
  • Tracking customer requirements

I can honestly say it was one of the most productive meetings I have ever attended with a great deal of productive discussion and long term collaborations planned. It’s not often you come out of a meeting with such a large number of people with concrete tasks and plans for the future!

If you would like to see the outcomes and slides from the meeting then visit the workshop page.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Citing the use of NGS Resources

Are you using NGS resources and looking for a way to cite the NGS? If so then please use the latest publication featuring the NGS. The book “Grid Computing” by Lizhe Wang, Wei Jie and Jinjun Chen was published recently and features a chapter on the NGS by NGS Director Andrew Richards and NGS Liaison Officer Gillian Sinclair. The chapter also features work from the Genius project at UCL and the MoSeS project at the University of Leeds.
Of course the book is also available from Amazon :-)

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

BlueBEAR in Birmingham

This morning I was at the University of Birmingham attending their Birmingham Environment for Academic Research (BEAR) User Forum. Organised by Paul Hatton who is Service Manager for the University BEAR environment, these user forums bring together users of Birminghams BlueBEAR resource.

The NGS were co-sponsor of the meeting along with Microsoft and David Wallom, Technical Director of the NGS, kicked off proceedings by giving the first presentation on the NGS. Also giving presentations were representatives from NAG, the new STFC Hartree Centre, Microsoft, IBM, Clustervision and the BEAR User Group.

It was a good meeting with some very interesting talks and a lot of good discussion over lunch.
Birmingham is a NGS affiliate and currently contributes resources from two of its clusters in the Particle Physics group. It is hoped that the Blue Bear cluster will soon contribute resources to the NGS.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Planning ahead

As I type, several NGS staff are currently hosting a NGS roadshow at the University of Bath. This roadshow was particularly popular with approximately 40 people registered with the majority being from Bath. This roadshow is just an "over lunch" event unlike the event last week at Aston which also combined a training event on the second day. Remember if you are interested in having the NGS come to your institution to give a roadshow then please contact me (gillian.sinclair(at)manchester(dot) for further details.

Many of you may have recently recieved an email from the NGS asking you to confirm your requirement for NGS resources. This is basically a piece of housekeeping from the NGS to ensure that our records are up to date and to help us understand the current size of the NGS user base and yearly load on the NGS. Please follow the instructions contained in the email but if you do have any questions about your account then please contact the NGS helpdesk (support(at)

Planning is underway for the upcoming conference seasons in June and September so if you know of any conferences which would be relevant for the NGS to attend and have an exhibition area (or opportunity for us to present) then please let me know at the email above.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

NGS on the Road!

Earlier this week the NGS roadshow team travelled to Aston University to host a roadshow event for staff and students. The event was well attended with 25 people in attendance ranging from PhD students to ITS staff.

The talks covered topic such as what is the NGS?, getting started with the NGS and the NGS portal and job submission. There was also a presentation from one of our users – Jonathan Mitchell from the University of Leeds bravely stepped in after our original presenter couldn’t make it at the last minute. Jonathan talked about using NGS resources to understand the folding of DNA and showed some rather impressive animations.

The presentations created a great deal of discussion which carried over into lunch. There was plenty of NGS associated staff on hand to answer questions including David Wallom (NGS technical director), David Fergusson (NeSC Deputy Director of Training, Outreach and Education) and Hamza Mehammed (NeSC Senior Trainer). I was also there in my role as NGS Liaison Officer.

The feedback collected from the day was very positive with the majority of people planning on using NGS resources in the future as well as the majority of people planning on telling their colleagues etc about the NGS.

The NGS roadshow events are free to host as the NGS covers the cost of catering and staff travel. All the local institution has to do is book a room and help to advertise the event locally. The roadshows can be held just for the host institute or people from surrounding institutes can be invited as well. If you’d like to know more about the roadshows then please see the website or contact Gillian Sinclair, the NGS Liaison Officer (Gillian.sinclair(at)

Monday, 6 April 2009

Help shape the future of e-research!

Our colleagues at OMII-UK are organising a two-day Collaborations Workshop at NeSC in Edinburgh, starting on 30 April 2009.

Unlike most workshops, the agenda for this event is very flexible with attendees being able to suggest topics for discussion so that you can raise issues important to you and your research area.

On the day, break out groups will be scheduled to come up with solutions for topics through discussions in groups, the writing of new software or by getting existing components to work together. Topics will be examined for as long as required within the duration of the meeting (or beyond) - it is up to the group members to judge when an adequate conclusions has been drawn. The workshop will bring together OMII-UK staff, software developers, architects and users.

There will be regular reporting to the other attendees summarising what has been achieved, what is to be done next or whether a topic has been exhausted. Once a topic has been discussed, the group will migrate to a new topic or disband and join other groups after writing up a set of summary slides enumerating outcomes and possible future work.

For more information, registration and to register topics for discussion visit the event website.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Are you in the South West?

The NGS is holding a NGS roadshow event at the University of Bath on the 15th of April and this event is now open to everyone from any institution.

So if you are a PhD student looking for a way to speed up your research, a group leader with a research team looking for extra compute and data resources or someone who wants to know what on earth this "grid" thing is all about then come along!

The event lasts for a few hours including lunch and features presentations introducing the NGS and the services it provides including training. We are also pleased to say that 2 NGS users are also presenting at the event -

  • Narcis Fernandez-Fuentes also from the University of Leeds will present his work on in-silico drug screening on the NGS.
The event is free to attend but registration is required on the NGS website. Registration closes on Monday 6th May.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

No it's not an April Fool!

The more eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed a change to our logo on our blog page. The NGS logo has been updated to coincide with our new funding allocation which officially started today (1st of April).

Over the forthcoming weeks you will see the new logo being implemented on all the NGS outreach mechanisms such as our Facebook group, Flickr account, Twitter etc not to mention NGS literature which is also undergoing a revamp. The NGS website has already been updated with our new banner logo.

The NGS will also be phasing out use of our full title (National Grid Service) so you will see the acronym used more and more over the forthcoming months.

If you need the new logo for use in presentations, posters etc then please visit the logo webpage where you can find all versions of the new logo. We hope you like the new logo – feedback is welcome!

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Magical NGS

A heads up for your diary here!

Following the very successful Innovation Forum held at MoSI last November, the dates have been confirmed for the next annual NGS Innovation Forum. IF'09 will take place on the 21st - 22nd of October at the Magic Circle Headquarters in London. Yes that Magic Circle!

The venue is literally steps away from Euston train station and only 10 minutes from Kings Cross and St. Pancras. We will have the entire venue to ourselves for both days of the event and there are sure to be some surprises in store!

If you were unable to attend the last IF, catch up with what you missed through the wonders of technology! The agenda and some of the presentations from the previous IF are available here, videos of the presentations are available here and photos from the event are available on our Flickr site.

I bet you never thought you'd see a photo of Paul Daniels on a grid computing blog did you?