Thursday, 6 May 2010

Behind the scenes at the NGS web site

When the NGS web site was launched last year, our main aim was to make it easy for users to find their way around.

Key to this was providing a single place where you could find information about all the applications we provide, their versions, their documentation and the sites which make them available. That place is:

From here, you can explore all applications of a particular type - Chemistry, Bioinformatics etc. You can select an application and find out where it is installed, or select a site and see all the applications that site provides.

There is a lot of technology hiding behind that page.

  • The list of applications and versions is taken directly from the BDII service. This is where all the information published by the NGS member sites is kept.
  • The BDII knows about applications because the sites use the conventions of the NGS Uniform Execution Environment (UEE).  A reporter plugin called 'ngs-uee-gip-plugin' that is distributed with the NGS VDT installer and available from the NGS area at NeSCForge ensures that  details of UEE-style applications are published. Thanks to help from Scotgrid at Glasgow and the gLite developers, the plugin also works with newer versions of gLite.
  • The categories are extracted from the NGS website itself - which has been structured around the application names used by the UEE.

Every bit of data used for the page is - in some sense - live. If a site changes the applications it provides, or we add a new application to the web site, the page will automatically change to reflect this.

It is an example of how services deployed or developed by the NGS can be combined to make life easier for users.

It is also an example of collaboration between the NGS member sites: the web site was designed at and is hosted at Edinburgh, the web page scripting was developed at Leeds, the applications pages co-ordinated at STFC and the documentation written by staff at STFC, Leeds, Oxford and Manchester.

For new users curious about the bad-old-days and old users missing the old web site, there is always the Wayback Machine

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