Monday, 7 March 2011

Portals, Proxies and making things simpler

The NGS provides the services needed centrally to run a Grid. We provide instructions for institutions that wish to contribute to a Grid and resources for researchers who want access.

We have to leave the interesting bit - connecting the services, institutions and researchers in new ways - to others.

One of the people doing the interesting is Mark Hewitt of the Department of Computer Science at the University of York - who was involved in a project to allow non-technical users to link tasks on the grid together in workflows.

In this guest post, Mark describes how they did it...

The P-Grade portal is a web-based portal system developed by SZTAKI - the Computer and Automation Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences - in collaboration with the Centre for Parallel Computing at the University of Westminster.

P-Grade provides a generic job submission system using workflows and can submit to any cluster with the standard NGS Globus stack installation.

The White Rose Grid e-Science Centre deployed P-Grade at York for the use of researchers at York, Leeds and Sheffield. Many users find managing certificates complicated, so we decided to use the NGS SARoNGS system as an alternative.

Integration of SARoNGS with P-Grade was quite straightforward. P-Grade must download a proxy certificate from a proxy server before it can start work. SARoNGS creates proxy certificates, generates username and password and provides a mechanism by which these can be passed to a web page. We were able to modify the P-Grade code, to allow a user to download a SARoNGS certificate, instead of having to use the myproxy tool to upload their e-Science digital certificate.

The addition of SARoNGS support to the portal was vital as it completely removed the need for users to go through the process of signing up for a digital certificate and meant that they could authenticate simply through the portal interface within seconds.

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