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NSF Press Release


NSF PR 03-46 - April 28, 2003

Media contact:

 David Hart

 (703) 292-7737

Program contact:

 Kevin Thompson

 (703) 292-8950

NSF Middleware Initiative Contributes Third Software Release to Cyberinfrastructure for Science and Engineering
Standards-based software and tools are adopted by e-science, universities and industry

The National Science Foundation Middleware Initiative (NMI) today issued its third release of software tools carefully chosen for their value and ability to interoperate as part of the emerging NSF cyberinfrastructure for 21st century science and engineering. Available free to the public at, NMI-R3 has components developed at universities and national laboratories, designed to fill functions needed by the research and education community such as user authentication and authorization, resource identification and allocation, job management, and scheduling.

NMI software is helping to remove traditional obstacles that hinder effective multi-institutional teamwork. For example, every university has local policies for identifying users while ensuring privacy and security. The tools provided by NMI can reconcile variations in policy and technology from campus to campus, while leaving control in the hands of local administrators, which eases the deployment of applications for grid computing and other forms of collaboration.

"The practice of science and engineering is being transformed by a new generation of integrated computing, information and communications tools—cyberinfrastructure," said Peter Freeman, NSF assistant director for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE). "NMI activities ease the deployment of shared cyberinfrastructure tools that are critical to NSF's plans to expand this cyberinfrastructure to advance scientific discovery, education and innovation in areas of considerable benefit to society."

NSF supports two primary NMI teams: The EDIT Consortium (for "Enterprise and Desktop Integration Technologies") and the GRIDS Center (for "Grid Research Integration Deployment and Support"). EDIT develops tools, practices and architectures to leverage campus infrastructures to facilitate multi-institutional collaboration. NMI-R3 includes four new EDIT components—LOOK, SAGE, Enterprise Directory Implementation Roadmap, and Permis—which support directory performance monitoring, group management, and service deployment as well as inter-institutional authorization. Also updated for NMI-R3 is Shibboleth, an architecture and suite of software used for accessing customized or restricted content and services while protecting privacy.

"For a number of years, we've seen the problems with IP authentication and have worked with higher education and library consortia to implement new architectures to address the current limitations," said David Yakimischak, Chief Technology Officer for JSTOR, an on-line archive of scholarly publications. "Shibboleth nicely addresses these inadequacies and enables the community to offer a wide variety of value-added services, weaving local and distributed on-line content into a unique information fabric."

Through NMI, GRIDS provides a suite of leading software from the grid computing community. One of these is the open-source Globus Toolkit, which has lately garnered acclaim as the "most promising new technology" among 2002's top 100 technological innovations (from R&D Magazine) and the Federal Laboratory Consortium award for technology transfer. It is packaged in the GRIDS Center Software Suite with other software including Condor-G, the Network Weather Service, GSI OpenSSH, and Grid Packaging Tools. New to the suite with NMI-R3 are a credential authority called MyProxy, a grid tool based on the popular Message Passing Interface standard called MPICH-G2, and a tool for customizing GRIDS component configurations called GridConfig.

NSF's ambitious Extensible Terascale Facility (ETF), which includes the TeraGrid, is creating a distributed computational infrastructure that requires the stable, thoroughly tested software being designed by GRIDS. "Robust software is essential to production deployment and national use," said Dan Reed, an ETF project principal investigator, director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and project director for NEESgrid, the $10 million system integration project for the NSF-supported George E. Brown, Jr. National Earthquake Engineering System (NEES). "There is no doubt that the GRIDS Center's software packages have reduced TeraGrid's deployment time, and I also know that NEESgrid has leveraged GRIDS components to reduce development time and simplify engagement with that community."

In addition to the coordinating roles of GRIDS and EDIT, NSF has made other NMI grants to individual researchers and software developers. With the most recent fiscal year 2003 NMI solicitation deadline on March 7, the foundation received more than 70 proposals, according to program director Kevin Thompson of NSF. Fiscal year 2003 awards will be announced this fall.

The EDIT Consortium is led by Internet2, EDUCAUSE, and the Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA). The GRIDS Center is a partnership of the University of Chicago, the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute (ISI), the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) at the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In addition to NSF's support, the GRIDS software developers are funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA.


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