Alliance Chautauquas give a glimpse of emerging access grid
BOSTON, September, 1, 1999--Researchers and educators are getting a firsthand look at how science, education, and business will be conducted in the next millenium thanks to a series of 21st-century technology road shows sponsored by the National Computational Science Alliance (Alliance).
The road shows are called Chautauquas from a Seneca Indian word meaning meeting or gathering. At these events the Alliance is showcasing the Access Grid, an experimental system that links people in virtual spaces, such as teamwork sessions, remote training programs, and distance education classes. The Access Grid is part of the nationwide Grid being prototyped by the Alliance to link together people, large databases, high-performance computing resources, and visualization environments into a seamless, integrated environment as ubiquitous as the nation's electrical power grid and as easy to use as the Web.
The three sites for the Alliance Chautauquas--the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, the University of Kentucky in Lexington, and Boston University-- are entry points, or nodes, to the collaborative workspace called the Access Grid. As such, the Chautauquas are more than just meetings--they are experiments in connecting sites from Boston to Maui and in conducting real-time interactions complete with video, voice, and data streams over the National Science Foundation's very high-performance performance Backbone Network Service (vBNS).
"The Access Grid is one of the most compelling glimpses into the future I've seen since I first saw NCSA Mosaic," Larry Smarr, director of the National Computational Science Alliance (Alliance) and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) told an audience attending the University of Kentucky Chautauqua. Smarr noted that the Access Grid is a first step in creating a new information infrastructure that will make online communities for scientific collaborations, distance education and business practices a reality.
The New Mexico and Kentucky Chautauquas were held during August, while the Boston University event will take place the week of Sept. 13. Audiences attending the Chautauquas have been impressed with the performance of the Access Grid, which has featured both onsite and remote speakers as well as audiences from as many as six sites interacting at one time.
At the August Chautauquas, Rick Stevens, an Alliance principal investigator with Argonne National Laboratory, explained via a remote presentation how the Access Grid was developed. Stevens, who is leader of the Alliance's Distributed Computing team, then challenged the audience to imagine a world where cyberspace is a major meeting place. Representatives of the National Science Foundation's Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate also joined the meetings giving an overview of the national Information Technology for the 21st Century (IT2) initiative.
The Access Grid supports the gamut of audio interactions, from formal presentations to natural conversations, and also provides a sense of presence by using multiple video cameras and one or more display surfaces. It also offers shared applications, archiving through record and playback features, and controls to mitigate the chaos of multiple site interaction without restricting free interplay.
Alliance partner sites that are early nodes on the Grid are Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, University of New Mexico, Boston University, University of Kentucky, Maui High Performance Computing Center, Alliance Center for Collaboration Education, Science and Software (ACCESS) in metropolitan Washington D.C., and NCSA, the Alliance's leading-edge site at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
There is still time for researchers and educators to participate in the Boston Chautauqua. Detailed information, including registration information, is available at http://chautauqua.bu.edu. In addition to the main conference sessions, Boston University is offering tutorials, workshops, and seminars on a wide range of topics including bioinformatics, clusters, and high performance computing in the arts.
The National Computational Science Alliance, a partnership to prototype an advanced computational infrastructure for the 21st century, includes more than 50 academic, government, and industry research partners from across the United States. One of two partnerships funded by the National Science Foundation's Partnerships for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) program, the Alliance receives cost-sharing at partner institutions. NSF also supports the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (NPACI), led by the San Diego Supercomputer Center.
The National Center for Supercomputing Applications is the leading-edge site for the National Computational Science Alliance. NCSA is a leader in the development and deployment of cutting-edge high-performance computing, networking, and information technologies. The National Science Foundation, the state of Illinois, the University of Illinois, industrial partners, and other federal agencies fund NCSA.