Press Archive

New Release of NetSolve/GridSolve Version 2.0

Published 10/15/2003

A new and more powerful version of the well-known grid middleware NetSolve/GridSolve has just been released. NetSolve 2.0, like its predecessors, is a client-server-agent system that enables users to solve complex scientific problems remotely using distributed resources on a computational grid. The system provides users access to both hardware and software computational resources distributed across a network. When a user submits a problem to the NetSolve agent, the agent searches the network of computational resources that has registered with it, chooses the best one (or set) available, solves the problem, and then returns the solution to the user. Load balancing for good performance and retry for fault-tolerance are handled automatically by the system. Version 2.0, which builds on NetSolve's traditional strengths, adds capabilities and robustness both to NetSolve's native environment and to its integration with other grid middleware, such as Condor-G.

Like other research software from Jack Dongarra's Innovative Computing Laboratory of the University of Tennessee, NetSolve's traditional strengths are its ease-of-use and its broad support for critical numerical software packages. For ease-of-use, NetSolve bindings exist for the most common scientific programming environments; Fortran, C, Matlab, Mathematica. Moreover, many of the most important numerical and scientific libraries (e.g. Linear Algebra, Optimization, Fast Fourier Transforms) are easily integrated into the NetSolve server software, and users can also add their own special libraries. Finally, NetSolve has been designed to avoid restrictions on the type of software components that can be integrated into the system, and users with various types of applications have been able to incorporate their own packages into NetSolve with relative ease.

Version 2.0 enhances these basic capabilities in two directions. There are enhancements to NetSolve's native environment to make it even easier to use, more capable, and more secure. And there are additions to NetSolve that enable it to more easily interoperate with, and leverage the power of, other leading grid environments. The most notable feature of the latter is the incorporation of GridRPC into NetSolve; this expanded version of the NetSolve environment is called GridSolve. Grid RPC is an evolving standard from the Global Grid Forum (GGF).

NetSolve 2.0 is an open source package and can be freely downloaded from the ICL Web site

The following are brief summaries of the most notable improvements in NetSolve/GridSolve 2.0:

New Interface Definition Language (IDL) with Improved Ease of Use

A simplified IDL has been created to provide an easy way for users to define new problems and their arguments to the NetSolve system. It follows the very similar pattern of the well-understood C function call.

Dynamic Servers Improve Reliability and Maintenance

Dynamic server functionality enables the server admin to add or delete the problems available through the server on the fly, without having to kill, recompile, and then restart the server. In addition, users can now specify particular servers to carry out computations and also abort an executing NetSolve process.

New Interface Support: GridRPC, Condor-G, and Octave

The Global Grid Forum (GGF) working group on GridRPC has produced an API for the standardization and RPC-based use of grid computing resources. Version 2.0 provides an interface from GridRPC to NetSolve for users to experiment with the proposed standard. NetSolve/GridSolve also provides an interface to the Condor-G system, providing a transparent front-end to a Condor pool and the related functionality of the Condor job queuing system. This interface makes it easier to gain access to both the Condor and Globus systems. In the area of scientific computing, support for Octave has also been added. Octave is a freely available, open source software package that provides a Matlab like interface to users.

Hardware-Software Servers for Problem Migration

Servers can now be distinguished as a hardware server or a software server. This new feature allows for the transparent movement of problems across a NetSolve grid to take advantage of available hardware/software resources, improving load balancing over the NetSolve system. The Software servers can act as a software repository, providing software that can be securely downloaded and executed by any hardware server. Integrity of the migrated problems is assured using GNU Privacy Guard (GPG).

Step-by-step Tutorial

A new tutorial can walk new users step-by-step through the use of NetSolve. Users will be able to follow a simple guide to setup, install, and use NetSolve. Also included are new examples for popular uses of the system, as well as an account of the new security mechanism for migrated software that uses GPG signatures.

Broader Cross-platform Support

NetSolve/GridSolve 2.0 now full support for Mac OS X as well as Windows 2000 and XP based systems. Previous versions only had a client interface to Windows. Using Cygwin, NetSolve 2 also delivers agent and server support on Windows systems.

Improved System Monitoring with visPerf

VisPerf, developed using Python and Java, provides a GUI to monitor activities within a NetSolve system, allowing users to track activities such as problem submission and service requests.

Enhanced Distributed Storage Interface (DSI)

NetSolve has now been integrated with DSI in order to leverage network storage resources to provide enhanced data transfer, caching, and state management for fault tolerance.

Funding for the NetSolve effort is provided by grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the NPACI and the NMI programs and the Department of Energy (DOE) through the MICS effort.