Next Generation Grids 2 expert group in new report provides directives to implement Invisible Grid

Brussels 15 September 2004In July 2004, the extended expert group for Next Generation Grids (NGG2), selected by the European Commission, has issued a report titled "Next Generation Grids 2: Requirements and Options for European Grids - Research 2005-2010 and Beyond". This report builds on the earlier findings of the NGG report 2003 and the experience gathered since in the first EU-funded Grid projects of the Fifth Framework Programme. In conjunction with the NGG report 2003, the new report establishes a European vision and technological requirements towards the realisation of the "invisible Grid", offering key features for a service-orientated knowledge utility, a new paradigm for software and service delivery, for the next decade, according to the NGG2 expert group.

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The goal of the NGG2 report is to develop a coherent programme of research activities, complemented by industry-driven initiatives such as public-private partnerships to enhance the European position in Grid technologies within the Sixth and upcoming Seventh Framework Programmes.

To this end, the NGG2 expert group proposes two new application scenarios confirming the need to shift the application focus of Grid from large science to business, industry and societal applications, and highlighting new research challenges to be addressed at both architectural and generic Grid application middleware levels.

The experts have undertaken a gap analysis of the research scope of the Call 2 projects in order to asses the level of coverage of the research priorities required for realising the Next Generation Grid. They also made a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of European Grid capabilities and research highlighting the strategic importance of Grids both as primary IT technology on which Europe can build its strengths, and as a key enabling tool for boosting productivity, competitiveness and growth of European economy.

In the report, they claim a new research focus on Network-Centric Grid Operating Systems as a new essential fabric layer to fully realise the Next Generation Grid vision. This vision focuses on the building of an "Invisible Grid", in which the complexity of the Grid is fully hidden to users as well as developers through the complete virtualisation of resources.

The expert group found in their gap analysis that the following properties were insufficiently covered by the Call 2 Grid projects: transparency, reliability, pervasiveness and persistency. As for the facilities, upcoming projects should address information representation and system management. Business models and user interface have been covered well but the NGG2 experts have been missing the Grid economics up till now.

The experts found that European Grid strenghts are situated in the area of ontologies and Web semantics; the collaborative approach to data; the mobile devices and embedded systems; the Grid middleware; and the semantic Grids. On the contrary, European Grid research is lagging behind in hardware; operating systems; and programming languages.

The NGG2 expert group sees opportunities for Grid deployment in the paradigm shift towards IT services; in the virtualisation of operating systems; in the existing infrastructure for collaboration; the service model for industry; European standardisation; and Next Generatioin Grids. The threats are situated in three domains: the dependency on development tool support; the evolution of standards; and non-acceptance or lack of use by industry.

The report therefore suggests the establishment of an industry-driven public-private partnership on service-oriented architectures to help to streamline research and engage industry to develop a shared, more integrated vision, and to elaborate routes for more effective implementation. Such an initiative could be implemented through mechanisms such as the technology platform concept described in the Communication of the European Commission.

The two application scenarios from which it would be very useful to let the building of the "Invisible Grid" start are the disaster or crisis management scenario and the pro-active PDA scenario. Both scenarios can serve as the basis for the development of Grid test-beds.

The expert group discovered that there is a need for semantically-rich knowledge-based services in both Grids Foundations Middleware and Grids Services Middleware to improve the functionality but also to support applications on the Grids surface which require semantic and knowledge-based support.

In order to satisfy the requirements of the scenarios considered, the report concludes that a Next Generation Grids environment should be pervasive, self-managing, resilient on the level of configuration and connectivity, flexible, easy to program, flexible in trust, and secure.

The experts recommend that the instruments of NoEs (Networks of Excellence), IPs (Integrated Projects), STREPs (Specific Targeted REsearch ProjectS) and ETPs (European Technology Platforms) should be used as appropriate to achieve these objectives.

In conclusion, the NGG2 expert group proposes the following time schedule in the report for the realisation of the Invisible Grid:

  • Later stages of Framework Programme 6:
    • initial R&D for Grids Foundations Middleware and Operating system
    • initial R&D for Grids software development technology
    • development of Grids Service Middleware as prototype
    • development of applications as demonstrators
  • Early stages of Framework Programme 7:
    • development of Grids Foundations Middleware for production use
    • development of Grids Operating system as prototype and then production quality
    • construction of interoperating software stacks from Operating system to the upper interface of Grids Service Middleware to support Grids applications as prototypes then production quality

The report can be downloaded from the Grids Web site of the European Commission.


Leslie Versweyveld

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