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Home > iSGTW 29 November 2006 > iSGTW Feature - The Portal Provider

Feature: The Portal Provider

Eric Roberts
Eric Roberts knows portals. As a staff member at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, he has spent the last five years developing, testing, redeveloping and refining them – first as a member and project manager of the GridPort toolkit team, and now as lead developer for the TeraGrid User Portal.

“We launched the TeraGrid User Portal on May 15, and since then things have gotten very busy for us,” says Roberts.

The aim of a grid portal is to simplify the use of grids for everyday users. Today’s TeraGrid User Portal provides a repository of information for users, including a system monitor for all TeraGrid resources, information on data collections and documentation. It also provides account management functions, allowing users to see their accounts on different resources, and to manage users and accounts for their projects. The current functionality, however, is only the foundation for what Roberts hopes will be the TeraGrid User Portal of the future.

“We want the portal to be the place where users can customize their environment,” he explains. “If they’re a biologist, we want to give them a biology-centered view of the TeraGrid. Show them just their running jobs, the training classes they’re enrolled in, alerts for the systems they regularly run on, and even software tools for biologists.”

Roberts doesn’t shy away from high-stress projects. Asked what his favorite part of working on the portal is, he points to the fact that it’s always running and that thousands of TeraGrid users depend on it.

“I’ve really enjoyed the live nature of the portal,” he says. “With the GridPort toolkit I had to manage releases, but there really weren’t any hard deadlines. The TeraGrid User Portal keeps you on your toes.”

After a pause, he adds, laughing, “Of course the thing I like most about it is one of the things I like least about it.”

The portal isn’t just beneficial to the TeraGrid community, but to Roberts’ academic career as well. Part of the TeraGrid User Portal will serve as his Masters degree project, enabling him to finish the software engineering program at The University of Texas at Austin that he began two years ago. Launching the portal, finishing his degree, and building a new house has added up to a busy year for Roberts.

“I think I might enjoy my Christmas vacation,” he concludes.

Learn more at the TACC Web site.

-Katie Yurkewicz, iSGTW


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