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Home > iSGTW - 28 January 2009 > iSGTW Feature - Sharing software simply

Feature - Sharing software simply


A variety of software applications from many sources are used in Advanced Photon Source (APS) experiments at Argonne National Laboratory. Click the image for more details.

Image courtesy of Brian Tieman, Argonne National Laboratory

Packaging an application as a shareable grid service that other users can access remotely through a browser is quite a daunting task for most researchers. It usually includes weeks of research and coding. For the "other users," finding a shared grid service that will help advance their research is also a challenge.

This is where a plugin called gRAVI (grid Remote Application Virtualization Interface, pronounced "gravy") comes in. GRAVI provides researchers with a way to easily turn their applications into grid services to share with other scientists. Typically, applications are programs that users download and run on their own machines, whereas services run on machines  to which users connect over the internet.

The meat and potatoes

"With the help of gRAVI, scientists can focus on their research instead of spending countless hours learning the intricacies of building and running grid services," said Argonne National Laboratory software developer and lead gRAVI developer, Ravi Madduri.

Many applications, such as the biomedical analysis program BLAST (basic local alignment search tool), require a significant amount of computing power. Thus it is very beneficial for researchers to access the applications as online services instead of having to download and run them on their own machines.

“Before gRAVI, I did manage to get a few services up and running that we still use today, but the learning curve was steep,” said Brian Tieman, software developer for the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory.  “With gRAVI, I was able to develop services much faster – in less than an afternoon, and security and status notifications are built in.”

Image courtesy of Ravi Madduri, Argonne National Laboratory.  

Just add water

GRAVI works with the Introduce toolkit developed for caGrid, the underlying infrastructure that supports the cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG).

With Introduce, developers can quickly and easily create Globus-compliant grid services from scratch within a simple graphical interface that hides the complexities of the grid. Introduce provides the skeleton of a service, and developers only have to fill in the functional algorithms to build their particular application.

Put it on the menu

After a service is created, gRAVI generates code to advertise the service on a domain-specific online service registry, for example the caGrid portal, where researchers can easily find and use the service securely.

“Science can progress faster if users can find services that are useful to them and then invoke the services and see results,” Madduri said. “gRAVI is an easy-to-use tool that increases the reach and accessibility of useful applications to different user communities.”

Amelia Williamson, iSGTW

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