tiistai 27. huhtikuuta 2010

Luonnos kirja-arvioksi / Draft book review - Introduction to Grid Computing by Magoules et al.

Sain käsiini kirjan grid-laskennasta ja yritin hahmottaa mistä aiheessa on kyse. Alla kirja-arvion tynkää, englanniksi, ehkä siitä on tämmöisenäkin hyötyä jollekulle.

Exploring grid computing

It is a hard business to publish books on ICT (information and communication technology), as they are often out-of-date when they appear. Luckily, the book "Introduction to Grid Computing" by Magoules et al. is still mostly relevant, although you can spot occasional signs of the book becoming obsolete.

For whom the book applies? It is a compendium of ICT tools which are used to serve a community of researchers. The term "grid computing" has grown to include a great variety of approaches, although there are common themes for all. Openness is one of these themes, referring both to open source software and to using interoperable ICT tools to build services for researchers.

The user communities of grids are referred to as "virtual organizations", a term which has a special meaning in grids. Members of virtual organizations reside in many countries and in institutes which may not have formal contracts with each other. The organization of this collection of people is called virtual as opposed to traditional hierarchy-based organization.

What poses a challenge is the need to provide services to widely dispersed groups of users. This needs to be done with resources which are linked together by informal agreements and by using joint standards and ICT tools. It would be much easier to do this within a single organization, but then there would not arise the benefits of joining together individuals and groups with completely different backgrounds, brought together by a joint interest in a scientific problem.

For anyone not having first-had experience of using grid technology, the book can seem obfuscated. On the other hand, the terminology problem nowadays applies to most fields of inquiry and development. For the mathematician, though, using a word such as grid to refer to certains kind of software technology does pose a learning (or forgetting) curve.

What can you do with a grid? You can run software to perform a simulation of a mathematical model. Grid technology is useful especially when you computing can be divided into distinct pieces which can be computed indipendently on computers which may be geographically wide apart. The "free resources", or the time slots when the owner of the computer is not performing computations, can be shared with the community of grid users. Also, grid technology provides tools for management, sharing and accessing data produced by researchers in virtual organizations.

What is hard about grids is the complexity of the ICT. It is a hard task to pool together ICT resources from dozens or hundreds of service-providers. There are a great deal of challenges, such as how to make these resources available and discoverable to the users, and how to guarantee that no unauthorized use is possible, for example stealing (or tampering with) research data.

The book contains some simple examples of making computations on a grid, e.g., solving the heat equation with numerical methods. These examples are quite modest, and thus not really useful for real-world computations, but at least the offer a starting point for exploring the grid in computational science.

What is apparent, though, is that grid is still in the construction phase, and many features are only available for expert users. You may need to have your own "ICT guy" willing to help out.


Introduction to Grid Computing

Frederic Magoules, Ecole Centrale Paris, Chatenay Malabry, France; Jie Pan, Ecole Centrale Paris, Chatenay Malabry, France; Kiat-An Tan, National University of Singapore, Singapore; Abhinit Kumar, Indian Institute of Technology, Gwalior, India

Series: Chapman and Hall/CRC Numerical Analysis and Scientific Computing Series

ISBN: 9781420074062

Publication Date: March 27, 2009

Number of Pages: 334

Binding(s): Hardback

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