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The European A&A Community and Grid Infrastructures: History

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Main Activity

The whole activity carried out so far through subsequent projects (referred to in the next sections) has been focused on the following topics:

  1. porting of A&A applications in Grid;
  2. tools and services to improve the capability of Grids to meet the requirements of A&A applications, with particular reference to:
    1. interfacing/integration between Grids and databases;
    2. study of the parametric spaces for applications that require to be run many times with different values of significant large parameter sets;
  3. instrument Grids, i.e. the definition and development of tools and services to interface Grids with astronomical instrumentation, enabling remote monitoring and control;
  4. training and dissemination.

Planck and MAGIC in EGEE-II

In 2004 a new pilot application well representative of the A&A applications to the EGEE project was identified and proposed. The proposal was to use the EGEE Grid middleware to run on the Grid the simulations of the ESA Planck mission. This application, together with another one related to the MAGIC telescope, were the first A&A applications approved by EGAAP (the EGEE Generic Applications Advisory Panel). Afterwards EGEE proposed the creation of the A&A cluster within the project. The first coordination activity consisted in taking contacts with all A&A groups in Europe involved in Grid and more generally in HPC-oriented activities for A&A. Very often the groups carrying out HPC and Grid oriented activities were the same involved in activities related to the Astronomical Virtual Observatory.

The A&A community in EGEE-III

After the end of EGEE-II, A&A joined EGEE-III as a disciplinary cluster of the project. One of the main goals achieved within the third edition of EGEE, especially during the project start-up phase, was a broad extension of the A&A disciplinary cluster. A good summary of the global activity carried out by the A&A cluster in EGEE-III was given in two presentations shown in Uppsala in April 2010 (the last EGEE User Forum) [1] and [2].

Participation in EGI-InSPIRE

The A&A Community (recognized as HUCs by EGI) is one of the partners of EGI-InSPIRE. Two institutes being part of the EU A&A Community directly participate in EGI-InSPIRE: the UI SAV (II-SAS) of Bratislava (SK) and INAF (IT). INAF activities are included in task TSA3.5 (Services for A&A). The activity carried out in EGI-InSPIRE by A&A people at UI SAV is mainly related with DIANE. It is expected now an evolution of the A&A participation in EGI: the signature of a MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) or at least of a LoI (Letter of Intent) is the main objective of the A&A VRC Workshop in Paris (7 November 2011) for the official endorsement of the A&A HUC as a VRC of EGI.

A&A in OGF

The research group AstroRG has been set up in OGF for the astronomical community at the initiative of the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA). AstroRG was established in the Open Grid Forum (OGF) to study issues to the use of Grid technology in support of astronomical data and data analysis environment, and acts as a liaison between the IVOA and the OGF. Since the nature of the AstroRG overlaps with the Grid/Web Service (GWS) Working group, the AstroRG and the GWS could hold joint sessions during IVOA interoperability meetings.

Training Activity

As for any other discipline, astronomers need to be trained; a training activity taking into consideration the peculiarities of A&A-specific processing is indeed of the utmost importance for astronomers, given that the Grid technology is still far from being perceived as user-friendly within A&A community. Training has to be integrated with an effective dissemination activity concerning the Grid technology and the implementation of new tools, services, portals, science gateways, etc. A number of training events have been organized during the participation to EGEE projects, mainly thought for site administrators, application developers and end users.
Such training events proved that an effective dissemination activity is decisive to speed up the adoption of Grid-based e-Infrastructures by the A&A community. This activity however should be adequately supported in terms of funds. The training activity should put a special emphasis on tools and services really able to make the Grid user-friendly and able to meet the requirements of A&A applications.

Open Issues

In faithfully describing the current status of the A&A HUC it is not possible to ignore a number of open issues and weaknesses of the A&A community in EGI. The big main issue remains the limited involvement of the A&A community in EGI. Since the beginning the coordination activity aimed at involving all EU A&A groups and institutes active in looking for innovative solutions (typically related to Grid and HPC technologies) to face the shortage of computing resources necessary to process the huge amount of astronomical data coming from simulations and from new observing facilities. Many of these groups and institutes are also engaged in activities related to the Virtual Observatory. Unfortunately, the attempts made to extend the A&A community involved in Grid did not produce the expected results so the number of institutes directly involved in EGI is still limited.
Several factors (listed below) could have contributed to hamper a wider involvement of astronomers:

  • Lack of interest towards the Grid
  • Excessive fragmentation of the community
  • Shortage of resources
  • Lack of tools and services making the Grid more appealing
  • Limited involvement of the Astronomical Virtual Observatory
  • Limited involvement of the A&A-related ESFRI Projects
  • Lack of institutional support

A&A and the subscription of the MoU with EGI

Once implemented, the MoU that EGI wants to co-sign with its HUCs is really able to ensure an effective cooperation between HUCs and EGI. The MoU proposed by EGI, however, requires that the subscribing parties have a well defined structure in place and an adequate amount of human resources to invest. This precondition is necessary to ensure that both parties comply with agreed terms and conditions. EGI.eu satisfies this precondition but the A&A HUC does not yet. The main goal of the A&A Workshop in Paris is to bring the A&A HUC in the right position to sign the MoU or at least a preliminary LoI (Letter of Intent) to be endorsed by EGI as an official VRC.

Topic attachments
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
PowerPointpps AA-conclusions.pps manage 398.5 K 2011-07-26 - 08:29 ClaudioVuerli [1] A&A in EGEE: Conclusions (Presentation at the last EGEE-III User Forum)
PowerPointpps Grid-for-AA-Italy-Europe.pps manage 5874.5 K 2011-07-26 - 09:01 ClaudioVuerli [2] Grid for A&A in Italy and Europe
Topic revision: r3 - 2012-05-27 - ClaudioVuerli
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