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New Release of Grid Software Brings Significant Benefits for End Users

The open source UNICORE 6 Grid middleware release enables easy Web Services-based access to computing and data resources

In science and industry today, computing and data resources are often widely distributed across different systems, sites or even countries. To make effective use of such a distributed infrastructure, end users rely on tools that provide easy and uniform access. The new release of UNICORE, the well-established European Grid middleware, provides a modern, lean software stack that implements an extensible service-oriented architecture compliant to current Web Service standards. UNICORE 6 will be officially released next week at the UNICORE Summit 2007 at Rennes, France, on 28th August 2007.

With recent fast-paced advances in Grid and Web service standards and tools, the UNICORE developer community under the leadership of Forschungszentrum Jülich has developed a major new version of the UNICORE Grid middleware. UNICORE 6 excels in supporting leading open standards, interoperability, and easy extensibility through well-defined interfaces, and it also provides excellent performance and scalability. The proven guiding principles of UNICORE have been preserved: seamless and secure access to resources, ease of use, simple deployment, straightforward support for adding new applications and user-specific services.

UNICORE 6 achieves this through fully embracing service-oriented design principles and using a modern tooling stack. The key characteristics of the new UNICORE 6 system are an integrated, complete Grid software stack, strong security, workflows, openness, extensibility, interoperability, easy installation and configuration, and support for a wide range of operating systems, local resource management systems and batch schedulers.

UNICORE 6 is being jointly developed by an Intel Software and Solutions Group team in Brühl, Fujitsu Laboratories of Europe in London, the University of Warsaw – ICM, CINECA in Bologna and Forschungszentrum Jülich under an open source BSD licence.

On the technical side, UNICORE 6 complies with the OASIS WSRF 1.2 and OGF JSDL 1.0 standards, provides pluggable file transfer mechanisms with the OGSA ByteIO standard as default and uses XFire as a lean, high-performance SOAP stack in conjunction with the Jetty 6 web server. In the security domain, authentication and authorisation are based on full X.509 certificates, SAML assertions and XACML 1.0 authorisation policies; pluggable extensions for proxy certificates and VO management are provided.

The development versions of UNICORE 6 are already in use in the European projects Chemomentum, OMII-Europe, and A-WARE. Major Grid infrastructures like D-Grid and DEISA are expected to upgrade their UNICORE production installations soon.

Over 10 years ago, the development of UNICORE was initiated in Germany with funding from the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The German HPC centres and industry joined together to develop seamless, secure, and intuitive access to supercomputing resources. Like the new release today, the initial software was implemented primarily in Java, offered a feature-rich and intuitive graphical client, enabled users to run complex multi-site workflow jobs, provided support for many operating systems and batch systems, and used X.509 certificates for authentication, authorisation, and signing of jobs. This software was used by the German HPC centres to establish the first supercomputing Grid infrastructure in Europe. Since then UNICORE has been further improved and extended with additional functionality and features in several European projects.

Kosta Schinarakis | alfa
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