|Volume 7, Issue 1 -
RESEARCH AND KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER FOCUS: NATIONAL HPCC SOFTWARE EXCHANGE (NHSE URL: http://www.nhse.org//)Shirley Browne, Jack Dongarra, Stan Green, Keith Moore, Tom Rowan, Reed Wade, University of Tennessee; Geoffrey Fox, Ken Hawick, Syracuse University; Ken Kennedy, Rice University; Jim Pool, Caltech; Rick Stevens, Bob Olsen, Terry Disz, Argonne National Laboratory
The National HPCC Software Exchange (NHSE) is an Internet-accessible software and information distribution system whose goals are 1) to facilitate an active exchange of software and enabling technologies among members of the HPCC community and 2) to promote these contributions and their use among Grand Challenge users and other HPCC users. This system effectively shows how the evolving National Information Infrastructure (NII) can be used to facilitate the sharing of software and information within the HPCC community.
NHSE Advantages to CRPC Knowledge Transfer
NHSE embodies several qualities that the CRPC strives to develop in all of its work. For instance, as center technologies are developing and maturing, the CRPC is making a greater push toward outreach and knowledge transfer to HPCC users, so that this work will find individuals and organizations who will naturally benefit from it. NHSE is central to this outreach effort. The promise of the NII as a means of mass communication and exchange is a reality today for academic and industrial researchers around the nation and across the world. As a result, much of the CRPC's main audience can be reached effectively through the Internet, making it an ideal medium for knowledge transfer.
NHSE also shows many good examples of how the CRPC leverages its own resources and those of other HPCC organizations. One of the biggest benefits of the NII is that it makes the physical distribution of information resources insignificant, facilitating the combination of existing resources for HPCC software, methods, and information. Users do not have to separately access different HPCC software and database repositories because NHSE provides a virtual repository that is built on top of these resources. NHSE is also able to leverage CRPC experience because the distribution system itself is based on the Netlib software system (built by CRPC researchers at the University of Tennessee) and the dominant use of the World Wide Web.
Another CRPC goal that NHSE is helping to achieve is focusing on the user perspective to accessing HPCC information. Through a research effort to improve searching and browsing capabilities, the system is making every attempt to help people locate and understand relevant HPCC resources for their field. With myriad World Wide Web sites to access and peruse, a user can no longer count on a browser to access valuable information. This effort will be discussed in further detail in a later paragraph.
NHSE Prototype Components
HPCC software-related algorithms, specifications, designs, documentation, and reports can be found in the current prototype NHSE system, created in 1994. NHSE points to more than 200 modules and packages, including:
NHSE provides easy access to all of this material while providing a good degree of control to a decentralized group of maintainers. All of these repositories are maintained and given technical support by discipline- related groups, with a central administration handling interoperation between repositories of different disciplines and meeting common needs such as indexing and searching. This setup ensures that material is effectively updated. Although there are three levels of review for software linked through the NHSE, updates to software already linked to the system can be added without review. Additional flexibility will be gained through unique naming and digital signatures to improve the authentication, integrity, and version control for the maintainers.
Several of the established repositories that NHSE points to include CRPC -related systems (Netlib, Softlib, and CITLIB), ASSET (Asset Source for SW Engineering Tech.), CARDS (Comprehensive Approach to Reusable Defense SW), ELSA (Electronic Library Services and Appl.), GAMS (Virtual Software Repository), STARS (SW Technology for Adaptable, Reliable Systems), and others. The repositories that NHSE ties together offer a vast array of computational tools. Netlib, for instance, is a moderated collection of mathematical software and parallel programming tools, such as ScaLAPACK, MPI, P4, PICL, PRESTO, and PVM.
The use of current World Wide Web browser and server technologies ensures that repository maintainers can devote less time and resources to developing distribution methods. Use of familiar, widely available information technologies also allows better interoperability with outside repositories and gives schools, libraries, museums, and other institutions greater access to the NHSE.
So far, response to NHSE has been supportive. Three different communities make up the list of benefactors for the NHSE:
Research on Improving the NHSE System
As part of the research in enabling technologies for the NHSE, CRPC researchers at Argonne National Laboratory are building a toolkit for exploring advanced web resource management technologies. The toolkit will support the "hunting and gathering" of web pages and will have features for compression, indexing, transaction monitoring, and parallel searches. The toolkit will also have a rich language environment for developing agents. Since it is being developed for use in the NHSE, the toolkit focuses more on discovery, distribution, and management of software code as opposed to information sources (text, images, or video). Here is a detailed list of specific tools in this toolkit.
The second type of agent will monitor a set of WWW sites and determine significant changes in the structures for these sites. For example, there may be a set of sites that are developing linear algebra software and they all have links to a set of other Web sites relevant for work in linear algebra. The user may like to be notified when something new is referenced by, for example, more than four of the chosen sites, giving some indication that multiple sites view this new site worthy of attention.
Future of the NHSE System
NHSE will build upon the experiences gained from the current prototype, which will hopefully demonstrate to others its effectiveness in distributing HPCC software through the NII. Development will also continue on integrating links to other repositories so that their software can be accessed through the NHSE interface. Browsing and searching mechanisms will continue to be improved, while taking advantage of popular information retrieval technologies like WWW browsers.
Finally, CRPC researchers involved in the NHSE project are currently distributing a survey to users regarding improvements that can be made to the system. Input is especially needed to generate terms for a thesaurus-type roadmap on which to base the NHSE's browsing and navigation tools. For more information on this survey, access the NHSE home page (http://www.nhse.org/).
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