Ian Foster Named 2003 Innovator of the Year

Fri, 10/10/2003 - 5:13am
The Grid Defined
Ian Foster initially defined a computational grid as a "hardware and software infrastructure that provides dependable, consistent, pervasive, and inexpensive access to high-end computational capabilities." He later clarified this definition by creating a three-point checklist that characterizes a grid as a system that
1) coordinates resources that are not subject to centralized control, 2) uses standard, open, general purpose protocols and interfaces, and 3) delivers nontrivial qualities of service. This grid vision requires protocols, interfaces, and policies that are open, general purpose, and standard. The standard allows users to establish resource-sharing arrangements dynamically with any interested party to create something more "that a plethora of balkanized, incompatible, non-interoperable distributed systems."

From his roots in New Zealand to his joint positions at the Univ. of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, Foster has set the standards for how distributed computing systems should work.

Ian Foster is R&D Magazine's 2003 Innovator of the Year, selected for his work in developing advanced distributed computing, or grid, technologies. The commercialized embodiment of this work has been the Globus Toolkit . Since its inception as the Globus Project in 1995 by Argonne (Ill.) National Laboratory, the Univ. of Chicago, and the Univ. of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute, Los Angeles, to the Globus Toolkit 3.0 released earlier this year, Globus technology has become virtually ubiquitous in grid computing. This community-based, open-architecture, open-source software supports the development and deployment of distributed computational grids. It has transformed collaborative research and is the basis of new distributed-computing strategies in the computer industry.

The Globus Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to open-source distributed computing. The Globus Toolkit is the implementation of that technology which has become central to research projects that total nearly a half-billion dollars internationally.

All of the major computing companies, including IBM, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Cray, SGI, Sun Microsystems, Fujitsu, Hitachi, and NEC, have announced adoption of the Globus Toolkit to develop an optimized form of it for their platforms as their preferred path toward secure, distributed, multi-vendor grid computing. HP recently announced an open grid initiative based on the Globus Toolkit 3.0's Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA) across its enterprise product lines to help simplify the use and management of distributed computing resources.

And in late-Summer, Foster announced yet another endorsement of his technology with the transition of the "Globus Project" to the "Globus Alliance", a tightly integrated consortium dedicated to collaborative design, development, testing, and support of the open source Globus Toolkit, the "de facto standard grid software." New members in the Alliance include the Univ. of Edinburgh, Scotland, and the Swedish Center for Parallel Computers, which will contribute database-integration and security expertise, respectively. US partners in the Alliance include the Dept. of Energy, NSF, NASA, and DARPA. In addition, a new Academic Affiliates program was announced with participation from universities and research organization in Asia and Europe. Among those joining the Affiliates program are CERN, the Poznan Supercomputing and Networking Center of Poland, the Max Planck Institute in Germany, the Imperial College in the UK (Fosters alma mater), Monash Univ. in Australia, and Tokyo Institute of Technology. Globus has truly become an "international" standard.

Foster has been surprised by the rapid acceptance of his Globus Toolkit technology. "We still have a long way to go though," says Foster. "It's not yet a shrink-wrapped product."
Ian Foster
Current position: Associate Division Director, Senior Scientist, Head-Distributed Systems Lab at Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL.
Professor of Computer Science at the Univ. of Chicago, IL.
Education: BSc, Univ. of Canterbury, New Zealand (1979), PhD, Imperial College, Univ. of London (1988).
Experience: 1985 to 1988, Research Associate in the Dept. of Computing at the Imperial College; and 1989 to 1991, Assistant Computer Scientist, Argonne National Laboratory.
Author: "Strand: New Concepts in Parallel Programming" (1990); "Systems Programming in Parallel Logic Languages" (1990); "The Grid: Blueprint for a New Computing Infrastructure" (1998); and more than 100 technical papers/reports.
Member: Technical Steering Committee, Center for Research in Parallel Computation; and the Science Team for CHAMMP climate modeling.
Awards: Fellow of the British Computer Society (2002); Most Promising New Technology R&D 100 Award for Globus Toolkit (2002); Lovelace Medal (2002), Gordon Bell Award (Supercomputing 2001); Global Information Infrastructure Next Generation Award (1997); British Computer Society Award for Technical Innovation (1989); and research awards and grants from the NSF, NASA, DARPA, and the Dept. of Energy.
Products: Globus Toolkit 3.0 (current release),

The Globus Toolkit has a large base of primarily professional users who have a large number of applications. Yet, the issues that arise primarily involve the increasing scale of resource sharing. Here, security issues and even business-related negotiations over computer resource costs are increasingly becoming areas that need to be addressed and where grid technologies haven't had to tread in the past, when they were smaller applications.

The largest positive impact, though, according to Foster, has been in the Globus Toolkit's effect on the world of science. "We've helped improve the evolution of science into an increasingly collaborative system," he says. While a small group of researchers may have worked on a large science project for a long period of time, with the Globus Toolkit technology, you can now have groups of hundreds of researchers working simultaneously on the same project.

Another effect, not yet fully realized, is the virtualization of computing resources in industrial settings. Technologies like the OGSA allow all sorts of collaborative virtual processing, storage, and data collection capabilities.

Tim Studt
Capsulated Globus Toolkit 3.0 (GT3)
GT3, released this past March, has two main specifications: an Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA) and an Open Grid Services Infrastructure (OGSI). OGSA addresses architectural issues related to the requirements and interrelationships of grid services-an implementation of behaviors and capabilities via standard interfaces. "OGSA has been aligned with industry standards and web services to make GT3 more accessible to industry users," says Ian Foster. GT3 implements standards being adopted by the e-science and e-business communities. This standardization of grid protocols supports cross-grid interoperability and is seen as the future of grid computing.

Ian Foster,
Globus Toolkit


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