Tuesday, September 27, 2005

APAC '05, Day Two

Enjoying the conference very much, although still skeptical of how achievable all the pipe-dreams really are.

Had a boozy dinner with a bunch of near-colleagues, and it was great to find common directions etc. Hopefully a group of people who can provide me with a lot of support, and looking for people to join them on their work towards common infrastructures and methodologies.

The topic for me is "Data Management", and even if nobody else is interested, there is one mob who are. The "TPAC Digital Library" has spawned a number of useful pieces of software, as well us internet resources. There are some key areas where this falls short in my opinion, but I think the path of least resistance for rapid progress is going to be to adopt their methodologies.

GRID computing is an interesting area, which I can see offers a lot of promise to organisations who are pursuing one-off investigations into science, economics, and other computationally intensive tasks. The major thrust of development is to simplify the selling of CPU hours into something which is digestible by business.

To this end, new frameworks are required. The traditional operating system model of code execution is insufficient, and a higher level of abstraction is required. Running a piece of software in a distributed way across many machines which you do not control requires a hefty amount of virtualisation. Convincing a company that they can enter into a purchase agreement of this kind without having advanced knowledge of the underlying infrastructure seems to me to be the ongoing challenge.

In my area, the challenge is to move research into a more productive mode. By offering the ability to link algorithms to data without having to script the entire execution process, it should massively simplify the maintainance and creation of large jobs. This, however, is not yet achievable. APAC has been sponsoring efforts which move in this direction, such as the digital library.

The areas where I feel that the digital library is lacking is in application integration. For this, OpenDAP is still ahead of the game. One cannot use the features of the digital library as interchangeably as the XML catalogs of OpenDAP.

Oh well, onwards and upwards!

Cheers,
-MP

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