An Aside about GFFS

The complexity of sharing resources between researchers creates a barrier to resource sharing and collaboration – an activation energy if you like. Too often, the energy barrier is too high – and valuable collaborations, that could lead to breakthrough science, do not happen, or if they do, take much longer and cost more. One of the most common complaints about grid computing, and the national cyberinfrastructure more generally, is that it is not easy to use. We feel strongly that rather than have users adapt to the infrastructure, the infrastructure should adapt to users. In other words, the infrastructure must support interaction modalities and paradigms with which users are already familiar. Towards that end, simplicity and ease-of-use is critical.

When considering ease-of-use the first and most important observation is that most scientists do not want to become computer hackers. They view the computer as a tool that they use every day for a wide variety of tasks: reading email, saving attachments, opening documents, cruising through the directory/folder structure looking for a file, and so on. Therefore, rather than have scientists learn a whole new paradigm to search for and access data we believe the paradigm with which they are already familiar should be extended across organizational boundaries and to a wider variety of file types.

Therefore, the core, underlying goal of the GFFS is to empower science and engineering by lowering barriers to carry out computationally based research. Specifically we believe that the mechanisms used must be easy to use and learn, must not require change in existing infrastructures on campuses and labs, and must support interactions between the centers and campuses, campuses, and with other international infrastructures. We believe complexity is the major problem that must be addressed.

Ease of use is just one of many quality attributes a system such as the GFFS exhibits. Others are security, performance, availability, reliability, and so on. With respect to performance we are often asked how GFFS performance compares to parallel file systems such as Luster [6] or GPFS [7]? For us this is somewhat of a non sequitur. Competing with Luster and GPFS is not a goal – the GFFS is not designed to be high performance parallel file system. It is designed to make it easy to federate across many different organizations and make data easily accessible to users and applications.

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