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NSF Press Release


NSF PR 01-73 - September 24, 2001

Media contact:

 Peter West

 (703) 292-8070

Program contact:

 Alan Blatecky

 (703) 292-8950

Internet "Middleware" Gets $12 Million Boost from NSF
Three-year awards for R&D into tools for Internet collaboration

The National Science Foundation (NSF) today announced three-year awards totaling almost $12 million for development of "middleware" to help scientists and researchers use the Internet to effectively share instruments, laboratories and data, and to collaborate with their colleagues. Middleware is software that connects two or more otherwise separate applications across the Internet.

The NSF Middleware Initiative (NMI) will create and deploy advanced network services for simplifying access to diverse Internet resources. Two major teams -- the new GRIDS (Grids Research Integration Deployment and Support) Center and a group formed by the Internet2 consortium -- will lead the NMI effort. The GRIDS Center will be a partnership of the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute (ISI), the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Chicago (UC), the University of California-San Diego and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development (Internet2 group will consist of EDUCAUSE and the Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA)UCAID).

"Much as the NSFnet network in the mid-1980s and early 1990s laid the groundwork for the dramatic success of the Internet," said Alan Blatecky, NSF middleware program director, "we expect this new NSF program to lay foundations for middleware infrastructure and spur adoption of the advanced services that will define the networks and distributed systems of tomorrow."

NMI-funded projects will facilitate sharing of unique scientific resources such as telescopes, supercomputing systems or linear accelerators, as well as common resources such as databases, directories or calendars. For example, a professor of environmental engineering might want students to get hands-on experience with environmental monitoring and modeling. NMI technologies for user-authentication and resource discovery could let the students access national resources including up-to-the- minute data and real-time instrumentation. Similar results would be possible in other fields of science and engineering.

The GRIDS Ccenter will work with UCAID Internet2 to design, develop, coordinate, evaluate, deploy and disseminate these new middleware services to research labs and universities across the U.S. and the world. The Internet2 group will also focus on integrating campus infrastructure and desktops, providing testbed capabilities and a "Certificate Authority" for user- authentication in the academic community.

The GRIDS Center will be led by Randy Butler of NCSA, Ian Foster of UC, and Carl Kesselman of ISI. Foster and Kesselman will be co-directors of the center, and Butler will direct operations. The central activity of GRIDS will be to develop a new set of middleware building on successes of the Globus project that has developed tools for Grid computing, and to integrate these with other emerging middleware components.

"These groups collectively have an outstanding record of accomplishment in developing and applying advanced collaborative and networking technologies," said George Strawn, acting head of the NSF Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. "We're delighted to be able to support them in this important step toward the creation of a 21st Century environment for science, engineering and the humanities."




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