- Tens of millions of Euros are being spent on the Enabling Grid for eScience (EGEE) grid infrastructure and its gLite middleware, and on applying that middleware in various domains and promoting its adoption internationally. EGEE and gLite are heavily focused on the computing requirements of the Large Hadron Collider.
- In the Nordic countries, we have the NorduGrid infrastructure and its Advanced Resource Connector (ARC) middleware. NorduGrid and ARC are also focused on physics.
- Unicore has been developed with German and European funding over the past eight years. Unicore is focused on enabling remote access to supercomputer centers, and sees heavy use in Germany, where much of its development occurs.
- Finally, the UK has put much money into OMII-UK, which in addition to supporting the popular myGrid and OGSA-DAI products, has created its own distinct middleware platform.
So there are at least four distinct European middleware solutions [actually five: see below]. Is this a good thing? Officially, yes. Each is a big success, diversity is positive, and interoperability is assured.
Unofficially, users talk with frustration about being pressured to use their funding agency's middleware, software developers bemoan the need to target different middlewares, and sites complain about having to support multiple software stacks. Meanwhile, interoperability is stymied by differing versions of standards and different configurations and policies.
The only software that no-one in Europe is pressured to use or deploy is Globus, and I am personally satisfied to see how many projects use it nonetheless. Indeed, while I cannot back up the following assertion with data (for one thing, privacy-conscious Europeans tend to turn off Globus usage reporting), I'd bet good money that Globus is the most widely used grid middleware in Europe. (That's not taking into account the Globus components included in ARC and gLite.) The people that talk to me must be somewhat self selecting, but they speak with tremendous enthusiasm about what it lets them do.
It's hard to see where this will all lead. While "made in Europe" (or "made in the Nordic countries" or "made in the UK") is a powerful rallying cry, surely four different systems can't be sustained indefinitely. Nevertheless, I don't see anything changing soon. Perhaps we can just hope for incremental steps: e.g., integrating the latest Globus components into gLite (they're using code that is several years old) and achieving interoperability between Globus and Unicore (we're on the hook for that).
It also seems strange to have no EU support for European Globus users--surely that would make good scientific sense? The reason seems to be that Globus is viewed by the EU as "US software"--even though it is all open source, and its developer and user community includes many Europeans.
ADDED LATER ON May 24: I discover that there are in fact not four but five grid middleware projects in Europe--ExtreemOS is the latest. They say: "The XtreemOS system will offer an alternative to the Globus toolkit, which is currently the most widespread middleware system." A noble goal!