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LSU Professor Proposes Data-Aware Distributed Computing
Posted by T.Kosar, Tuesday February 03 2009 @ 03:50PM EST

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded Louisiana State University professor Tevfik Kosar with the prestigious CAREER Award for the development of a new computing paradigm called "Data-aware Distributed Computing" over the next five years.

As applications and experiments in all areas of science are becoming increasingly complex and more demanding in terms of their computational and data requirements, some applications generate data volumes reaching hundreds of terabytes. Sharing, disseminating, and analyzing these large data sets becomes a big challenge, especially when distributed resources are used. The traditional distributed computing systems closely couple data handling and computation. They consider data resources as second class entities, and access to data as a side effect of computation. This makes the remote access and retrieval of data the main bottleneck in the end-to-end performance, reliability and automation of large-scale data-intensive and dynamic data-driven applications.

Kosar's proposed "Data-aware distributed computing" paradigm makes a distinctive contribution to distributed computing research because it focuses on planning, scheduling, monitoring and management of data movement tasks and data resources. Unlike existing approaches, Kosar's approach treats data resources and the tasks related to data access and movement as first class entities just like computational resources and compute tasks, and not simply the side effect of computation.

Kosar, who holds a joint faculty appointment with the LSU Center for Computation & Technology, or CCT, proposed a project titled "Data-aware Distributed Computing for Enabling Large-scale Collaborative Science." NSF will fund this project for five years at $400K.

The NSF CAREER Award is the foundation's most prestigious award for junior faculty members. It is part of NSF's Faculty Early Career Development Program, which "recognizes and supports the early career-development activities of those teacher-scholars who are most likely to become the academic leaders of the 21st century." CAREER Award recipients are selected on the basis of creative career-development plans that effectively integrate research and education within the context of the missions of their institutions.

Through his work on the CAREER grant, Kosar will develop new computing systems that manage data more effectively with automated processes, which enables scientists to spend more time focusing on their research questions and less time dealing with data.

Kosar will perform research and development on data-aware schedulers which will provide capabilities such as planning, scheduling, resource reservation, job execution, and error recovery for data movement tasks; as well as integration of these capabilities to the other layers in distributed computing such as workflow planning, resource brokering, and storage management

"This project will not only impact computer science research by changing the way computing is performed, but it will also dramatically change how domain scientists perform their research by facilitating rapid analysis and sharing of raw data and results," Kosar said. "It will help the scientists start thinking about totally new scenarios where simulations are closely coupled with large amounts of observational and experimental data, which would revolutionize science, not just in the new scenarios but in the way it will bring the computational, theoretical, and experimental scientists together which currently live in very different communities and do not interact."

Kosar's integrated career plan is expected to impact all traditionally compute intensive disciplines from science and engineering, as well as new emerging computational areas in the arts, humanities, business and education which need to deal with increasingly large amounts of data.

This project also involves education and outreach, as Kosar plans to let undergraduate and graduate students work alongside him in his research. Kosar will incorporate the project into the University’s summer camp and outreach programs to students in the K-12 grades, and he plans to visit with students in Louisiana schools to discuss the project and encourage them to pursue careers in computational science and research.

"NSF selectively awards CAREER grants to young researchers who demonstrate extraordinary promise and a commitment to advancing science, and I am very proud of Tevfik for receiving it," said CCT Interim Director Stephen David Beck. "I am confident his research will yield results that not only enhance his academic work, but will benefit the greater research community."

Data storage and management is Kosar's research specialty at the University. In 2006, he received a $1 million grant from NSF to create advanced data archival, processing and visualization capabilities across the state through the PetaShare project.


In December, Kosar led a team of researchers who unveiled a new software package, called Stork Data Scheduler, which makes it easier and more efficient for researchers to access and transfer large data sets.


Apart from his research, Kosar also led a team of educators to create a science and technology oriented charter school in New Orleans, which allows students to work collaboratively with universities and be mentored by experienced scientists to enter into national and international science project competitions.


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