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XSEDE announces new campus bridging services and tools
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Sometimes moving from local computing clusters to a national supercomputer center involves such a change in computing environment and tools that it can feel like falling off a cliff. The eXtreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) campus bridging initiative is trying to bridge that gap. Today, XSEDE announced a new initiative aimed at making it easier to manage computing clusters and improve the ease with which researchers and students can use local and national cyberinfrastructure.

XSEDE is releasing a set of software that enables researchers and campus-based IT managers to build a “basic XSEDE-compatible computing cluster” from scratch, conveniently. This capability is provided by a bundle of software called a “ROCKS Roll.” ROCKS ( is a tool that automates the process of building a cluster from a pre-defined set of software. XSEDE has assembled a set of open source software that, when assembled into a computing cluster, is compatible with the tools and capabilities of a supercomputer available through XSEDE. This XSEDE-compatible cluster software set also includes tools to make it easier for researchers to move data from campus storage systems to XSEDE for analysis on XSEDE supercomputers.

“We have many goals with this project,” said David Lifka, whose group at Cornell University created the software distributions. “One of which is to make it easier for people running clusters on campus to also use XSEDE clusters with skills transferring from XSEDE to campus clusters.” This consistency means that XSEDE documentation and instructional materials can more easily be used in training about local campus resources.

“Howard University is an active research university, but without a centralized HPC [high-performance computing] Center,” said Marcus Alfred, professor of physics, Howard University. “The time of faculty members is precious, and the ease of an XSEDE ROCKS Roll makes this unbeatable as a help for us to manage our clusters.”

John Towns, principal investigator and leader of XSEDE, said, "This is a significant step in our campus bridging efforts. The new tools are designed to ensure that the national cyberinfrastructure ecosystem we are developing and growing supports a balanced approach to the use of national resources such as XSEDE and campus-based resources in a way that accelerates American research efforts and maximizes US global competitiveness."

The availability of ROCKS Rolls distributions to create XSEDE-compatible clusters is just the first of several steps in the area of campus bridging for XSEDE. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), XSEDE offers some of the largest supercomputers in the world for use by US researchers. “This software delivery demonstrates the value of the software engineering and service evolution practices of XSEDE. This new service is based on use cases developed by the US research populace, so with this project we are responding directly to requests from members of the US research and education community” said Craig A. Stewart, manager of Campus Bridging for XSEDE.

The ROCKS Rolls distribution is one of several steps XSEDE will take to make it easier for researchers to use campus and national resources. One of the next steps will be to release libraries of RPMs, so that people who already have a cluster set up and running well can add to it the tools included in the basic XSEDE-compatible cluster build. RPMs will also be used as a way to maintain the clusters built with ROCKS Rolls.

A video about the XSEDE Campus Bridging cluster software project is online at For more technical information on the XSEDE-compatible cluster ROCKS Roll, go to To aid researchers in integrating campus and XSEDE resources, XSEDE now has telephone and email consulting on campus bridging. For further inquiries, call 812-318-2872 9 am to 5 pm eastern time, or send email to


XSEDE is a virtual organization that provides a dynamic distributed infrastructure, support services, and technical expertise that enable researchers, engineers, and scholars to address the most important and challenging problems facing the nation and world. XSEDE supports a growing collection of advanced computing, high-end visualization, data analysis, and other resources and services. XSEDE is funded by the National Science Foundation.