Smart home devices and popular web services such as If This Then That (IFTTT) have made it possible for people to automate many routine life tasks. Users can set their thermostat to kick up the heat if the temperature nears freezing, have their washing machine send them a text when a load is finished, or sync up calendars and to-do lists across home and work devices.
Globus, a software service created and based at the University of Chicago, already helps scientists simplify their workflow by automating data transfer and synchronization tasks. Now, thanks to a $2 million National Science Foundation grant, Globus will introduce a broader set of automation services that make more comprehensive automation possible.
Imagine a telescope that, whenever it collects a new image, automatically sends the data to an institutional cluster or the cloud, where it can be stored, published, and analyzed based on predetermined recipes; if a notable event, such as a supernova, is detected, another telescope can be steered to observe that region.
The new Globus Automate services will follow the model of “trigger-action programming,” a user-friendly interface that requires no programming knowledge to create automated sequences initiated by events. Using the platform, a scientist will be able to easily set up a workflow of actions -- including data cleaning, transfer, curation, and analysis -- to take place automatically whenever a trigger event occurs. For example, the workflow may run whenever they collect or receive data, or after some preprocessing run has been completed, or at other specified times.
“We want to help scientists by moving all the complexities of managing data to a cloud service,” said Ian Foster, co-founder of Globus and Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor of Computer Science at UChicago. “We intend to accelerate scientific discovery by providing expanded automation services, beneficial to researchers across a broad spectrum and delivered via a widely adopted and sustainable platform.”
Globus was first launched in 1997 to enable the scientific use of grid computing -- the connection of distributed computational resources that was a precursor to what’s now known as cloud computing. Since then, it has grown into a full suite of services used by tens of thousands of researchers and over 1,000 institutions in the U.S. and internationally to move, share, publish and otherwise manage data through over 12,000 Globus “endpoints.” The new Automate services will turn those static data waystations into active portals that can initiate actions whenever interesting events occur, such as the creation or receipt of new data, Foster said.