NSF funds middleware initiative

The National Science Foundation has launched a $12 million initiative to advance middleware — the software that allows scientists to share applications, instruments and data, and collaborate with one another using the Internet.

A group of research centers across the United States will work together on the project under the NSF Middleware Initiative (NMI) announced Sept. 24.

NMI will create and deploy advanced network services to make it easier for researchers to access resources available through high-performance networks.

Being able to share scientific tools, such as telescopes or modeling software, access supercomputing systems and databases, or run simulations with colleagues worldwide are just part of what the program hopes to facilitate, said Carl Kesselman, center director at the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute (ISI), which is among the funding recipients.

"We believe that middleware and a comprehensive middleware infrastructure will be the key to creating a network infrastructure that can be used by the worldwide research community to share ideas, conduct research and make new discoveries," Kesselman said in a release. "There is a world of resources and information out there, and we intend to bring it to the scientific community in a seamless manner so that they can focus specifically on their research."

Two groups will receive the awards:

* The Grids Research Integration Deployment and Support (GRIDS) Center will include ISI, the University of Chicago, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

* The Internet2 team will include the Southeastern Universities Research Association and Educause, a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology.

The GRIDS Center will have two main functions: developing and integrating the NMI architecture, and packaging, testing and supporting software distributed by NMI.

The Internet2 team will develop an NMI architecture that focuses on directories, security and naming, and integrating those services into a variety of applications, including desktop video. The team also will promote widespread, consistent and rapid deployment of those technologies to the higher education and research communities.

More information about NMI will be available soon at a newly created Web site: www.nsf-middleware.org.

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