Virtual EZ-Grid

Long Title: Virtual EZ-Grid
Haute École Spécialisée de Suisse occidentale
Universita della Svizzera Italiana
Université de Genève
Université de Neuchâtel
Domain: Grid
Status: finished
Start Date: 01.01.2009
End Date: 30.11.2010
Project Leader: N. Abdennadher
Website: http://www.xtremwebch.net/Projects/Virtual_EZ_Grid/EZ_Home.html

To provide a highly available, secure and inexpensive PC grid infrastructure to participating universities and research groups is the main goal of this project. Harvesting unused CPU cycles from farms of PCs with virtualization technology allows researchers to use their existing code on their existing platforms without any or with little modification. Furthermore, this project removes the boundary between participating universities by sharing resources and jobs.


The software developed in the project is freely available on the web site www.xtremwebch.net.

Component Description
XWCH software Installation packages for Xtrem Web-CH, version 2
(documentation, source code and links to publications)
Journal article Emmanuel Fragniere and Francesco Moresino: Pricing Services in a Grid of Computers Using Priority Segmentation, J. Service Science & Management, 2010, 3, 345-351.
Conference paper Mohamed Ben Belgacem, Nabil Abdennadher, Marko Niinimaki: Programming distributed medical applications with XWCH2. Proceedings of HealthGrid 2010: Volume 159, Paris, France, June 2010
Conference paper Nabil Abdennadher et al. Services Pricing: A Shared Grid Case Study, 2009. IEEE International Conference on Service Operations, Logistics and Informatics, July 2009, Chicago, USA.
MICS/Lausanne Jan 18 2011 Detailed Documentation of the reference environment and installation procedure for the EPA Node application.

The Virtual EZ Grid project successfully brought together four different higher education institutes in the Swiss academia, and delivered a usable, sustainable volunteer computing based Grid cluster, one of the first ones of its kind.
By the end of the project, about 1200 separate computers had taken part of the cluster and the maximum number of simultaneous connections was 997 (even though the participating institutes do have 1570 PC computers, they want to turn them off regularly to save electricity).
This project works as a model for a system that uses computing resources from both organizations and from individuals.
Through the Swiss Multi-Science Computing Grid, the Virtual EZ Grid platform became an ARC (Advanced Resource Connector) Grid provider, with 500-1000 active CPU's available for the Swiss academic community. Similarly, the distributed computing platform XWCH is available to the users of the Swiss academia through the SWITCH AAI single sign-on system.
Several applications were deployed on the Virtual EZ Grid platform. Among these, the NeuroWeb application that is a neural activity mapping program that can provide information about the cortex without intrusive surgery.


Five technical goals are targeted by the Virtual EZ-Grid project:

  1. Construct a desktop grid infrastructure with more than 1.500 non dedicated desktop PCs to provide harvested CPU power for scientific research projects.
  2. Implement a reliable platform by using virtual environments to support secure computing and remote check-pointing. By using Wake-On-LAN technology, this project will also provide a better control over environmental issues and energy consumption by running only the necessary PCs and shutting down unused PCs at night and during holidays. The proposed platform should give a non-intrusive and non-disturbing experience to the PC users.
  3. Guarantee the security and privacy of both the PC user and the virtual CPU environment by using the virtual isolation layer property, certificate and proper authentication of grid user.
  4. Provide a resource-credit system that can be used in the future to evaluate the potential resource-credit schemes that could be established and the relevant criteria that should be used to determine a "fair" incentive taking into account the point of views of providers and consumers of virtual PC resources.
  5. Evaluate objectives 1 through 4 in a real world setting with two biomedical applications.

In addition to the technical issues, one also has to face the economic perception and provide incentives to offer one's own machine to the community. Defining good practices and convincing users and authorities that the grid concept is useful and can be gracefully deployed at the scale of the full institution, as well as external institutions, is also an important goal of this project. In this context, the results of the project could be deployed on a public computing platform (anonymous nodes). Although this issue is not considered as an objective of the project, it will be retained as a guideline of Virtual EZ Grid.

Another goal to consider is the opening of the different middlewares that will be used in the framework of this project at the Swiss level, in accordance to the objectives of the Swiss National Grid association (SwiNG).

Three aspects will guarantee the success of the project:

  1. Sustainability: most organizations (public administrations, universities, hospitals, etc.) have many desktop PCs that could be reused in a similar way. If installation is easy and automatic, this could easily and quickly spread, at very low setup and maintenance costs. If the project is accepted, the partners will commit to put the Virtual EZ-Grid operational when the project is over (IT departments of HES-SO and UniGE are actively involved in the project) and enlarge the users community.
  2. Cooperation and complementarity: The complementarity of the partners, the tools, and middleware technologies being used will guarantee the success of the project.
  3. Innovation: The innovating aspects are mainly linked to the economic negotiation model and security. Security, as seen by the project, will target providers and consumers (applications) at the same time. The developed methods could be deployed on anonymous machines.