Globus at ESnet's Confab23
December 12, 2023 | ESnet News
By Bonnie Powell
The Confab23 gathering in Gaithersburg, Maryland, was the place to be in mid-October for Department of Energy (DOE)–funded domain scientists, computer scientists, network engineers, DOE program managers, and user facility staff interested in co-designing the future of integrated science together. Confab23 was the second such user-community gathering convened by the Energy Sciences Network (ESnet), the “data circulatory system” for DOE scientific research, and it served as both a showcase for the latest ESnet advances in new technologies and services and as a forum for other speakers to share their own innovative multi-facility approaches and projects.
More than 160 attendees and speakers, representing 38 participating national laboratories and other organizations, traveled from 22 states to engage in two-plus days of meaningful conversations, idea exchange, and collaboration.
This year’s theme was “Co-Designing the Future of National-Scale Integrated Science and Networking,” inspired by the DOE’s Integrated Research Infrastructure (IRI) program and informed by the Office of Science’s (SC’s) recently released IRI Architecture Blueprint Activity final report. Researchers across the Department of Energy today routinely collaborate across multiple facilities, utilizing instruments, high performance computing, artificial intelligence, and other tools and sharing massive, complex datasets. IRI focuses on seamlessly integrating scientific facilities, data management, and computing to power scientific discovery.
In an hour’s worth of lightning talks on the first day, organized by ASCR Research Division Acting Director Hal Finkel and Physical Scientist Margaret Lentz, 14 scientific researchers delivered rapid-fire summaries of their work embodying the kind of big-data, multi-facility collaborations that IRI is intended to streamline and accelerate. Rachana Ananthakrishnan, executive director of the University of Chicago’s Globus project, gamely closed out the day with a deep dive into how this research IT platform, which enables data sharing by national and international research institutions, might enable and inform IRI instantiations.
The next day and a half were devoted to Confab’s IRI theme, first through a DOE programmatic macro lens, followed by detailed presentations by scientific researchers showing the kind of work that will most benefit from IRI, and concluding with discussions of what initial implementations might look like.
DOE’s Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) Facilities Director Ben Brown, who has championed the IRI program, opened the conversation with a compelling overview of its development process, scope, and next steps. Infrastructure is more than hardware, he said: “It’s about empowering people, and it’s about data.” He emphasized the double meaning embedded in IRI’s name — “Integrated Research Infrastructure” (infrastructure supporting collaborative, integrated research) and “Integrated Research Infrastructure” (research infrastructure that’s been intentionally planned and linked). And while acknowledging the very real challenges of changing DOE culture, Brown emphasized IRI’s benefits for researchers — dramatically reducing both time to insight and complexity — and for institutional leaders.