Oxford e-Science Centre

Oxford e-Science Centre

The National Grid Service (NGS)


1. What is the NGS?

The National Grid Service (NGS) is the UK's first production level Grid for e-Science. The NGS provides compute and data resource for UK academics and part of its remit is to encourage use of the e-Science Grid particularly by those academics who ordinarily would not have access to Grid type resources.

The dedicated resources of the NGS are funded by JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) and CCLRC (Central Laboratory of the Research Councils).

The service level description for the Oxford NGS node can be found here.

All users of the NGS are bound by the NGS Acceptable Use Policy. This AUP can be found here.

2. History of the project

In May 2003 JISC issued a call for grant proposals to host a Grid Infrastructure Testbed facility. ( Original JISC Call)

This call invited bids to host either a compute or data resource with JISC offering funding for 1 data and 2 compute clusters. The call also indicated that CCLRC would be funding a further data cluster and would act as lead site for the project.

3. The results of the JISC call

Competing against the other e-Science centres across the country, the Oxford e-Science Centre submitted a bid to JISC in June 2003. Oxford chose to bid for a compute cluster as there was already considerable expertise in the University, particularly in the Oxford Supercomputing Centre, of running such clusters. The successful proposals were announced in August 2004 and the winning bidders were:

Compute clusters:

Data cluster:

The second CCLRC funded data cluster would be housed at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

JISC also funded an extra post of Grid Coordinator and this post would be situated at RAL.

4. The equipment tender

In parallel with the grant proposals process, a tender exercise was carried out to determine the supplier of the hardware for all 4 clusters. This tender exercise was performed by CCLRC and the winning tender was from ClusterVision, a company based in the Netherlands. After some delays the equipment was delivered to each of the sites just before Christmas in 2003. Oxford staff commenced acceptance testing after Christmas and we were able to formally accept the equipment and take ownership at the end of January 2004.

5. What did ClusterVision supply?

The equipment supplied by ClusterVision is as follows:

For the 2 compute clusters:

For the 2 data clusters:

The following software was also supplied by ClusterVision and is common to all 4 clusters:

In addition, the data clusters at CCLRC-RAL and Manchester support Oracle 9i RAC & Oracle Application Server.

6. NGS and the Grid Operations Centre

In December of 2003 Tony Hey announced that as part of the Core e-Science Programme a Grid Operations Centre would be formed and in due course the GOC Director would lead the NGS service. In the interim Terry Hewitt from the University of Manchester would lead the NGS and an initial meeting for representatives from all 4 institutions took place in Leeds in October. This meeting decided to form management and operations groups with remits to steer and implement/operate the service respectively. These groups are still in force and meet frequently over AccessGrid.

7. Additional resources for the NGS

In addition to the four dedicated clusters, the NGS is complimented by two of the the UK's national supercomputing resources, HPCx and CSAR. Both of these resources have their own funding arrangements and it is hoped that in time more sites will join the NGS.


8. Service launch

Throughout February and March of 2003 early adopters have been recruited to start to test the four core NGS nodes. The response from the academic community has been very encouraging with early adopters registering from a variety of existing e-Science projects and. For example, we have early adopters from the following e-Science projects and communities:

We are also supporting early adopters who are not currently involved in an e-Science project but have discovered a need for Grid resources in their research.

Despite the delay in delivery the target NGS launch date of April 2004 as set by Tony Hey has been achieved and the NGS launched into an early adopter production phase on 5th April 2004.

View the NGS launch press release here.

Date: April 2004 (revised Wed, 19 May 2004) Author: Ian Senior (revised young).
copyright University of Oxford.