Running Climate Models On The NERC Cluster Grid Using G-Rex
Bretherton, D. A., Blower, J. D. and Haines, K. (2008) Running Climate Models On The NERC Cluster Grid Using G-Rex. In: UK e-Science All Hands Meeting 2008, 8th-11th September 2008, National e-Science Centre, Edinburgh.
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Compute grids are used widely in many areas of environmental science, but there has been limited uptake of grid computing by the climate modelling community, partly because the characteristics of many climate models make them difficult to use with popular grid middleware systems. In particular, climate models usually produce large volumes of output data, and running them usually involves complicated workflows implemented as shell scripts. For example, NEMO (Smith et al. 2008) is a state-of-the-art ocean model that is used currently for operational ocean forecasting in France, and will soon be used in the UK for both ocean forecasting and climate modelling. On a typical modern cluster, a particular one year global ocean simulation at 1-degree resolution takes about three hours when running on 40 processors, and produces roughly 20 GB of output as 50000 separate files. 50-year simulations are common, during which the model is resubmitted as a new job after each year. Running NEMO relies on a set of complicated shell scripts and command utilities for data pre-processing and post-processing prior to job resubmission. Grid Remote Execution (G-Rex) is a pure Java grid middleware system that allows scientific applications to be deployed as Web services on remote computer systems, and then launched and controlled as if they are running on the user's own computer. Although G-Rex is general purpose middleware it has two key features that make it particularly suitable for remote execution of climate models: (1) Output from the model is transferred back to the user while the run is in progress to prevent it from accumulating on the remote system and to allow the user to monitor the model; (2) The client component is a command-line program that can easily be incorporated into existing model work-flow scripts. G-Rex has a REST (Fielding, 2000) architectural style, which allows client programs to be very simple and lightweight and allows users to interact with model runs using only a basic HTTP client (such as a Web browser or the curl utility) if they wish. This design also allows for new client interfaces to be developed in other programming languages with relatively little effort. The G-Rex server is a standard Web application that runs inside a servlet container such as Apache Tomcat and is therefore easy to install and maintain by system administrators. G-Rex is employed as the middleware for the NERC1 Cluster Grid, a small grid of HPC2 clusters belonging to collaborating NERC research institutes. Currently the NEMO (Smith et al. 2008) and POLCOMS (Holt et al, 2008) ocean models are installed, and there are plans to install the Hadley Centre’s HadCM3 model for use in the decadal climate prediction project GCEP (Haines et al., 2008). The science projects involving NEMO on the Grid have a particular focus on data assimilation (Smith et al. 2008), a technique that involves constraining model simulations with observations. The POLCOMS model will play an important part in the GCOMS project (Holt et al, 2008), which aims to simulate the world’s coastal oceans. A typical use of G-Rex by a scientist to run a climate model on the NERC Cluster Grid proceeds as follows :(1) The scientist prepares input files on his or her local machine. (2) Using information provided by the Grid’s Ganglia3 monitoring system, the scientist selects an appropriate compute resource. (3) The scientist runs the relevant workflow script on his or her local machine. This is unmodified except that calls to run the model (e.g. with “mpirun”) are simply replaced with calls to "GRexRun" (4) The G-Rex middleware automatically handles the uploading of input files to the remote resource, and the downloading of output files back to the user, including their deletion from the remote system, during the run. (5) The scientist monitors the output files, using familiar analysis and visualization tools on his or her own local machine. G-Rex is well suited to climate modelling because it addresses many of the middleware usability issues that have led to limited uptake of grid computing by climate scientists. It is a lightweight, low-impact and easy-to-install solution that is currently designed for use in relatively small grids such as the NERC Cluster Grid. A current topic of research is the use of G-Rex as an easy-to-use front-end to larger-scale Grid resources such as the UK National Grid service.