Thursday, October 16, 2008

Taking shapes.

Things are starting to precipitate here in and around the NCPHI Grid Lab. People are meeting and starting to talk about moving from a research stance to a production stance and actually making things to be used and seen by the world. I think it is awesome, and I also think it will be a lot of work and will be a bit tricky.

When I think of what I want when I think of public facing production GRID products... I think of what I would like to turn out, and I keep thinking of my dream/killer application: Something with the availability of OpenOffice and the simple functionality of Google Apps.

Open Office is pretty much available for everything. It is also deliciously packaged for everything. You can get them through any given *NIX package manager as RPM or a debian package files, it can be had for solaris and windows and mac, and it just seems to be there after the double-click.

Google Apps are simple and ridiculously functional. They also get to every computing platform out there. You can get Google Earth for *nix, Windows, mac, and it has just the same sort of "drop and unbox" functionality. The only drawback is they are closed source and don't like redistribution... but you wouldn't know it from all the APIs they post. There is little question to how to use their apps, and if you want to get into some of the really complex functionality you can easily Google (tee hee) how to do it.

I want our apps to be like that.

I want a NCPHI node to be one of those very simple and concise packages that only asks for what it needs (maybe the appropriate X509.11 certificate files) and then just installs. Whether it be a package (with a lot of attached packages) in the package manager of your given *NIX, or the installer on windows or mac. Right now it is a multi-step download-n-build-n-massage process that takes a new person multiple days and a seasoned veteran the better part of 3 hours depending on how the downloads go.

In the meantime, I want the apps that can come with a node to be much like Google apps. Easy to download and include, easy to find, perhaps even a few checkboxes from an admin portal that just lets you include and configure the pieces from the get-go, but otherwise just something you can nab and drop-in and have it Just Work.

Doing this is going to be a bit difficult, a lot of the limitations we are facing have to do with Other People's Code. But, most of that code is open sourced, and can be modified, and we are having an okay time talking with other people and they have been gracious and enthusiastic about working with us, and it might not get to that point due to a bunch of constraints that are unforeseen or just unknown at the moment... but that is my target. It's what I want to work-for.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Nice post, Peter.