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The Grid is sometimes heralded as the next generation of the Internet or the Web. Meanwhile, Semantic Web is heralded as the future of the Web. Are these orthogonal futures? We believe they are not. Fundamentally, they are both about joining resources together in order to achieve new things.
Every time we embark on a new Grid computing exercise, we would like to reuse and repurpose the available services, data, workflows and indeed knowledge, from our own research communities and elsewhere. Where we once needed the Grid to hide the heterogeneity of computational resources, the new Grid problem is to assemble new services, or even new Grids, quickly, easily and as automatically as possible from diverse resources – the dynamic creation of virtual organisations.
Our vision is of a generically useable e-Research infrastructure, comprised of easily deployed components whose utility transcends their immediate application, providing a high degree of easy-to-use and seamless automation and in which there are flexible collaborations and computations on a global scale.
The key to this is an infrastructure where all resources, including services, are adequately described in a form that is machine-processable, i.e. knowledge is explicit – the goal is semantic interoperability. One way of achieving this is to apply Semantic Web technologies in Grid computing developments, from the machinery of the Grid infrastructure (such as Grid services) up to the Grid applications. It is important to note that the ‘semantics’ permeates the full vertical extent of the Grid and is not just a semantic (or knowledge) layer on top: it is semantics in, on and for the Grid.
We call this vision the Semantic Grid.
To illustrate the symbiosis of these ideas, consider this view of Grid computing (from The Anatomy of the Grid: Enabling Scalable Virtual Organizations” by Foster, Kesselman and Tuecke):
“Grid computing has emerged as an important new field, distinguished from conventional distributed computing by its focus on large-scale resource sharing, innovative applications, and, in some cases, high-performance orientation…we review the “Grid problem”, which we define as flexible, secure, coordinated resource sharing among dynamic collections of individuals, institutions, and resources – what we refer to as virtual organizations.”
alongside this description of the Semantic Web from the W3C Semantic Web Activity Statement (November 2001):
“The Semantic Web is an extension of the current Web in which information is given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation. It is the idea of having data on the Web defined and linked in a way that it can be used for more effective discovery, automation, integration, and reuse across various applications. The Web can reach its full potential if it becomes a place where data can be shared and processed by automated tools as well as by people.
As the Semantic Web is to the Web, so is the Semantic Grid to the Grid. By analogy with the Semantic Web, the Semantic Grid is an extension of the current Grid in which information and services are given well-defined meaning, better enabling computers and people to work in cooperation. Rather than orthogonal activities, we see the emerging Semantic Web infrastructure as an infrastructure for Grid computing, permeating all aspects of the Grid from infrastructure to applications.
The report “Research Agenda for the Semantic Grid: A Future e-Science Infrastructure” (see documents) was written in 2001 for the UK e-Science Programme, as a step towards bridging the practice-aspiration divide. Since then we have organised and facilitated a series of activities to encourage research and development towards the Semantic Grid vision, including the OGF Semantic Grid Research Group and this community portal.
David De Roure