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The Scoop on Gelato: Intel & Free Standards Group to Join

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  • July 15, 2004
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

The Gelato Federation, an industry consortium dedicated to advancing Itanium, is looking at adding about a dozen new member organizations by the end of this year, including Intel and the Free Standards Group. Meanwhile, in one of Gelato's open source projects, members are producing an IA-64 version of Eclipse, said Mark K. Smith, Ph.D, managing director of the federation.

Housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Gelato was established early in 2002, spearheaded by Hewlett-Packard as founding sponsor and seven founding members from around the globe.

"Gelato was kind of HP's brainchild. Yet we are an independent group, and we're now in the process of recruiting more funders," noted Smith, who first came to Gelato later in 2002, after initial organizational underpinnings had been set.

Also at the moment, the consortium has 28 "member institutions," cutting across categories that include supercomputing centers, application research, universities, and national labs.

In the future, though, the group wants to grow further, adding representation from customer organizations and even a standards group, for instance, Smith said in an interview.

The Free Standards Group, an organization overseeing the Linux Standard Base (LSB) specification, and Intel are both slated to join up over the next few months.

The immiment entrance of Intel to Gelato coincides with a time when Itanium is starting "to blossom from high performance computing into the enterprise space," according to Smith, who holds a Ph.D in engineering and an MBA, both from the University of Illinois. Before arriving at Gelato, Smith worked for several small software vendors.

"We're want to bring the Free Standards Group on board because we think standardization of the Linux platform is particularly important," added Gelato's managing director.

"It's part of our charter to help facilitate the software infrastructure on Linux. Linux becomes much more useful when software tools can be used across distributions."

Tools now being used in Gelato projects run on a variety of distributions. "Most are on Red Hat, SuSE, and Debian, but there's been some interest in the White Box distribution, too," said Smith.

Also in compliance with its charter, Gelato runs an open source initiative with projects in six different technical areas: compilers; parallel file systems; performance monitoring in a box; performance monitoring in a cluster; scalabiity in a box; and scalability in a cluster.

Within these six areas, Gelato member institutions and other members of the open source community are creating ways to apply emerging Itanium technologies to atmospheric sciences, bioinfomatics, and high-energy physics.

Why is Gelato pondering the possibility of adding customer organizations to its membership rolls? "This is due largely to the visits we're seeing to our Web site," according to Smith.

"In looking at our Web statistics, we're noticing a core research community, surrounded by a user community. You can kind of envision this as two concentric circles. As near as I can tell from the statistics, the users visiting the site are individuals who are strongly involved with or interested in the Itanium platform."

Each of Gelato's member institutions has one seat on the federation's Strategy Council, which is currently reviewing about five membership applications. Beyond that, about four or five other organizations are expected to join soon.

"In the application process, you tell us want you want to do, whether this is going to be software research or application porting, for instance," Smith elaborated.

"We're a mature organization now, and our job is to dig down deep. At the same time, there's a 'fun' and 'family' feel to Gelato. I try to encourage dialog and collaboration between different member institutions. Often, though, I'll find out that two groups have been talking, when I've had absolutely nothing to do with it. I live to see the day when even more of that happens!"

Gelato holds meetings every six months. At the most recent meeting, the largest to date, 90 representatives from Gelato's member institutions converged at the University of Illinois for two-and-a-half days in June. The event featured 28 scientific presentations by users of Linux on Itanium, plus a full day of meetings for Gelato's technology focus groups.

In one presentation, for example, the Bioinformatics Institute of Singapore talked about use of its Itanium 2 system in applications such as molecular dynamics simuations, cell signaling, and biological network models for signal transduction pathways.

In another, Paciric Nortwest National Laboratory gave an update on its deployment of the 54TB Lustre file sysem on an HP Integrity rx600 Itanium 2 cluster.

Gelato also plans to be on hand at several upcoming industry trade shows, including LinuxWorld San Francisco in August and Supercomputing 2004, a conference taking place in Pittsburg, PA in November.

Aside from HP, the founding sponsor, Gelato's other founding members include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA; Bioinfomatics Institute, Singapore; National Center for Supercomputing Applications, USA; French Engineering College of Electronics and Electrotechnology, France; University of Waterloo, Canada; Tsinghua University, China; and University of New South Wales, Australia.

Smith estimated that, by the end of this year, Gelato will have expanded to around 40 member institutions.

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