ESnet Plays Key Role in International Effort of Building Trust on Grids

January 20, 2006

When the International Grid Trust Federation (IGTF) was established in October 2005 during the 15th Global Grid Forum (GGF) in Boston, much of the groundwork for the project had been laid by ESnet over the past three years. With the establishment of the ITGF, users of Grid computing worldwide took a step closer to accessing computers and information in 50 countries in Asia, the Americas and Europe. The IGTF brings together Grid organizations representing Asia, the Americas and Europe that are working towards allowing scientific researchers to identify themselves to any Grid resource in the world with just a single online identity.

IGTF's members issue electronic certificates that allow scientists to use the Grid. The Grids protected by IGTF certificates include over 40,000 computer processors and petabytes of storage — equivalent to over one million DVDs. Making sure the owners of Grids trust each other's security procedures is key to letting researchers access all these resources. The IGTF is operated by ESnet.

“By establishing IGTF, we are seeing the fruition of the first steps ESnet and the European Grid took back in February 2002, when a researcher at Fermilab used an authenticating certificate created by ESnet to successfully transfer files to Imperial College and Lancaster University in the UK,” said ESnet’s Tony Genovese. “We did this as part of the pilot for the Particle Physics Data Grid. Once the British sites and Fermilab recognized and accepted each other’s certificates, the data transfer went smoothly. With last week’s decision, we now have a global trust architecture.”

The IGTF brings Grid-oriented organizations around the globe much closer to realizing the promise of Grids. Grids aim to harness the power of geographically dispersed computing resources, experimental facilities and research centers. Grid developers’ goal is to provide seamless access to all the resources available. However, at present there are many independently operated Grids, spread throughout the world, and users able to work on one can’t necessarily gain access to the others.

Fundamental to user access is user authentication — making sure that only those users who have the proper credentials are granted access to the resources. While this can be a significant challenge within a Grid, achieving agreement on how to provide this level of authentication between Grids has been an even bigger challenge. That’s where the IGTF takes center stage. With the establishing of the IGTF, the foundation is laid for building a trusted basis for identity management, and a further step is taken towards global interoperability for scientific grids.

The IGTF is a federation of certification authorities or Grid policy management authorities (Grid PMAs), and the major Grid infrastructure projects that together define the policies and standards for Grid identity management. Comprising the three regional Grid policy management bodies, the Asia Pacific Grid PMA (APGridPMA), the European Policy Management Authority for Grid Authentication in e-Science (EUGridPMA) and the Americas GridPMA (TAGPMA), the federation today has 61 members and covers 50 countries and regions.