Using Access Grid at WestGrid

Access Grid (AG) is one of the most widely used technologies for collaborative computing in the scientific community. It has been installed at hundreds of academic institutions world wide and has become a de facto standard for collaboration among the grid computing community. The AG toolkit has grown out of a long-term research effort out of Argonne National lab in the US. The goal of AG is not to provide yet another videoconferencing system, but to explore advanced collaboration environments that take advantage of current and emerging technologies. Its goal is to incorporate high resolution displays, sophisticated audio systems, high resolution video, and advanced visualization into a single seamless collaboration environment.

WestGrid has chosen AG as a technology foundation for a number of reasons:

  • Because of the AG's relatively wide acceptance in the grid computing community, it provides a mechanism for WestGrid researchers to collaborate with other computational researchers around the world.
  • AG technologies, although still a research project, provide a robust set of tools to perform advanced collaboration. These tools are available on a wide scale of technologies, from room sized collaboration environments through to the desktop or laptop.
  • By using AG technologies as a driver for the design of advanced collaboration labs at each of the WestGrid sites, WestGrid has a set of advanced meeting rooms that can be used with other collaboration technologies with little or no effort. Most of the WestGrid collaboration facilities integrate H323 and/or VRVS collaboration technologies into their rooms.
  • Because of its status as both an active research project and as an open source software project, the AG toolkit is an ideal base for a research program into advanced collaboration and visualization environments.

The remainder of this page contains information on the usage of AG, both in general and in the specific context of WestGrid.

Access Grid Usage

There are a wide number of resources that are available for providing help on building, installing, and using AG. A fairly complete list of these resources can be found at the WestGrid Collaboration Links page. In addition, WestGrid has developed a set of WestGrid specific documentation for helping WestGrid users to install and use the AG technologies effectively. These documents can be found on the WestGrid HowTo page.

WestGrid Venue Server

WestGrid operates its own AG VenueServer. This allows us to provide our own set of virtual meeting venues to the WestGrid Community. The Venue Server can be found at venueserver.westgrid.ca and can be accessed through the AG 3.x VenueClient application by pointing the VenueClient at the following URL: https://venueserver.westgrid.ca:8000/Venues/default

The WestGrid VenueServer consists of a set of lobbies, each containing a set of meeting rooms or other lobbies. In the AG world, lobbies are virtual meeting spaces where people go to "hangout". That is, these are social spaces where you may find AG users leaving their AG nodes attached to facilitate those "watercooler" type discussions that we have so often in our physical office environment.

The main social meeting venue on the WestGrid VenueServer is the main WestGrid Lobby. This is the venue that you enter when you connect to the venue server and is where you are most likely to find your colleagues "hanging around". The Main Lobby contains a set of functional areas that contain meeting venues that are specific to various WestGrid activities: general meetings, operations groups, and research groups. The general meeting area contains a set of meeting rooms that are available for general use. The operations area contains meeting rooms that are specific to WestGrid operations, including meeting rooms for committees, administration, and technical support. The research area contains meeting rooms that are specific to research projects within WestGrid. If you are interested in creating a meeting room for your project please contact the Collab/Viz Technician to arrange the details.