Castilla-La Mancha University (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN12 Proceedings
Publication year: 2012
Pages: 6930-6937
ISBN: 978-84-695-3491-5
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 4th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 2-4 July, 2012
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Grids are highly distributed and heterogeneous systems based on world-wide resource sharing. They may entail several institutions and organizations sharing their resources with the aim of obtaining a greater computational power. However, their implantation costs are high as well as the experience needed for their maintenance. Those facts make Grids unfeasible in educational contexts whose objective is just play with certain functionalities since they may have repercussions in the performance provided by the Grid infrastructure. On the other hand, building a Grid infrastructure for didactic usage is also unfeasible due to its high installation and maintenance costs.

Many Universities have their own Grid or access to an external one to make research and intensive computation. However, they are not usually available for educational objectives. Consequently, student knowledge of this technology is limited to theoretical concepts or, in the best scenario, to limited executions and monitoring commands in order to just see its functionality.

As a result of that, several low cost solutions emerged to try to introduce students in the usage of Grid infrastructures. One of those solutions is the use of simulators. However, the dynamism of Grid environments is hardly modelizable. Moreover, the use of Grid infrastructures with didactic aims should include the management of those environments, setting different configurations and/or functionalities, submitting different kinds of jobs (simple jobs, parallel jobs, workflows, etc.), monitoring them, etc. But these types of functionalities are not usually provided by simulators.

This article proposes the use of virtualization as a possible solution to create a functional Grid, which can be used on a single computer, avoiding the economic and management requirements of a real Grid. This virtual infrastructure supposes a portable tool, that students may use from his home computer – without any strong hardware requirement. The main objective of this framework is to introduce students in Grid technology from a practical point of view, letting them interact with a real-appearance Grid, giving them the education and basic experience required to work in real Grid environments. So, its main advantage is its full availability for making any kind of experiment, like submitting different types of jobs, modifying configuration parameters, testing new scheduling algorithms, developing distributed applications, and so forth.

Regarding research fields, the virtual infrastructure perfectly matches as a basic point to test new developments. Another advantage over real infrastructures is that the virtual one allows users to debug distributed software in a controlled manner before moving in to real production Grid environments.

The educational experience obtained with this tool was really successful in both courses and seminars whose objectives were to introduce the management, configuration and use of Grid systems. This tool helps the students to understand the basic fundamentals, as well as other more advanced skills, of Grid technology. In the same way, it allows to cover a wide range of curricular levels.
Grid, Virtualization.