Accelerating the scientific exploration process with scientific workflows

Ilkay Altintas, Oscar Barney, Zhengang Cheng, Terence Critchlow, Bertram Ludaescher, Steve Parker, Arie Shoshani, Mladen Vouk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although an increasing amount of middleware has emerged in the last few years to achieve remote data access, distributed job execution, and data management, orchestrating these technologies with minimal overhead still remains a difficult task for scientists. Scientific workflow systems improve this situation by creating interfaces to a variety of technologies and automating the execution and monitoring of the workflows. Workflow systems provide domain-independent customizable interfaces and tools that combine different tools and technologies along with efficient methods for using them. As simulations and experiments move into the petascale regime, the orchestration of long running data and compute intensive tasks is becoming a major requirement for the successful steering and completion of scientific investigations. A scientific workflow is the process of combining data and processes into a configurable, structured set of steps that implement semi-automated computational solutions of a scientific problem. Kepler is a cross-project collaboration, co-founded by the SciDAC Scientific Data Management (SDM) Center, whose purpose is to develop a domain-independent scientific workflow system. It provides a workflow environment in which scientists design and execute scientific workflows by specifying the desired sequence of computational actions and the appropriate data flow, including required data transformations, between these steps. Currently deployed workflows range from local analytical pipelines to distributed, high-performance and high-throughput applications, which can be both data- and compute-intensive. The scientific workflow approach offers a number of advantages over traditional scripting-based approaches, including ease of configuration, improved reusability and maintenance of workflows and components (called actors), automated provenance management, smart re-running of different versions of workflow instances, on-the-fly updateable parameters, monitoring of long running tasks, and support for fault-tolerance and recovery from failures. We present an overview of common scientific workflow requirements and their associated features which are lacking in current state-of-the-art workflow management systems. We then illustrate features of the Kepler workflow system, both from a user's and a workflow engineer's point-of-view. In particular, we highlight the use of some of the current features of Kepler in several scientific applications, as well as upcoming extensions and improvements that are geared specifically for SciDAC user communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number065
Pages (from-to)468-478
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Physics: Conference Series
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 1 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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