Today’s most ambitious scientific quests – from the cosmic radiation measurements by the South Pole Telescope to the particle physics of CERN – are multi-institutional research collaborations requiring computing environments that connect instrumentation, data, and computational resources. Because of the scale of the data and the complexity of this science, these resources are often distributed among university research computing centers, national high-performance computing centers, or commercial cloud providers. This resource heterogeneity causes scientists to spend more time on the technical aspects of computation than on discoveries and knowledge creation, while computing support staff are required to invest more effort integrating domain specific software with limited applicability beyond the community served.

“Services Layer At The Edge (SLATE) and the Mobility of Capability”, a project funded by the National Science Foundation in 2017, aims to address these challenges. A team from the Enrico Fermi and Computation Institutes at University of Chicago, the Center for Network and Storage-Enabled Collaborative Computational Science at the University of Michigan, and the Center for High Performance Computing at the University of Utah, working with the national advanced cyberinfrastructure community will foster technology that simplifies connecting university and laboratory data center capabilities to the national cyberinfrastructure ecosystem.

Once installed, SLATE connects local research groups with their far-flung collaborators, allowing central research teams to automate the exchange of data, software and computing tasks among institutions without burdening local system administrators with installation and operation of highly customized scientific computing services. By stitching together these resources, SLATE will also expand the reach of domain-specific “science gateways” and multi-site research platforms.

SLATE will implement “cyberinfrastructure as code”, augmenting high bandwidth science networks with a programmable “underlayment” edge platform. This platform hosts advanced services needed for higher-level capabilities such as data and software delivery, workflow services and science gateway components.

SLATE will use best-of-breed data center virtualization components, and where available, software defined networking, to enable automation of lifecycle management tasks by domain experts. As such, it simplifies the creation of scalable platforms that connect research teams, institutions and resources, accelerating science while reducing operational costs and development time. Since SLATE needs only commodity components, it can be used for distributed systems across all data center types and scales, thus enabling creation of ubiquitous, science-driven cyberinfrastructure.