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March 22, 2001

Victoria Kushnir

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA

(Phone: 650/604-0176 or 650/604-9000)

Release: 01-17AR


A new "traffic light" for computers, originally developed by NASA scientists, offers the potential to increase their speed and efficiency by prioritizing computer programs.

Known as the Portable Batch System (PBS), the software enables system administrators to specify the order in which individual programs should be processed. The Information Power Grid (IPG) program, led by NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, is collaborating with Veridian Systems, Inc. to enhance this unique computer batch processing system.

"When you start a computer program, it competes with all other programs running in your system for resources such as memory," said David Tweten, former project lead for PBS at Ames. "This often makes your computer slow and inefficient. The Portable Batch System, by contrast,, prioritizes the programs and keeps them from starting until the resources they need become available."

The highlight of the software is its flexibility. "The system administrator can use various categories to prioritize the programs and express any batch processing policy he or she wants," explained Tweten. In addition, PBS operates in multi-platform UNIX environments, allowing all systems, regardless of size or configuration, to utilize this software.

"PBS was originally designed by NASA because existing resource management systems were inadequate for modern parallel/distributed computers and clusters," said James Patton Jones, business director for Veridian’s PBS products department. "It takes a new approach to resource management and job scheduling, such as the extraction of scheduling policy into a single separable, completely customizable module. The new commercial version includes many new features, as well as greatly improved support for workstation clusters."

The Veridian PBS products department developed the original version of PBS for NASA and received permission from NASA Ames to assert copyright several years ago. Last year, Veridian released an enhanced commercial version of the software called PBS Pro. Ames’ IPG team and Veridian now are collaborating in the area of computational grid technology and trying to identify and implement additional computational grid features in PBS Pro.

In addition to working with IPG, Veridian is expanding the use of the commercial version of PBS with new features and enhancements, including versions for Windows 2000 and Mac OS/X; a new web-based user interface; and providing tighter integration with various other computer systems.

This successful transfer of PBS software demonstrates how NASA's Commercial Technology Offices pursue their mission to maximize NASA's research efforts. NASA reaches out to the business community in a way that leverages the agency's resources with those of the private sector. The objective is to stimulate job growth and increase the competitiveness of American products in the global marketplace.

"It becomes very evident to the American taxpayer that their investment is paying off when products like PBS are spun out and become commercially viable, solving a real need, " said David Lackner of the Ames Commercial Technology Office,


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