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

“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

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,