Ronald F. Boisvert, ACMD
A wealth of reusable software is currently available to scientists and engineers for solving recurring mathematical and statistical problems. As complex high performance computers become more widely available it becomes even more important that high-quality software be reused. Unfortunately, the volume of this software and its distribution over labyrinthine computer networks has made it difficult for the average user to locate appropriate tools. The Guide to Available Mathematical Software (GAMS) project develops techniques and tools to help scientists and engineers locate and use such software. Products of this work include a taxonomy of mathematical and statistical problems, a database of information about available software, and information systems which give users access to it.
The GAMS system serves as both a cross-index and a virtual repository for mathematical software. As a cross-index it currently provides information about some 9800 software modules from about 85 packages available from four repositories, including netlib. This information is indexed using the GAMS Classification System, which has become a de facto standard for classifying mathematical software, having been adopted by many commercial software vendors and scientific computing installations worldwide. GAMS also provides centralized access to such items as abstracts, documentation, and source code of software that it catalogs; however, rather than operate a physical repository of its own, GAMS provides transparent access to multiple Internet-accessible repositories operated by others. We use the term virtual repository to describe such systems.
This year we have concentrated our efforts of developing a stable and useful GAMS service on the World Wide Web. We now support the following tools and services :
These services are provided on the host gams.nist.gov, a Sun SPARC 10 workstation with 96 Mbytes of main memory and a 1 Gbyte hard disk, purchased in 1993 with a Department of Commerce Pioneer Fund grant.
The GAMS system was made available to the public in March 1994, and the system was accessed 48,741 times in its first 12 months of operation. Figure 17 shows the number of users each month, measured as the number of WWW home page retrievals plus native GAMS client registration transactions. In early 1995 the GAMS http server, processing more than 70,000 transactions per month, accounted for more than half of all http traffic into NIST. The breakdown of GAMS users by Internet domain for February 1995 was 38% foreign, 28% educational, 13% commercial, 5% government and military, 3% NIST, 14% other (including unidentified).
Figure 17: Number of GAMS Users Per Month (1994-95)
Some milestones in the public awareness of GAMS were :
GAMS provides a significant point-of-contact between CAML and US commercial enterprises. It was accessed from 953 such sites from January 1994 through February 1995 (identified by distinct subdomains of the .com Internet domain who made GAMS server or http server requests). Of these, 764 searched the GAMS database, and 267 downloaded software components. In some cases commercial WWW service providers have provided explicit links to GAMS in their servers. Among these are
The development of GAMS occurred as a natural byproduct of CAML's charter to provide consulting services to NIST staff. The system is unique in its focus on providing classification technology and detailed cross-package indexing of software components, both public domain and commercial. As such, it represents technology that commercial software vendors have been reluctant to provide. It also serves as a example of a demonstrably useful application of the emerging National Information Infrastructure. We expect that providing services such as GAMS will someday represent a viable commercial activity.
GAMS also receives partial support from the Federal High Performance Computing and Communications (HPCC) program. xgams was featured in a graphics montage on the cover of the 1994 HPCC ``Blue Book'', and was described in a report submitted as a supplement to testimony before the Science Subcommittee of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. As part of the HPCC effort, we are cooperating with a project of the NSF Center for Research in Parallel Computing (CRPC) on the development of a National HPCC Software Exchange, and related technology. (This is described in a separate project summary.)
The following CAML staff participate in the GAMS project : Marjorie McClain, Bruce Miller, Jeanne Springmann (SCED), and Michael Strawbridge (SCED).