[AG-USERS] What do you want the AG to be?

bernholdtde at ornl.gov bernholdtde at ornl.gov
Wed Aug 6 16:14:09 CDT 2003

On Wed, 06 Aug 2003 11:26:48 -0400  Jennifer Teig von Hoffman wrote:
> Do a lot of people out there use their Gentners to bridge conference
> calls in to the AG these days?

We still use it a lot for participants that don't have AG.  One
project I'm on has weekly AG+telephone meetings.  We've been at this
for two years, and not all sites have AG, and the telephone side also
gives an opportunity for people to call in while on travel.  We
couldn't get rid of it.  We also still use it as a backup pretty often
-- multicast is still pretty fragile.

Overall, I'm on more telecons than I am AG meetings.  The issues are
convenience and availability.  AG sessions have a _lot_ more overhead,
and a good portion of my collaborators don't have easy access to AG

Also, people vary quite a lot in the value they perceive in AG
relative to traditional telecons.  For some, the AV experience of an
AG is much preferred, while for others it adds little.  Combine this
with different levels of importance assigned to the costs or
convenience, and it is really all over the map.

A robust, truely "operatorless" AG environment would help, but that is
not going to be easy.  The first issue is the software itself which is
mostly just a matter of work and testing (but to be clear, there is
quite a long way to go before the AG software environment reaches the
"appliance" level of robustness and reliability that really qualifies
as operatorless).  The second issue is the robustness of the multicast
environment.  It is getting better, but that weekly AG meeting I
mentioned still quite regularly has multicast trouble _somewhere_
among the participants.  If there's a 25% of network trouble with some
of the parties in a given meeting, it requires someone knowledgable to
deal with it -- not operatorless.  Note that in my experience, the
multicast problems are most often at the borders between networks,
like ESnet and I2 -- problems with an all-ESnet meeting are rare in my

I also think that many would perceive easily-deployed and -used PIGs
as a major win for convenience.  How often do you use the phone in
your office for a telecon rather than go to a conference room?  I
encounter cases, not infrequently, where people a couple of rooms
apart dialing in separately from their offices, and where I know a
conference room with a good speakerphone is close by.  They don't have
to make a reservation, or even go somewhere else, etc.  Of course this
goes against the original motivation for the AG, which was to provide
an extensive, immersive environment.

> What sorts of things do you still fly across the country for,
> instead of doin g over the AG? Is it because the other people don't
> have AG nodes, or because t he social factors are different (going out
> to dinner and all), or for other rea sons?

AG meetings are still quite a bit different than face to face
meetings.  I think the biggest thing is that it is a lot harder to
collaborate over data/information using AG than face to face -- the
tools just aren't there.  Sidebar/hallway discussions involving
subsets of people are not not possible in the current AG environment,
but are important and often significant in face to face meetings.
Time zones are an issue for extended meetings.  It used to be that
going somewhere else insulated you from routine interruptions of work,
though that's less true these days with the availability of wireless
at remote sites, and cell phones.

David E. Bernholdt                   |   Email: bernholdtde at ornl.gov 
Oak Ridge National Laboratory        |   Phone: +1 (865) 574 3147    
http://www.csm.ornl.gov/~bernhold/   |   Fax:   +1 (865) 574 0680    

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