EU package puts £7m behind ‘next generation’ web research

The EU has backed development of the Data Grid — billed as the next generation of the worldwide web — with a £7m development grant.

The grid aims to connect scientific research institutions via a high-speed computing network which will be able to cope with far higher levels of data than can be carried on the web.

Modelled on the structure of national electrical power grids, the grid aims to allow users to tap into shared databases up to a petabyte in size — the equivalent in data terms of a pile of CD- Roms a mile high.

The EU Information Society Programme has approved a e9.8m (£7m) three-year funding deal to support the project, which is a joint venture of six main partners led by Geneva-based European Organisation for Nuclear Research. The UK’s Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and the European Space Agency are also partners.

The Grid will initially be used for cutting-edge scientific research requiring massive amounts of computing power.

A key to the new network’s success will be the development of new middleware — software which sits between operating systems and applications enabling collaboration between computers at a more advanced level.

As part of the funding package, the partners have pledged to make middleware developed for the grid available to the wider community, including industry.