Grid aims at heart of the matter

The UK’s Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council today announced £16 million in funding to create a massive computing Grid, equivalent to the world’s second largest supercomputer.

The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) has today announced £16 million to create a massive computing Grid, equivalent to the world’s second largest supercomputer after Japan’s Earth Simulator computer.

The Grid, dubbed GridPP2, will eventually form part of a larger European Grid that will be used to process data from CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory, when its new facility, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), comes online in 2007. The LHC, a particle accelerator that will probe the nature of matter, is expected to generate data at a rate equivalent to 20 million CDs a year.

‘The GridPP2 Grid will address the future computing requirements of all the UK Particle Physics Experiments and should provide efficient sharing of resources between Particle Physics and other disciplines at the institutes.’ said Steve Lloyd, GridPP Collaboration Board Chair.

Grid computing shares the resources of connected computers. By connecting large numbers of computers together, particle physicists are able to run simulations and analysis in a fraction of the time it would take to run on a single machine. Such work can also be done on supercomputers, but as these are custom built they are expensive and in high demand. The benefit of Grid computing is that it is constructed from cheap units and can be expanded or reduced to fit the users’ needs.

Dr Neil Geddes, PPARC’s Director of E-Science commented ‘Today’s money will be used to create a grid equivalent to 20,000 1GHz personal computers. This is the largest in the world to be funded so far.’ For the past year, GridPP have been running a prototype grid or ‘testbed’ across ten UK sites. From this they have developed the middleware needed for a larger Grid.

‘GridPP2 will test new Grid computing technologies on a scale that we could have barely considered two years ago.’ said Tony Doyle, the GridPP Project Leader ‘The Grid deployed in phase 1 taught us about the importance of a series of testbeds where the software is incrementally integrated and tested within an annual deployment lifecycle.

‘Running a stable large-scale grid service will be a major challenge and for this reason a key component of GridPP2 will be the establishment a core production team at the heart of deployment.’

GridPP’s testbed was incorporated into the LHC Computing Grid in September 2003, which was the first time a production grid was deployed worldwide. GridPP is also working with projects such as the EU-funded Enabling Grids for E-Science in Europe (EGEE) which will integrate current national, regional and thematic Grid efforts to create a seamless European Grid infrastructure for the support of the European Research Area.

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