and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Friday said they have accelerated a previous plan to build grid computing
systems for scientific research. Specifically, the DOE’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) and the
Armonk, N.Y. firm have two IBM supercomputers and one storage repository ready this year — before the original target year of 2004.
Ultimately, Big Blue and NERSC hope to see the venture blossom into a system capable of processing more than ten trillion
calculations per second and up to and a tremendous amount of storing capability. Another academic endeavor, the idea is for the
system to provide ultra-fast access to copious amounts of data stored at national labs around the country. The parties say the
systems will help in sweeping research projects such as global warming, genomic and astrophysics.
Grids allow geographically disparate organizations to share applications, data and computing resources. In this case, the DOE
Science Grid’s goal is to enhance the ability of DOE scientists to accurately chart physical realms and geographies through
simulations done with the help of the massive computing networks, or grid.
NERSC has been operating a 3,328-processor IBM supercomputer, currently the third most powerful computer on earth, according to the
TOP500 List of Supercomputers. To bolster the IBM system, grid software will be integrated into NERSC’s HPSS (High Performance
Storage System) archival data storage system, which has a capacity of 1.3 petabytes and is managed using IBM servers.
IBM and NERSC hope future grids housed at research labs in Lawrence, Berkeley, Argonne, Oak Ridge and the Pacific Northwest
to be connected to the DOE Science Grid.
Horst Simon, director of the NERSC Division, compared the DOE Science Grid’s capability to forge a uniform computing and data
handling environment to the way the Web has been used to integrate online documents into scientists’ research environments.
“The DOE Science Grid is a template for the kind of system that can enable partnerships between public institutions and private
companies aimed at creating new products and technologies for business,” said Val Rahmani, general manager, IBM eServer, pSeries.
“This collaboration between IBM and NERSC is a big step forward in realizing Grid’s promise of delivering
computing resources as a utility-like service.”
To be sure, IBM has of late paid more attention to the way grid computing may be used for business as opposed to scientific
research. On Feb. 20, the tech giant announced its Open Grid Services Architecture plan to allow businesses to share applications
and computing resources over the Internet. In conjunction with the academic group Globus, IBM
wants to move grid computing beyond scientific and technical applications to real business applications.
The move was saluted by Gartner Group analyst Robert Batchelder, who covers market strategies for the research firm.
“With its Open Grid Services Architecture, IBM became the first vendor to take a comprehensive view and attempt to rationalize
disparate, yet related, requirements into a coherent computing landscape. The company’s move is insightful because the future
networks share common problems,” Batchelder wrote in a research note. “Grid computing pays substantial benefits for life science and
financial service companies, and the breadth of applications that can use this architecture grows steadily. Enterprises can benefit
from grid computing by deferring incremental hardware purchases or accelerating computer-bound processes. Gartner recommends that
enterprises with sizeable desktop computing environments explore the potential of this promising distributed-computing technology.”
IBM, DOE Accelerate Grid Computing Plan