Budding computer experts from around the world will this week begin their own tests of the latest software developed by the European DataGrid 1 Project. Students attending the 2002 CERN2 School of Computing in Vico Equense, Italy, will be submitting jobs that can run anywhere on the Project's current Grid, which is based at 10 computer centres throughout Europe. This is the first in a series of important tests using software from the DataGrid Project that will take place throughout the autumn and which will include connections across the Atlantic.
"There has been a great deal of hype about the Grid over the past year, but precious few examples of people actually using a Grid. These computer science students - some of the brightest in Europe - are the perfect test drivers for our European computer Grid. They will push it to the limit - and beyond!" says Fabrizio Gagliardi, Director of the School and manager of the DataGrid Project.
The concept of Grids of geographically distributed computers is under development around the world as the biggest breakthrough in computer networking technology since the World Wide Web, which was developed at CERN. While the Web allows the rapid transfer of previously prepared information, the aim of the Grid will be to search out and use vast amounts of computing power across an interconnected worldwide network of tens of thousands of computers and storage devices. There is great potential for data analysis and problem solving in a range of scientific applications, from particle physics through earth observation to bio-medicine.
The European DataGrid Project, now in its second year, is a collaboration between research organisations across Europe led by CERN. Its aim is to push beyond research and development and to produce an operational Grid that can be used for a variety of scientific problems. The resources gathered together by the Grid will be made available transparently to a widespread community through layers of new "middleware" Ð the software "switchyard" that in effect sits invisibly between the users with their applications and the widespread computer operating systems.
"The DataGrid project is much more than just communicating between isolated PCs - the sort of peer-to-peer networks that are common today. The objective is to link together in a seamless fashion clusters of computers - known as farms - at major computer centres around the continent. The sort of computing power that can be harnessed by such a Grid will be truly phenomenal - outstripping even the largest stand-alone supercomputers," says Bob Jones, technical coordinator of the DataGrid Project.
The project officially released its latest middleware earlier this month, and it is this new release of software that the students are testing at the CERN School of Computing. The students will learn about the issues of authentication, authorization, resource access, resource discovery, and other challenges that Grid technologies must solve. In hands-on sessions they will gain practical experience, which will include the opportunity to submit jobs to solve physics problems using the test-bed of computers around Europe, already established by the DataGrid Project. The new release of middleware will connect their jobs to the most appropriate resources in the test-bed's Grid.
The new software is also being evaluated by particle physicists and computer scientists in several countries participating in the European DataGrid Project. There is particular interest from the collaborations preparing experiments for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), due to start up at CERN in 2007. "This release represents an essential step in the development and implementation of the world-wide computing model necessary to deal with the unprecedented avalanche of data that will be produced when the LHC begins", says Frank Harris, who is coordinating the activities of the LHC experiments in evaluating the DataGrid software.
The dissemination of information and experience is a major activity in the DataGrid project, with a strong emphasis on ensuring that the middleware created is made available to industry, potential partners and research areas. During the autumn the DataGrid's new release of middleware will be demonstrated at further events in different countries in Europe. These will include a transatlantic demonstration at the IST 2002 Conference in Copenhagen and the first two venues of a "road-show" to show the use of middleware.
15-28 September 2002 Vico Equense, Italy. 2002 CERN School of Computing. Students will use the new release of middleware to submit jobs on the Grid.
11-13 November 2002 Brussels, Belgium. European Research 2002. Conference to mark launch of the EU's Sixth Framework Programme for research.
24-26 September 2002 Amsterdam, the Netherlands. iGRID 2002 conference focusing on e-science, Grid and Virtual Laboratory applications.
16-22 November 2002 Baltimore, USA. Super Computing 2002, featuring a transatlantic demonstration by the Intergrid Demonstration Project.
3-4 October 2002 CERN, Geneva, Switzerland. Road-show tutorial. This will show users how to implement their scientific applications on the Grid.
2-4 December 2002 National e-Science Centre, Edinburgh, UK. Road-show tutorial. This will show users how to implement their scientific applications on the Grid.
4-6 November 2002 Copenhagen, Denmark. IST 2002 conference. "Partnerships for the Future". This will feature a transatlantic demonstration by the Intergrid Demonstration Project, a joint project between GriPhyN-iVDGL-PPDG (Trillium), DataTAG and the EU DataGrid Project.