Warwick University is playing an important part in the development of the "Grid" that will allow users to share remotely the computing power of their machines.
The research will be boosted by last week's donation from IBM of its new S/390 computer and software worth £2 million to the university's £10 million computer science building.
Graham Nudd, chairman of Warwick's computer science department, said the donation and the $1 million (Pounds 685,000) in funding won from Nasa, the United States Navy and Darpa, the US military agency that started the internet, would put the university at the forefront of the Grid's development.
Allowing users to share computing power would be important to researchers, said Professor Nudd. The Grid promised to do for computation what the internet has done for distributing data.
Warwick will also set up the first "hub" in a network being created by IBM for the European academic community.
Nicholas Donofrio, IBM's technology and manufacturing senior vice-president, said the Grid will provide access to learning resources and allow the development of research without the cost of a skills and support structure.
Professor Nudd said the S/390 enterprise server, which runs the Linux operating system, would be key to the hub as it allows tens of thousands of users to use it as an independent machine.
Mr Donofrio said IBM was using Linux and working with universities to make mainframe skills more attractive to students.
IBM will instal two Linux clusters at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign next month, creating the world's fastest Linux supercomputer in academia. The clusters will be used to study some of the most fundamental questions of science.