Supercomputing gets a Ttrans-Atlantic Boost

January 5, 2006

Brussels, 04 Jan 2006

DEISA, an EU-funded supercomputing infrastructure project, and its US counterpart (TeraGrid) have tied the 'information technology' knot with the aim of putting together a common, scalable, wide-area global file system which brings research communities either side of the Atlantic closer together.

This trans-continental bridging of research communities was showcased at the recent Supercomputing Conference (SC05) in Seattle, USA. Scientists accessing TeraGrid from any of the participating sites in the USA, or DEISA from its sites in France, Germany or Italy, could access, create and use data which would then be stored in a shared filing system. Even power-hungry applications executed at any of the participating sites could access necessary data in the newly created common file address space.

Grid technology harnesses unused processing capacity of computers in a traditional network for tackling heavy applications and solving problems which are too intensive for any stand-alone machine. According to the EU-funded DEISA – Distributed European Infrastructure for Supercomputing Applications – its aim is to use this approach to boost "scientific discovery across a broad spectrum of science and technology by enhancing and reinforcing European capabilities in the area of high-performance computing".

For the recent demonstration in Seattle, the dedicated DEISA and TeraGrid networks were joined up with the help of specialists from the EU-funded Géant (high-speed European communication network for research and education), national research networks from France, Germany and Italy, and others. The link-up is expected to become a permanent one at some stage in the near future, according to a statement by the Finnish IT Centre for Science (CSC), a partner in the European project.

Having a common data repository, linked by IBM's wide-area global file systems (GPFS) and thus quick and easy to use by any of the participating grid points, boosts co-operative scientific work. This is a major plus for researchers who, though working together on a project, may not necessarily be in the same lab, or even country.

Together, we're stronger

The Seattle demonstration showed how supercomputing could help various scientific disciplines. For example, one site carried out a very intensive protein structure calculation and another a power-hungry cosmological simulation. Both then stored their results in the intercontinental global file system, ready for further processing elsewhere by one of the grid access points in Europe or the USA.

Launched in 2004, DEISA is a Research Infrastructure project funded by the EU's Sixth Framework Programme. All major European supercomputing centres are deploying and operating a joint supercomputing infrastructure on top of national services. The DEISA consortium is made up of eleven partners from seven European countries (Finland, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain and the UK).

Like DEISA, TeraGrid is designed to provide the cyber-infrastructure for new scientific and engineering discoveries. It also combines with education and mentoring programmes to connect and broaden scientific communities. The US National Science Foundation funded TeraGrid and its related resources as part of a major research equipment construction project between 2001 and 2004.

During a similar timeframe, and through its Framework Programmes, the EU has earmarked significant funding to improve access to major research infrastructures. It has also backed projects carrying out design studies for the next generation of research infrastructures in diverse fields ranging from nuclear physics to the life sciences and in both the real (i.e. actual research equipment, facilities, etc.) and virtual world (i.e. grid projects).

DG Research
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