Grid computing gets NSF grant boost

Grid computing?a form of next-generation high-performance computing?is getting a boost in the United States and in Britain through recently announced grants.

The National Science Foundation this month said it would award $150 million over five years to expand the Extensible Terascale Facility, also known as the TeraGrid, a form of grid computing.

The TeraGrid, under development since 2001, is billed as the world's largest and most comprehensive distributed computing infrastructure, also known as grid computing, which creates virtual supercomputers by linking numerous desktops. The TeraGrid is used primarily for research and education.

Smaller grid computer applications also are available to federal government agencies, industry and business from Sun Microsystems Inc. and IBM Corp., among others.

"TeraGrid unites the science and engineering community so that larger, more complex scientific questions can be answered," NSF Director Arden L. Bement Jr. said in a news release. "Solving these larger challenges will, in turn, motivate the development of the next generation of cyberinfrastructure. This is a win-win situation consistent with NSF's mission to keep science and engineering at the frontier," Bement said.

The TeraGrid currently is being used for research on topics that include earthquakes, decoded genomes, brain chemistry, disease diagnosis and weather forecasting. The grants are intended to expand access to the TeraGrid via web portals and desktop applications.

The NSF grants include $48 million for the University of Chicago and $100 million for TeraGrid resources at eight additional sites.

Separately, Britain's Department of Trade and Industry launched a $1.8 million task force to promote the commercial potential of grid computing. The task force, named IECnet, is a collaboration between the National e-Science Center in Edinburgh and Intellect, a private organization.

The task force has set up a Web site ( to promote the use of grid computing technologies for improving return on assets, achieving increased scalability and enabling greater flexibility and complexity.

"There is huge potential for the exploitation of grid within the U.K.," said Ian Osborne, Intellect IECnet manager, in a news release. "Not only will Grid enable us to strengthen our position as a global services provider, it will facilitate the development of new delivery mechanisms for existing services. Reaching out and educating CIOs of possible Grid applications and business benefits to be reaped will be a primary objective of IECnet."

The U.K. government has invested $452 million in the e-Science research program. IECnet is funded by the DTI and is governed by an advisory council with members from all parts of the industry.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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