the computer, byte by byte
the growing amount of scientific data outpacing the capacity of
supercomputers to process it, researchers need more than just
a bigger calculator; they need a new approach to calculating.
What they're getting is GriPhyN.
(pronounced "griffin") is the Grid Physics Network,
a computer data grid that links existing machines to form one
giant computing and information storage system, providing an alternative
to location-specific supercomputers limited by financial, political,
and technical constraints.
as a Napster for scientists-alluding to the much-ballyhooed data-sharing
network that permits a free exchange of music files over the Internet-the
technology will function much like an electrical power grid, funneling
resources to wherever they are needed at a particular time. Eventually,
the power could be harnessed to make possible major contributions
in other fields, such as the human genome project, the human brain
project, and studies of the environment.
worldwide community of perhaps thousands of physicists want to
be able to have their combined computer, storage, and network
resources used as a single computing engine to solve their problems,"
says Ian Foster, senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory,
professor of computer science at Chicago, and GriPhyN's project
14 universities around the country-led by Chicago and the University
of Florida-the first stage of the project is being funded by an
$11.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Since
the grant covers research and development only, the project is
asking the NSF for an additional $70 million for further research
and necessary equipment purchases.
to launch in 2005, GriPhyN will initially serve four physics projects,
including two that will search for the origin of mass using the
Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, one experiment probing the
gravitational waves of pulsars and supernovae, and the U of C's
Sloan Digital Sky Survey in New Mexico, which is carrying out
a massive automated star-mapping project.-C.S.