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>>Changing the computer, byte by byte

image: Campus NewsWith 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.

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.

Billed 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.

"A 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 co-leader.

Involving 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.

Scheduled 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.


  FEBRUARY 2001

  > > Volume 93, Number 3


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