European grid story begins next chapter

31 Mar 2004

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European plans for grid technology change gear this week when the pioneering European Data Grid (EDG) project hands over to its successor, Enabling Grids for E-Science in Europe (EGEE). Both projects are EU funded.

Geneva-based CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Research, will lead EGEE, as it did EDG. The goal of the latter, which started three years ago, was to build a test computing infrastructure capable of providing shared data and computing resources across the European scientific community. The budget for the project was around €10m and 21 partner institutes and organisations across Europe including scientific institutes and industrial partners have been involved.

After a major software development effort involving seven major software releases over three years, the final version of EDG software is already in use in three major scientific fields: high energy physics, biomedical applications and earth observations. In the first of these areas, EDG software is the basis of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) computing grid infrastructure, which relies on grid technology to store and analyse petabytes of real and simulated data from experiments at CERN’s LHC.

The software is also exploited by ten biomedical applications and five earth observation institutes. At peak performance, the EDG test bed shared more than 1,000 computers and more than 15 terabytes (1 terabyte = 10 to the power of 12 bytes) of data at 25 sites across Europe, Russia and Taiwan.

Grid resources were continuously provided to a user community numbering 500 scientists, organised in 12 virtual organisations. Recently, the EDG software has been approved by the Open Source Initiative Corporation, which makes it an internationally recognised open source licence.

In line with EU advice to capitalise as extensively as possible on the experience and achievements of the EDG project, many of its products and the infrastructure will form the starting point for the new EGEE project, which officially kicks off tomorrow.

EGEE will take grid technology to the next level by establishing a service grid infrastructure that is continuously available across Europe. The project consists of 70 industry and university partner organisations across Europe including Trinity College Dublin.

The EGEE will primarily concentrate on three core areas: building a consistent, robust and secure grid network; continuously improving and maintaining the middleware in order to deliver a reliable service to users; and attracting new users from industry as well as science and ensure they receive the high standard of training and support they need.

The grid will be built on the EU Research Network Geant and will exploit grid expertise generated by many EU, national and international grid projects to date.

Fabrizio Gagliardi, project director of EGEE, said: “Whereas EDG provided European scientists with the first convincing large-scale demonstrations of a functioning data grid, EGEE will make the technology available on a regular and reliable basis to all of European science, as well as industrial research and development. Like the world wide web, which was initially conceived at CERN for rather specialised scientific purposes, the impact of this emerging grid technology on European society is difficult to predict in detail at this stage, but it is likely to be huge.”

EGEE is a two-year project conceived as part of a four-year programme, where the results of the first two years will provide the basis for assessing subsequent objectives and funding needs.

By Brian Skelly