CERN puts finishing touches on the Grid

After fathering the Web nearly 20 years ago, CERN is back in action with a new type of computer network. Dubbed the Grid, this network is intended to help make the tremendous amounts of data that will soon start pumping out of the Large Hadron Collider available to the 7,000 researchers working on the project worldwide. As MSNBC reports, LHC experiments will generate hundreds of megabytes of data every second, which should add up to 15 petabytes of data—that's 15 million gigabytes—each year. Scientists around the globe accessing that data are expected to suck up as much as 1.6GB/s of bandwidth.

To provide the necessary bandwidth and processing capabilities for this endeavor, the Grid will rely on a network that will draw both storage space and processing power from linked computers. Quoting Francois Grey of CERN's Computing Center, MSNBC says the Grid will be structured like a pyramid "so that Tier 1 computers feed the data to more than 50 Tier 2 computers in various regions . . . Those computers, in turn, distribute the data to the home institutions for all of the 7,000-plus collaborators in the LHC experiments."

Unsurprisingly, some organizations plan to use Grid technology for applications unrelated to the LHC. Among them are the Open Science Grid and Enabling Grids for E-sciencE initiatives, but MSNBC says Francois Grey "foresees a day when climate modelers, genetics researchers, oil and gas prospectors and others who have to deal with large, dynamic data sets will get into Grids as well." According to Grey, Grid services will work behind the scenes for Web services that rely on them.

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