e-Infrastructure - Grid initiatives A grid to power science
Searching for cures for disease, analysing the Earth’s atmosphere or testing theories about nuclear fusion require massive amounts of computing power. European researchers are providing it.
The EGEE-II project has expanded an international computer network to provide scientists from across Europe and the world with the processing power they need to run complex calculations, trials and simulations.
The applications currently being run on the system are designed, among other things, to help fight disease, develop new sources of energy, fight climate change, predict volcanic eruptions and gain a better understanding of the universe.
The infrastructure builds on the grid technologies deployed in the EGEE (Enabling Grids for E-sciencE) project, which started in 2004.
More computers, more power
By harnessing the resources of numerous, dispersed computers to analyse data, grid systems are able to perform calculations that would be too complex and time-consuming for a single machine or group of machines to manage alone.
In the wake of the network expansion carried out in EGEE-II between 2006 and 2008, the EGEE infrastructure now consists of over 50,000 computers maintained by more than 250 organisations in 45 countries worldwide. Their vast processing power and storage capacity is available to scientists around the clock.
100,000 tasks at a time
The EGEE grid is capable of processing 100,000 tasks at the same time and storing 5 million gigabytes of data – more than 41,000 times the storage capacity of the 120-gigabyte hard drives commonly found in personal computers.
This enormous amount of computing power and storage capacity not only lets scientists run calculations more quickly and effectively, but it also allows them to perform experiments that would be impossible to recreate in nature.
The grid infrastructure assists, for example, in the search for drugs to fight mutations of deadly diseases and to predict the effects of climate change.
Developing drugs, studying space and analysing genes
For another project, SPLATCHE, the infrastructure has been used to analyse genetic information in order to model the geographic spread of the human race.
In the European Space Agency’s Planck mission, the EGEE grid will be used to analyse microwave readings taken by a satellite. And in the WISDOM drug discovery project it is being used to find new treatments for malaria, the world’s second biggest killer after tuberculosis.
Other researchers are using the grid to run experiments in fields ranging from high-energy physics and nuclear fusion to fluid dynamics and even finance, among many others.
While EGEE laid the foundations of the grid infrastructure, EGEE-II expanded it in terms of computing power, geographical reach and the number of applications being run on the system.
In addition to linking national grids in Europe, the researchers in EGEE-II also brought on-board organisations in the United States, Asia, the Mediterranean region and Latin America, creating the world's largest production quality science grid.
As a result, EGEE-II has created a truly pervasive international platform for scientific research.
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Funding SchemeI3 - Research Infrastructure-Integrated Infrastructure Initiative
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