Lab Canada

Problems of grid computing research being tackled by new partnership

Edmonton, AB – January 30, 2004 – A new three-year joint initiative between the government of Alberta, Silicon Graphics and the University of Alberta is intended to make it easier for Alberta researchers, universities and organizations to use grid computing to solve complex scientific problems.

The project means computing specialists can use an enhanced software framework for partnering with researchers, facilitating easy access to high performance computing (HPC) systems, including supercomputers and grid computing systems. The project will simplify the effort required by Alberta researchers to harness all the resources of WestGrid or other HPC infrastructure to process their data.

WestGrid is an existing grid computing system that uses high performance computing, networking, and collaboration tools to eight institutions in western Canada, including Simon Fraser University, the Banff Centre, TRIUMF, the University of Alberta, the University of British Columbia, the University of Calgary, and the University of Lethbridge.

Grid computing is an approach by which the Internet or dedicated networks are used to interconnect a wide variety of geographically distributed computational resources, such as supercomputers, computer clusters, storage systems, and visualization systems, and present them as a single, unified resource. The grid computing concept offers access to resources regardless of their physical location, allowing remote customers to tackle large computational problems, quickly access large bodies of data or tap into remote graphics power.

Current software tools are difficult to use. In order to make it easier for researchers to use a grid such as WestGrid, new software tools will be developed in consultation with Alberta researchers. Ultimately, the new tools will enable the research community of chemists, physicists, biologists and health-care researchers to fully exploit the capabilities of WestGrid and HPC platforms as well as increase the size and complexity of the problems that they can carry out. The first phase of the project will work with chemists and physicists.

SGI developed the remote and distributed use of computational and visualization power and brings that expertise to the project. The architecture of SGI Origin family servers and SGI Altix family of servers and supercomputers brings the high-bandwidth, low-latency capacity to solve big-data problems in a manner compatible with the grid.

Under the agreement, the Alberta government and SGI will each provide funding of C$225,000 towards the project. SGI will also support the project with $100,000 of in-kind use of equipment. The University of Alberta will provide $50,000 as well as $169,000 worth of in-kind contributions (researchers and equipment).