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Date: December 14, 2004

UVic Helps Form World's Largest International Computer Grid

UVic is helping to create the world’s largest international computer grid project, giving the university’s particle physicists access to more power than most supercomputers could ever deliver.

The concept of grid computing is simple: many individual computers are linked together, much like the World Wide Web, to create a large system with massive computational power that far surpasses that of supercomputers. In principle, any researcher can log on to a grid and use the memory and processing abilities of all its computers, no matter where they are. UVic’s current grid, GridX1, allows particle physicists easy access to computing power by linking numerous large research computer sites across Canada.

Now GridX1 is going international, joining forces with the world’s largest grid project, the LCG Project, located at the European organization for nuclear research’s (CERN) laboratory in Geneva. As a result, particle physics researchers the world over will be able to use the new international grid for the next major project in particle physics, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The LHC is an accelerator which brings protons into head-on collisions at higher energies than ever achieved before. This will allow scientists to penetrate still further into the structure of matter and recreate the conditions prevailing in the early universe, just after the “Big Bang.” The LHC will generate more data than any project to date.

“The World Wide Web was invented by particle physicists in order to share data more easily and it ended up changing the way the world uses and exchanges information,” says Dr. Richard Keeler, UVic’s associate vice-president research. “The grid is the next step and promises to change the way we process information and create new knowledge.”

“We’ll collect about a petabyte of data a year beginning in 2007 and the grid is the only way to analyze it,” says Dr. Randy Sobie, an adjunct professor at UVic and an Institute of Particle Physics research scientist. A petabyte is a million gigabytes or approximately 100 times the amount of information in all the books in the U.S. Library of Congress.

Sobie, and UVic particle physicist Dr. Bob Kowalewski, worked with researchers from the National Research Council, the TRIUMF Laboratory and the Universities of Alberta and Simon Fraser, to hook the GridX1 Project to the international grid in Geneva. The team is also collaborating with researchers from the WestGrid Computing Consortium and have helped connect their large cluster at the University of British Columbia to the international grid.

The two physicists began developing the GridX1 Project in 2001. One of the first examples of a large research computing grid in Canada, GridX1 uses the computer resources of UVic, the University of Alberta, the TRIUMF Laboratory in Vancouver, and the National Research Council in Ottawa, and is linked by CANARIE, Canada’s advanced Internet development organization. It is continuing to evolve in its capabilities and size. For more information visit: http://yamon.phys.uvic.ca:8080/rsobie/grid.

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Media contacts:
Dr. Randall Sobie (Physics and Astronomy) at (250) 721-7733 or rsobie@uvic.ca
Maria Lironi (UVic Communications) at (250) 721-6139 or lironim@uvic.ca


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