FEATURES & COMMENTARY
Chicago, ILL. — Adam Fendelman reports that the Deep Blue supercomputer that outfoxed world chess champion Garry Kasparov at his own game by “thinking” at the mindboggling speed of 10 trillion operations per second is heading toward being superseded. The University of Chicago (UIC) is co-leading a project with the University of Florida (UF) to create GriPhyN (Grid Physics Network), a networked supercomputer that will surpass even Deep Blue with 100 trillion operations per second and gargantuan storage capabilities.
In addition to “thinking” at insane speeds, GriPhyN’s physicists and IT researchers plan to implement the first petabyte-scale computational environment for data intensive science. A petabyte of storage space is two to the 50th power (1,125,899,906,842,624) bytes. A petabyte is equal to 1,024 terabytes, or about one trillion bytes. This equates to about 100 million times the storage space of a household computer.
Driving the project are unprecedented requirements for geographically dispersed extraction of complex scientific information from very large collections of measured data. GriPhyN will deploy computational environments called Petascale Virtual Data Grids (PVDGs) that meet the data-intensive needs of a diverse community of thousands of scientists spread across the globe.
“Our virtual data grid infrastructure will allow communities to harness aggregated computer resources to solve data-intensive problems, as well as science and engineering,” Ian Foster said, project co-leader, professor in computer science at the University of Chicago and associate director of the Mathematics and Computer Science division of Argonne National Laboratory.
GriPhyN will be harnessed to tackle four main physics experiments, and provide for a new era of exploration of the fundamental forces of nature and the structure of the universe, Foster says.
The CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) and ATLAS experiments of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) will search for the origins of mass and probe matter at the smallest length scales. LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) will detect the gravitational waves of pulsars, supernovae and in-spiraling binary stars. And SDSS (Sloan Digital Sky Survey) will carry out an automated sky survey enabling systematic studies of stars, galaxies, nebula and large-scale structure.
The undertaking is being funded to the tune of $11.9 million by the National Science Foundation (NSF), currently for research and development only. Foster says researchers are seeking an additional $70 million in NSF grants for further research and equipment to build the system. Research and construction likely would take place simultaneously, with a target completion date of 2005, he said.
GriPhyN will be linked together via high-speed networks such as Internet2, “tomorrow’s Internet”, or UIC’s experimental I-WIRE, an optical network that will interconnect UIC, Argonne and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.