Last week, the City Council of Almere (Netherlands), officially inaugurated AlmereGrid, the first cityGrid in the world. AlmereGrid allows citizens, companies and other organizations to donate otherwise unused computing time to science. Researcher Danielle Posthuma, from the Free University of Amsterdam, showed how all this computer power could be used for analyzing data on a large number of twins. This research could help us to gain better understanding of human behavior. If Almere would donate computing time at a very large scale, other research, for instance medical research, could benefit. AlmereGrid focuses on making it easy for everyone to participate, not only the computer literate.
Computing jobs that would otherwise take days or months on a single computer, can be divided by AlmereGrid in many small jobs. Each of these small jobs can be run on a different computer in Almere. The results are then sent back to the AlmereGrid exchange and combined to a single result. Scientific research can get back their answers much faster in this way. A typical computing job, for instance, could take 85 days on a single, fast PC. If AlmereGrid would have 1,000 participating PCs, the same result would be available after two hours.
A conservative estimate shows at least 60,000 computers are located in residential areas of Almere. If a large part would participate, Almere would be one of the largest (virtual) computers in the world. However, rather than calling that a “computer,” one usually addresses this as a computing grid. AlmereGrid is unique in being the first operational cityGrid in the world.
Security is paramount for a grid such as AlmereGrid. People or organizations donating computing time want to be absolutely sure nothing happens with their computing systems. This is why AlmereGrid has set out an extensive set of secutriy measures. AlmereGrid also has had the fully operational grid in testphase for over a year, to be sure it is reliable and secure.
AlmereGrid is in contact with a number of researchers at different universities in the Netherlands. Almeerders can choose to which research they want to donate their unused computing time.
After the official opening, every citizen, company and organization can donate their computing capacity to science. They can register through the Web site at http://AlmereGrid.nl.
A large number of societal-engaged organizations supported the Stichting AlmereGrid (Foundation AlmereGrid) in realizing the grid. ICT specialists of the Rabobank, provided technical support. SARA provides server housing and ported applications to AlmereGrid. SARA is experienced in rolling out large scale scientific grids. Oracle provided software licenses to their Oracle 10g and other software and participated with experienced consultants. IBM contributed its large experience in grids, both at enterprises and Internet-based grids. NWO/NCF (Dutch National Science Organization) monitors the scientific quality. Others that contributed include Dell, Intel, ALCA Systems BV, Engage Technology BV, LogicaCMG, Foundry Networks and Genias Benelux.