Fortes explained that IBM’s decades of research in virtualization are “built-in” to the z800.
“We wanted to be able to have access to a very efficient virtualization technology that clearly demonstrated that what we wanted to do could be done with good performance and functionality,” he said.
IBM’s commitment to the Linux operating system, as implemented on the z800, was critical to his project because applications for most scientific research are based in Unix and many have now been ported to Linux.
“The superior virtualization capabilities available on the IBM eServer z800, which allow the mainframe to be shared by multiple researchers, each with separate and distinct applications on a single piece of hardware, make it uniquely qualified for research in the Grid computing arena,” said Erich Clementi, general manager, IBM eServer zSeries, in announcing IBM’s involvement in the project. “The combination of IBM’s powerful storage and server technologies will play a key role in the university’s In-VIGO project.”
Grid Computing Meets Budgetary Constraints
In the development of Grid computing, necessity has been the mother of invention as the computational needs for scientific research have outstripped the computing resources available at individual universities and labs.
In tight budgetary times, most universities cannot afford powerful super computers needed for cutting-edge research in areas such as nuclear physics and the human genome. Grid computing links computers — mostly relatively inexpensive Intel-based PCs — over the Internet so that universities can share their resources. This reduces the costs associated with purchasing and maintaining a single, massive computer system.
“In a lot of cases, the scientific community has reached the point where massively parallel systems or systems that can scale to where they can deliver really immense amounts of computing cycles have become too expensive to manage,” said David Boyes, president and CTO of Sine Nomine Associates, Ashburn, VA.
Boyes, who is a leading independent researcher in Grid computing, explained: “If you look at what’s being done in computational physics or quantum hydro dynamics or any other area where the science community would go out and buy a super computer, a state university or a small research lab can’t afford that kind of iron.”
As the computational demands of scientific research grew beyond the capacity of a single university’s computing resources, the scientific community, backed by funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), began looking at ways to link available computing power from a number of sources.