“So, the researchers within the Center for Research on Parallel Computation (CRPC) tried to develop a method for taking available hardware and gluing it (individual computers) together in a more uniform programming model,” Boyes explained.
In most cases, that meant harnessing the collective computing power of relatively inexpensive but plentiful Intel machines, he explained. Even old 386 and 486 machines could be used to add capacity to the grid.
The philosophy of Grid computing is dedicated to creating a system that was open source on a common platform. In this model, universities and laboratories combine their computing resources to provide the high-volume cycles needed for cutting-edge research. Scientists and engineers can access the grid through any standard Web browser.
The University of Florida project provides a Web portal, Figueiredo explained. “It’s responsible for allocating resources and doing management of load and data and interacting with the user, and providing the user with an interface to the application. It’s an interactive interface.”
According to Figueiredo, the core of the grid for the research project at Florida includes Pentium 3 Intel machines, plus a cluster of Pentium 4 machines housed at Northwestern.
“The Pentium clusters and the IBM z800 make up the core of our grid,” he explained. “But there are other machines at other sites that will be linked logically to our grid. There are resources at Purdue that we plan to integrate. We have on-going relationships with other universities.”
The Florida project will provide grid resources for existing applications, including solid-state device modeling, nanotechnology, Computer-Aided Design (CAD), the design of very large-scale integrated logic, and bio-medical engineering and imaging, according to Figueiredo.
“We’re also beginning a collaboration with the Coastal Engineering Department here in Florida to look at simulation of ocean and coastal dynamics,” Figueiredo said.
The Role of Virtual Machine Technology
IBM’s original 1960s research and development of VM is now a key technology in Florida’s cutting-edge implementation of Grid computing. This technology provides a level of security that was missing in earlier Grid projects, according to Figueiredo.