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N° 3–2001: The European Space Agency helps develop the Grid, the next generation of the World Wide Web

12 January 2001

With the World Wide Web being used by more and more people, its limitations in dealing with huge amounts of data are becoming ever more apparent. Its successor, the Grid, would comprise computing resources in which supercomputers, processor farms, disks, major databases, informatics, collaborative tools and people are linked by a high-speed network.

The DataGrid initiative originated in the framework of the European Summit in Lisbon in March last year, when the idea of a dedicated network for European science applications research was put forward. The objective of the programme is to develop and demonstrate an informatic architecture geographically distributed throughout Europe via high-rate data transmission links.

The project was submitted to the EU in May for funding through the European Union's Fifth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.

Funding of EUR 9.8 m over three years in support of the DataGrid project was authorised by the EC Information Society Programme (within the Fifth Framework Programme) at the end of December and a contract has been awarded to CERN as project leader.

The European Space Agency, ESA, through its ESRIN establishment in Italy, is one of six partners in the project and will demonstrate use of the distributed infrastructure for Earth Observation applications.

Through the DataGrid project, a novel distributed computing environment, specifically designed to analyse and move vast amounts of data, will be developed and deployed. It will build on emerging Grid technologies, using 'open source' code to create a new worldwide data and computational Grid on a scale not previously attempted, a 'World Wide Grid'.

The resources will be made available transparently to a wide community through a set of new 'middleware', the really innovative part of the DataGrid project. Middleware could be described as software 'glue', midway between computing operating systems and applications, enabling collaborative working in new ways. A major activity in the DataGrid project will be the dissemination of information and experience, with strong emphasis on ensuring that the middleware created is made available to industry, potential partners and research bodies.

The DataGrid project will provide scientists around the world with flexible access to unprecedented levels of computing resources and will usher in a new era of e-science. It will enable next-generation scientific exploration using shared databases up to a petabyte in size (equivalent to the data contents of a pile of CD-ROMs standing over a kilometre high), across widely distributed scientific communities. It will allow distributed data and CPU-intensive scientific computing models, drawn from the scientific disciplines of physics, biology and earth sciences, to be demonstrated on a geographically distributed Grid.

The project will help to coordinate national Grid projects, many of which are already under way. International connectivity will be achieved through an advanced research networking infrastructure, which is the subject of another EC initiative. The project will explore a new scale of data-intensive Grid computing, and will provide a solid base of knowledge and experience. The middleware will be developed in collaboration with some of the leading centres in Grid technology, leveraging practice and experience from previous and current Grid activities in Europe and elsewhere.

Notes for editors

The six main partners in the project are:

In addition, an Industry Forum is being held from 4 to 9 March in Amsterdam to bring together research institutions and companies from around the world with the goal of developing open Grid technologies ensuring a seamless non-proprietary Grid for all (see http.www.ggf1.nl).

Further information from

The DataGrid website: http://www.cern.ch/grid

The DataGrid Earth Observation Science Application: http://tempest.esrin.esa.it/~datagrid

Luigi Fusco
ESA/ESRIN
Earth Observation Applications Department
Tel.:+39.06.94.18.05.30
e-mail: lfusco@esrin.esa.it

Simonetta Cheli
ESA/ESRIN
Head of Public and Institutional Relations Office
Tel.: + 39 06 9418 0350
e-mail: scheli@esrin.esa.it


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