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Science grids are being established to connect scientists, instruments, computing, and data.

The Science Grid

Scattered across the globe is a wide range of unique scientific resources

Scattered across the globe is a wide range of unique scientific resources: large experimental facilities (which will include the Spallation Neutron Source under construction at ORNL), supercomputer centers, petabyte data archives, the high-speed Internet, and, most importantly, the expertise of scientists at laboratories and universities around the world.

"The easy science problems have been solved," says Thomas Zacharia, ORNL's associate laboratory director for Computing and Computational Sciences. "Tomorrow'ís scientific breakthroughs in biology, nanotechnology, and physics now require large, multidisciplinary teams and the ability to effectively use the scientific resources distributed around the country." In fact, all scientific fields have the need to bring resources to the fingertips of area experts.

To connect scientists, instruments, computing, and data, the Department of Energy is establishing a DOE Science Grid, one of several grids being constructed by science agencies, including the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. According to the DOE Science Grid Web site, "The vision for 'grids' is to revolutionize the use of computing in science by making the construction and use of large-scale systems of diverse resources as easy as using today's desktop environments." Collectively, all these grids are part of a global science grid.

This science grid creates a "virtual laboratory" environment that allows scientists to tackle tomorrow's problems more effectively. It enables innovative approaches to scientific computing through secure remote access to online facilities, high-speed Internet access, collaborations among scientists separated by distance (e.g., at different DOE labs in "collaboratories"), shared petabyte datasets, and large-scale distributed computation.

Scientific communities must have the capability for multiple users to remotely access high-performance computing resources and large data archives to both perform simulations and analyze the results of experiments. Researchers also need to collaborate with scientists at different sites who are involved in the simulations or experiments. They must coordinate access to and use of the resources.

The complex and evolving nature of scientific discovery requires general services that can be combined in many different ways to support different problem-solving approaches and the ability to evolve along with the scientific understanding of the problem. Resource management for such dynamic and distributed environments requires global naming and authorization services, scalability, fault tolerance, data management, security, authentication, and protection of proprietary data.

"The goal of the science grid," says Al Geist, who is overseeing ORNL's efforts in developing the DOE grid, "is to provide a common and supported set of services across all the scientific resources so that scientists can easily access, use, and share these resources and results more efficiently with the larger scientific community."

The design and deployment of large, multi-site grids are still evolving. You can learn about the state of the art and stay abreast of new developments by accessing this ORNL Web site (http://www.csm.ornl.gov/sciencegrid/) and the links listed there.

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Related Web sites

ORNL Computer Science and Mathematics Division
Center for Computational Sciences
Spallation Neutron Source

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