World’s biggest computing grid set to process data from Large Hadron Collider

October 4th, 2008 - 1:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 4 (IANS) The world’s largest computing grid is all set to tackle the biggest ever data challenge from the most powerful accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Three weeks after the first particle beams were injected into the LHC, the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid combines the power of more than 140 computer centres from 33 countries to analyse and manage more than 15 million gigabytes of LHC data every year.

A gigabyte has 1,024 megabytes of information and a single megabyte has one million bytes of information.

The US is a vital partner in the development and operation of the WLCG. Fifteen universities and three US Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories from 11 states are contributing their power to the project.

“The US has been an essential partner in the development of the vast distributed computing system that will allow 7,000 scientists around the world to analyse LHC data, complementing its crucial contributions to the construction of the LHC,” said Glen Crawford of the High Energy Physics programme in DOE’s Office of Science.

DOE and the National Science Foundation (NSF) support contributions to the LHC and to the computing and networking infrastructures that are an integral part of the project, according to a joint press release issued by the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Lab and Fermi National Accelerator Centre.

US contributions to the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid are coordinated through the Open Science Grid or OSG, a national computing infrastructure for science. The OSG not only contributes computing power for LHC data needs, but also for projects in many other scientific fields including biology, nanotechnology, medicine and climate science.

“Particle physics projects such as the LHC have been a driving force for the development of worldwide computing grids,” said Ed Seidel, director of the NSF Office of Cyberinfrastructure. “The benefits from these grids are now being reaped in areas as diverse as mathematical modelling and drug discovery.”

“Open Science Grid members have put an incredible amount of time and effort in developing a nationwide computing system that is already at work supporting America’s 1,200 LHC physicists and their colleagues from other sciences,” said OSG executive director Ruth Pordes from DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Lab.

Dedicated optical fibre networks distribute LHC data from CERN in Geneva, Switzerland to 11 major ‘Tier-1′ computer centres in Europe, North America and Asia, including those at DOE’s Brookhaven National Lab in New York and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. From these, data is dispatched to more than 140 “Tier-2″ centres around the world, including 12 in the US.

“Our ability to manage data at this scale is the product of several years of intense testing,” said Ian Bird, leader of the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid project.

“Today’s result demonstrates the excellent and successful collaboration we have enjoyed with countries all over the world. Without these international partnerships, such an achievement would be impossible,” he said.

“When the LHC starts running at full speed, it will produce enough data to fill about six CDs per second,” said Michael Ernst, director of Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Tier-1 Computing Centre.

“As the first point of contact for LHC data in the US, the computing centres at Brookhaven and Fermilab are responsible for storing and distributing a great amount of this data for use by scientists around the country. We’ve spent years ramping up to this point, and now, we’re excited to help uncover some of the numerous secrets nature is still hiding from us,” informed Ernst.

Physicists in the US and around the world will sift through the LHC data torrent in search of tiny signals that will lead to discoveries about the nature of the physical universe. Through their distributed computing infrastructures, these physicists also help other scientific researchers increase their use of computing and storage for broader discovery.

“Grid computing allows university research groups at home and abroad to fully participate in the LHC project while fostering positive collaboration across different scientific departments on many campuses,” said Ken Bloom from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, manager for seven Tier-2 sites in the US.

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