China unveils mammoth grid project

The Ministry of Education in China hopes to foster tighter collaboration within academia by using grid technology, with help from IBM.

The Ministry of Education in China hopes to foster tighter collaboration within academia by using grid technology, and has sought the help of computing giant IBM.

Grid computing is expected to simplify the way students and faculty members access education and computing resources. It also promises to enable the exchange of information on research, scientific and education projects.

Six institutions--Peking University, South China University of Technology, Tsinghua University, the University of Hong Kong, Xi'an Jiaotong University and Sun Yat-sen University--will initially form the backbone of the China Education and Research Grid, which is the largest project of its kind in the Mainland to date.

The first phase is expected to be completed in 2005. By then, the grid will perform at more than six teraflops, or trillions of calculations per second. Eventually, it will be capable of more than 15 trillion calculations per second, IBM said in a statement.

Big Blue said the universities will be linked to a common virtual hub that automatically connects to application resources from life sciences research to video courses and e-learning.

Grid computing will get rid of the tedious manual processes to which students and researchers have become accustomed. Since the project involves pooling the computing power of hundreds of servers--both existing ones and new ones over a network to run programs more reliably--this will save on development costs.

"If a university has already built its technology infrastructure, there is no need for it to replace its system to participate in the project. That's the whole beauty of grid computing...it's platform and environment agnostic, and there's no need to rip up and replace," an IBM Asia-Pacific spokeswoman said.

The grid will rely on new Web services technology in WebSphere that exploits Open Grid Services Architecture (OGSA) standards. A total of 49 IBM eServer xSeries machines running Linux have been deployed. It also includes six units of pSeries servers running AIX and IBM TotalStorage FAStT200 servers for storing data.

IBM has donated US$2.3 million worth of eServers to the universities for grid computing, the spokeswoman said.

China is ahead of many Asian nations in adopting grid technology, with even government departments embracing it: in July, also with the aid of IBM, Shanghai began building a grid to integrate information resources spread across the city's municipal government, as well as to handle city-wide emergency and medical services management systems.

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