Scientist Flemming is working in the field of atomic physics trying to understand elementary particle radiation. He has to measure data in nearly 200 thousand channels. Dr Galvin is working on atmospheric turbulence modeling trying to understand the phenomenon of global warming. Both these scientists generate more than 10 million gigabytes of data each year - which is equivalent to the storage capacity of about 20 million CDs and would require more than 70000 of today's fastest PC processors to analyze it all. Computing power as they have to handle will be several peta bytes of data! That is to say they need additional computing power for their research work at affordable cost. How to get additional computing power? Is there a way out? The answer is computer power grid (CPG) in analogy with electricity power grid.
The way out:
There are nearly 750 million PCs in the world. On average each PC is used for 10% of the time. Remaining time all the PCs are idling. This is a fact of under utilization of available computer power. Suppose we create an environment where we can cluster all the computers in the world and create wide area parallel and a distributed computing with necessary networking protocols. Such an infrastructure called 'Computer Power Grid'(CPG) will enable sharing, selection and aggregation of a wide variety of geographically distributed computational resources including storage systems, data sources etc. owned by different organizations for solving large scale resource intensive problems by researchers in science, engineering and commerce.
What exactly is Computer Power Grid?
Grid computing is a large scale networking methodology of distributed computing and virtualization of data resources such as processing, network band width and storage capacity. CPG grants its users seamless access to vast IT capabilities as though he is working with a single large virtual computer. Suppose we net work one lakh PCs, it will yield computing power of 200 CPU years/day. Such technology will be influencing the way we do research and transforming scientific, engineering, commerce and many more disciplines.
In 80's, one could link two computers through 'internet working protocol'. In 90's, hyper text protocol came into existence. WWW (World Wide Web) exploded. In 1995, concept of grid computing was introduced by Foster and Kesselman & Stevan Tuecke widely regarded as the fathers of the grid computing. They continued to develop this concept and for the first time, instrumental in integrating peer to peer computing and web-services to provide seamless access to remote mammoth computer power. Virtually, their protocols provide any computer the ability to peep into cyber space irrespective of location and avail resources from any nook and corner and use them for any power hungry application. With realization of CPG, organizations can optimize computing and data resources and pool them and share them judiciously with due regard to commercial viability.
What is challenge in CPG?
We know the resources which are to be put into Grid are geographically distributed across multiple administrative domains with varying availability, heterogeneity, diversity of use, varying cost, varying adaptability, etc. Managing such vast and variable resources and scheduling of purpose at viable cost constitute a complex task. Basically CPG involves three collaborative parties namely the Resources Owners, Resource customers and Resource distributors and who can join hands based on viable economic frame work with certain trade-offs. Each party has to work within certain demand-supply working model for best win-win results.
This 21st Century technology is going to alter the way we live. Already several excellent CPG's are in operation in the world. One such example is the teragrid of US National Foundation established at a cost of US $ 88 m has a computing power of 21 tfo/s. Several such computing grids will change the way the hospitals work, the way knowledge resources utilized, the way the educational institutions and so on combined with availability of access from anywhere to every where. The application of CPGs is limitless. Even situations like Bhopal Chemical spill can be handled much better way through CPG by instant exchange of vital information like traffic of vehicles, direction of wind, availability of hospitals, security and safety etc. which is beyond the scope of present day internet.
Future research in any branch of science, engineering or commerce will be done in virtual laboratories in which researchers will work in collaboration without regard to their physical location as well as resources location at much lower research cost. Already heavy weights like IBM, Sun Micro, Microsoft are in fray to establish CPG's for various applications. So with CPG evolving into multi billion industry World is going to be transformed for better, impacting every aspect of human living.
Additional details on this topic can be seen at http://www.2100science.com/Videos/Grid_Computing.aspx. Author is Director, Naval Science and Technological Laboratory, DRDO, Visakhapatnam, 530027, India
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