Alberta grid project gets boost

The University of Alberta and researchers in Western Canada will be able to expand their grid computing efforts thanks to a recent agreement that will see computer firm Silicon Graphics Inc. and the Government of Alberta pump over $500,000 in cash and equipment into the school’s grid projects.

Grid computing uses software to pool the resources of geographically diverse computer systems and allows researchers to use the combined computing power as if it were one powerful computing resource. Grid computing has been used for several years to help researchers tackle tough problems and equations that would take years for a single computer to handle.

Grid computing is also garnering interest in the enterprise community as a means of allowing businesses to make more efficient use of their computing and storage systems.

The University of Alberta has had an agreement with SGI since 1998, but the new agreement strengthens the relationship, said Dr. Jonathon Schaeffer, a professor in the University’s computer science department.

Under the new agreement, SGI and the Government of Alberta will each contribute $225,000 towards the university’s grid computing project. SGI will also contribute $100,000 of in-kind use of equipment. The university will add $50,000 in cash and $169,000 of in-kind contributions from researchers and equipment.

The school will use the new money and gear to expand it’s grid computing tool, known as Trellis.

“It does most of the functionality of grid computing without the huge software infrastructure normally required in grid computing,” Schaeffer said.

The school will also use the money to develop new physics, chemistry and biology applications.

Most of the university’s grid efforts will centre around WestGrid, a consortium of seven institutions across Western Canada, including the University of British Columbia, Simon Frasier University and the University of Calgary.

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