On Monday, the Chinese Ministry of Education, in conjunction with a dozen universities, went live with a grid computing project that is expected to eventually connect as many as 200,000 students in 100 universities across the country.
The China Education and Research Grid, which is being built in conjunction with IBM Corp., will have a computational power of 6 trillion FLOPS (floating point operations per second) by 2005, according to IBM. This is expected to eventually increase to 15 trillion FLOPS making the China grid one of the largest grids in the world.
The launch of the new grid comes at a time when Chinese technical achievements are expected to command world attention. Later this week, the nation is expected to embark on its first manned space flight, when a space vessel named Shenzhou V blasts off from the Gobi Desert.
Both projects demonstrate the ascension of Chinese technical know-how, said Al Bunshaft, IBM's vice president of sales and development for grid computing. "Within one week China is taking two huge steps into the 21st century," Bunshaft said. "I think they both demonstrate how they're aggressively moving toward being a technology leader in the world."
While research grids like the U.S. National Science Foundation's TeraGrid will be larger than the China Grid, the new project could eventually become the world's largest grid used for remote learning, according to Bunshaft.
The China Grid will, at first, serve a variety of purposes. It will power a University of Hong Kong Web-based language instruction application, as well as video software developed by Peking University. It will also power a suite of bioinformatics applications, Bunshaft said.
The China Grid will use standard protocols called the Open Grid Services Architecture to connect a wide variety of machines that already exist in the Chinese universities.
The IBM hardware being purchased for the grid will consist of about 50 xSeries machines and six pSeries servers, Bunshaft said. "The xSeries servers are running Linux. Some of those servers are providing network connectivity, interfaces into the network infrastructure, and some are computational nodes on the grid," Bunshaft said. The pSeries machines will be used as "computational engines sitting on the grid," he said.
The grid will also use IBM's WebSphere software, Bunshaft said.
Bunshaft declined to say how much IBM would be paid for the China Grid deal.