IBM tapped to build Oxford "grid" computer

IBM Corp. signed on with Oxford University on Wednesday to build parts of a "National Grid" that will link computing systems throughout the U.K. and elsewhere over a shared network.

Universities have led the development of the grid computing model, which creates a massive network of computers and makes them appear as one unified system. By linking disparate servers, storage and software, different research centers, for example, can share information with each other over the same network.

Much as the Internet connects users around the world over a common set of protocols, grid computing creates a common computing platform but allows users to set restrictions as to who can access the grid, who can add information and who can see certain types of information, said Irving Wladawsky-Berger, vice president of technology and strategy at IBM.

While universities have been on the cutting edge of grid computing, IBM expects businesses to begin adopting the technology as well. Big Blue has built its own Grid, linking research and development labs in the U.S., Israel, Switzerland and Japan.

In the National Grid project, IBM will build a data storage facility located at Oxford, which will connect to nine other grid centers located around the U.K. The main grid center is located in Edinburgh, with other regional centers at universities of Newcastle, Belfast, Manchester, Cardiff, Cambridge and Southampton and at Imperial College, London.

IBM will store data for a high-energy physics research program being conducted between the site in Oxford and the U.S. Particle Physics Laboratory in Chicago.

"The key thing is that each grid computing project is defined by a community with a common interest," said Dave Turek, vice president of emerging technology at IBM. "The group can establish policies on how you to operate it."

The Globus open source development community is working on many of the underlying technologies behind grid computing. The group looks to develop protocols for regulating resource management, database sharing and collaborative work in a grid model.

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