03 Oct World's largest computing grid is ready for data
Madison, Wis. – The technological advancements surrounding the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – the new particle accelerator near Geneva, Switzerland – are not just about the physics.
The powerful accelerator is also linked into the world’s largest computing grid, a vast infrastructure of shared computing resources spread across the globe. The readiness of this novel computing infrastructure, called the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid, was announced at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., and other computer centers around the world.
“This is to celebrate the computing infrastructure part of the LHC… a declaration that we are ready for data taking,” says University of Wisconsin-Madison computer science professor Miron Livny.
Livny, who is participating in the event at Fermilab, is the principal investigator and technical director of the Open Science Grid, a national computing infrastructure for science. The Open Science Grid coordinates all U.S. contributions to the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid, more than 25 percent of the grid’s total capacity, and manages data and resource distribution among the 18 participating U.S. institutions.
Though the LHC will not resume operation until spring, once up and running it will generate massive amounts of data – about 60,000 gigabytes per day, or enough to fill six CDs each second. The Worldwide LHC Computing Grid unites processing, storage and networking resources from around the world, providing the infrastructure vital for the thousands of scientists involved in the LHC to access the data and the processing power they need to analyze it. “Computing has played an important role in getting the machine to the point at which it’s ready to take data,” Livny says.
While the grid will be crucial to processing information from the LHC, the LHC has also provided a valuable real-world laboratory for developing a new computing paradigm. In a way, Livny says, there are two experiments underway. “The LHC is not only an experimental facility for the physicists, it also is a huge experimental facility for us the computer scientists.”
In addition to Livny’s role in directing the Open Science Grid, UW-Madison has strong representation in both physics and computing in each of the two major experiments at the LHC, called ATLAS and CMS. This convergence of resources – unique among the dozens of institutions involved with the LHC experiments – offers tremendous opportunity for Wisconsin scientists to identify new physics once the data begin pouring in.
“Computing is a critical piece of the discovery process,” says Livny. “Our ability to do the discovery here may depend on how much horse power we have locally.”
Many advancements in grid technology have arisen through partnerships with high-energy physics experiments like the LHC, projects that frequently require distributing complex data among a large number of physically dispersed researchers. However, the technology will be equally applicable to other data and computing-intensive fields. In addition to UW-Madison physicists, Livny is working with campus researchers in genomics, biochemistry, medical imaging, and materials sciences.
“Through our work with the physicists, we are creating an infrastructure that I believe will be very significant to other sciences,” he says.