Grant to UT Funds Nation’s First Computational Grid

KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee computer science department will receive almost $2 million to develop a network of linked computers on the Knoxville campus that will be able to solve mathematical problems needing large amounts of computing capacity, said Dr. Robert Ward, department head.

The Scalable Intracampus Research Grid will be made up of service clusters, groupings of equipment that include computers and data storage devices connected by a very fast switch, Ward said. The clusters will be linked physically via the campus network and will be managed by software called middleware, which will take over when a problem is presented to the grid.

The middleware will monitor the grid and predict which resources will be available, then assign the problem to the appropriate cluster or clusters and deliver the answer to the researcher when it is solved, Ward said.

The National Science Foundation will purchase the necessary equipment and infrastructure and will, along with other agencies, support the development of the middleware through other grants.

Ward said he anticipates that computational grids will eventually make up a separate network, much like an electric utility, that will provide high-capacity computing nationwide.

“I can’t begin to dream up all the uses that can be developed for this tenology,” Ward said. He said that such a grid already can be used for solving problems in areas like computational chemistry and materials, ecology, and medical imaging. Future uses might include extended accurate weather or climate forecasts and accurately predicting the formation and behavior of hurricanes.

Dr. Jack Dongarra is the lead principal investigator. Two of Dongarra’s projects in parallel computing were listed in the R&D Magazine top 100 technological developments for 1999.