Next big thing on Web — Grid: The Times of India



Geneva: With domain names in Hindi, Arabic and Chinese set to become a reality on the Web, the pundits in this science hub of Switzerland, where the internet was arguably invented, claim the next giant leap towards internationalisation will be the grid, which is just weeks away from powering up.

The grid, which is made of thousands of desktops, laptops, supercomputers, data vaults, mobile phones, meteorological sensors and telescopes will start work when protons beams collide with each other in the worlds biggest experiment ever inside a deep tunnel here on the French-Swiss border.

It is a revolution, say scientists of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) because it uses the internet but is not the internet. Using cloud computing, the grid will combine the computing resources of more than 100,000 processors from more than 170 sites in 34 countries and will be accessible to thousands of physicists globally.

The scientists claim it will change the way the information superhighway works. Small computer grids similar to power grids have been in operation for some time, but CERN's will be the biggest one of them all and will become a reality when its Large Hadron Collider (LHC) becomes operational this month.

Maarten Litmaath, the Dutch phycisist who heads CERN's computing centre, told TOI, “When it begins operations, the LHC will produce roughly 15 petabytes (15 million gigabytes or equivalent to storage capacity of 20 million CDs) of data annually, which thousands of scientists around the world will access and analyze. Our grid will make it possible for scientists around the world to access this data real time."

Till now, a giant grid was considered something of a pipe dream, says Litmaath. Its implications, he says, are enormous. "Imagine several million computers from all over the world, and owned by thousands of different people. And imagine if these PCs, workstations, servers and storage elements can all be connected to form a single, huge and super-powerful computer. This sprawling, global computer is what the grid will be."

CERN says it is only right and proper that the giant grid be developed in the place where the world wide web was invented. Although there are several claimants to the internet’s authorship, it was here that British software whiz Tim Berners-Lee and other scientists set the stage for the internet explosion in 1990.

It was that proposal, written in a small room in a CERN building, that the terms ‘‘http’’ (global hypertext language) appeared for the first time. A small placard saying ‘The Web was invented here’ still hangs on the door of the room where Berners-Lee and other scientists developed the first blueprint of the internet.