EU's EELA fuels Latin American computing grid, EELA-2 makes use widespread
European researchers cooperated with colleagues in Latin America from 2006 to 2007 to get solid grid capability off the ground. The EELA ('E-infrastructure shared between Europe and Latin America'), funded under the 'Research infrastructures' area of the EU's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) to the tune of EUR 1.7 million, delivered fruitful results. Hot on the heels of this success is the EELA-2 project, which seeks to build, on the EELA e-Infrastructure, a high-capacity and high-quality scalable grid facility.
Researchers in Europe and North America have taken advantage of computing grids for many years. It used to be difficult for them to store and use huge amounts of data in the past, but the innovative grids changed all that. However, these grids remained inaccessible to researchers in other areas including Latin America and Africa. The EELA project tackled this problem by establishing strong computing resources shared by European and Latin American researchers in grid technology.
'In areas such as high-energy physics, biomedicine and climate, the level of accuracy in your results depends on the level of accuracy of your simulation,' explained deputy project coordinator Philippe Gavillet of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland. 'We had a demand from our Latin American colleagues to be able to contribute, and this was one way to help them, by building up their computing resources.'
EELA effectively established a Latin American grid that connected 3 000 computers and stored 700 terabytes (billions of bytes) of data. Thanks to this grid, researchers in Latin America can now conduct studies in high-energy physics, biomedicine, and climate modelling, among others.
The project partners connected computers via the Internet or through dedicated high-speed networks. They also developed middleware (software in the middle of a system, e.g. between the client and database), and managed data storage and retrieval. The EELA consortium, made up of 22 groups from Europe and Latin America, used the middleware called 'gLITE', which was first designed to manage the grid that CERN uses to process data from the Large Hadron Collider as well as other high-energy physics research.
'Building networks of scientists with the same professional interests has been a very nice outcome,' Dr Gavillet said.
The successful results of EELA led to the creation and launch of EELA-2. The partners from EELA-2 added new features to gLITE, giving researchers from various fields access to the middleware. The team also adapted a version of gLITE that runs on computers using Windows operating systems instead of Linux. And in order to make things simpler for users, EELA-2 established OurGrid, a system that helps researchers communicate with many computers regardless of how often they are used.
'OurGrid is very convenient to use and is becoming widespread,' Dr Gavillet pointed out. 'It doesn't need all the resources that gLITE requires, and is much more appropriate for small institutions.'
EELA-2 has connected 78 institutions from 16 European and Latin American states. It is also supporting over 50 research projects from various scientific fields, according to the partners.
'We have a clear strategy and we've very carefully costed all aspects of running and supporting the infrastructure,' Dr Gavillet underlined. 'We've described the goal and the means, and through our collaborators, worked with decision-makers in all the involved countries.'
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