ERCIM News No.45 - April 2001 [contents]
Italian Initiatives in Grid Computing
by Bruno Codenotti and Domenico Laforenza
There is increasing interest in Grid Computing in Italy. This is reflected by the growing number of projects in this area. We describe some projects now underway in two major Italian research institutions: the Italian National Research Council (CNR) and the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN).
Ongoing work at CNR
The actions related to Grid Computing involving CNR are a natural evolution of the PQE2000 project. This project, started at the end of 1995, has involved well-known groups working in three Italian research agencies (CNR, ENEA, INFN) and one industrial company (Quadrics Supercomputers World Ltd). A list of mature proposals includes:
- Computational Grids and Applications: this project, coordinated by CNR, involves 13 research groups belonging to: CNR (4), Universities (8), other Italian research institutions (1), respectively. It represents the first step toward the creation of a National awareness aroud Grid technologies; duration: 1Year; budget: 410KEuro; status: At the end of the evaluation process by CNR.
- GRID Computing - Enhanced Technologies and Applications for E-Science: this project, coordinated by CNR, involves 20 research groups belonging to: CNR (10), Universities (6), Public Administration (2), and Industry (2), respectively. The main goal of this project is to study, evaluate, and exploit grid computing technologies for the development of a new generation of scientific and business applications. A further goal is the creation of a kernel of skilled individuals on this research topic, opened to researchers, service providers and end-users; duration: 2.5 Years; budget: 2MEuro; status: submitted on October, 2000-under evaluation by the Italian Ministry for Research.
- ASI-PQE2000: this project by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) represents a joint effort among academic and industrial Italian partners led by the Department of Computer Science of the University of Pisa. The project mainly aims at building ASSIST (A Software development System based on Integrated Skeleton Technology). Only a part of this project is related to grid computing; in particular, a work package is targeted to specify how to extend ASSIST in order to address heterogeneous platforms (eg, Grids); duration: 2 Years; budget: 2MEuro; status: at the end of the evaluation process by the CNR.
- The DataGrid Project: CNR is associated partner in the DataGrid Project, a project recently approved by the European Commission and led by CERN. CNR is responsible for dissemination and exploitation activities; duration: 3 Years; status: Start-up phase.
The INFN GRID Project
INFN has recently approved a 3 year project, involving a total of 70 FTEs between physicists and computing professionals and a budget of ~ 9MEuro, to develop a Grid infrastructure that will allow INFN users a transparent and effective usage of the computing and storage resources distributed in the 26 INFN nodes of the Italian research network GARR-B.
The INFN national GRID infrastructure will be integrated with similar testbeds being established by ongoing parallel efforts in all major European countries, in US and Japan.
The overall scale of the computational, storage and networking capacity of the prototype INFN GRID testbed is determined by the needs of the LHC experiments. These include experimental activities for physics, trigger and detector studies, and the run of applications at a large enough scale to test the scalability of the distributed computing approaches for solving problems requiring a very large amount of distributed data (PetaBytes), a very large amount of CPUs (thousands) and many of users.
The development of the new software components underlying the GRID technology will be done by the INFN GRID project, whenever possible, in collaboration with international partners. Recently the DATAGRID international project, where INFN is one of 6 main contractors, was approved and funded with 10 MEuro by the European Union IST program EU-RN2.
The INFN GRID project will investigate the current ideas for the computing models of the LHC experiments, based on a multi-tier architecture of Regional Centers. The investigation will be performed using real applications on real center prototypes, fulfilling at the same time the effective computing needs of the experiments.
The project will be instrumental to the diffusion and the common development of the GRID technologies with other Italian scientific research sectors (ESA/ESRIN, CNR, Universities), addressing the following points:
- develop collaborations with those Italian scientific partners to address problems which are common to different research areas
- promote the integration of different computing resources into one national research GRID.
In parallel to these activities, an additional budget line of ~20 MEuro is being established to implement a multi-experiment INFN Computing Center that will act as the main node of the INFN Grid.
The INFN-GRID Project provides the framework for efficiently connecting:
- the development of the middleware performed by participants in the DATAGRID European project
- the extra development activities needed for INFN specific purposes
- the set up of the prototypes of the Italian part of the distributed computing system for the 4 LHC experiments Alice, Atlas , Cms, Lhc-b; the most relevant components of this system are the prototypes of the Regional Centers for the 4 LHC experiments
- the step by step testing of the middleware with the real-life application of the experiments, which is needed in order to make sure that the middleware will truly respond to the practical requirements of the experiments. The only possible testbeds for such activities are provided by the prototypes mentioned above. An extension of the middleware tests will provided by APE, the well known INFN parallel computer development team.
The currently approved DATAGRID project only required EU funds for the middleware development. The testbed and HEP application aspects are taken care of in two separate Workpackages. These workpackages require no EU funds for hardware and are just meant to provide for the human resources needed for the integration within the collaboration-wide activities. The INFN GRID will make available both the h/w and the extra manpower required for setting up and running the local prototypes and physics applications.
Bruno Codenotti - IMC-CN
Tel: +39 050 315 2401
Domenico Laforenza - CNUCE-CNR
Tel: +39 050 315 2992