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Digital Agenda: EU grid project unlocks processing power of 200,000 desktop computers for European researchers
EU researchers will have sustainable and continuous access to the combined processing power of over 200,000 desktop computers in more than 30 European countries thanks to the European Commission funded European Grid Infrastructure (EGI) project launched today. The Commission is contributing €25 million over four years to the EGI-InSPIRE project to link the processing capacity of desktop computers when they would otherwise be idle and so give researchers the processing power needed to tackle complex problems in environment, energy or health. The EGI, the largest collaborative production grid infrastructure for e-Science ever created, will enable teams of researchers in different geographical locations to work on a problem as if they were in the same laboratory. Reinforcing research infrastructures such as EGI forms part of the Digital Agenda for Europe, the Commission's strategy to maximise the social and economic potential of information and communication technologies (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200).
Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said: "European researchers' access to greater computing power will help them to tackle major research challenges in areas such as climate change and healthcare. The European Grid Infrastructure will help strengthen Europe's hand in research and give our scientists the support they need, whilst saving energy and cutting costs."
The massive processing capacity required in research on areas such as climate change and health can either be sourced from large "super computers" provided by the PRACE initiative (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe, see IP/10/706), or by tapping the processing capacity of thousands of otherwise idle desktop computers connected via high-speed communications networks.
On average, a desktop computer remains idle for around 60-85% of the time. Networks like EGI distribute computing tasks involving large amounts of data among the processing capacity of many thousands of separate desktop computers, putting their idle processor cycles to productive use. EGI-InSPIRE will give European researchers access to the aggregated processing power of 200,000 desk-top computers hosted by more than 300 centres around the world. The Commission is contributing €25 million over four years to the €73 million project. Other funding is provided from national sources such as National Grid Initiatives (NGI).
The precursor to EGI, the Enabling Grid for eScience, received more than €100 million in EU funding over 8 years. It is used today by 13,000 researchers and for example helps physicists at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland to study the smallest known particles and helps biologists and scientists to develop new drugs for diseases like avian flu and malaria.
Enabling different research communities to hook up to the processing capacity of existing computers could also lead to major cost and energy savings. In the next few years, Europe is expected to invest more than €2 billion in new ICT research infrastructures for physical sciences and engineering, energy, environmental sciences, biological and medical sciences, social sciences and humanities, and materials and analytical facilities. Significant savings can be made if researchers at these facilities use the processing power available via the EGI, rather than developing their own alternative networks or supercomputers. EGI may also be used to test various cloud-based technologies and services.
The EGI will be coordinated by the Amsterdam-based organisation EGI.eu, established in February 2010 to manage and operate the pan-European grid infrastructure. Together, EGI.eu and representatives from National Grid Initiatives will operate and further develop the EGI infrastructure to guarantee its long-term availability.
For further details on EGI see:
For more on e-infrastructures see: